The Kansas City Chiefs went out of their way to pursue a few different free agent wide receivers this past offseason. When none of the players they reportedly had interest in ended up in K.C., it meant that the pressure to step up as K.C.’s third pass catching option landed on the shoulders of Mecole Hardman. Throughout training camp and the preseason it was evident that the Chiefs were doing what they could to get Hardman more involved with the offense than he has been through his first two seasons.
Hardman’s big play upside has been evident since he first set foot in Kansas City. He’s the type of player who can run right by defenders like they were standing still, even at the NFL level where he’s going against some of the best athletes in the world. Hardman’s problem has never been upside. It’s always been about consistency and reliability. The Chiefs seem committed to giving him consistent targets, but will Hardman be able to turn that into consistent production?
So far in his career, Hardman has been the type of player who could have a huge game one week and then be a complete non-factor the next. That’s fine if you’re the fourth or fifth option who’s just out there as a big play/gadget player. However, if you’re going to be the number three target in a pass-heavy, Super Bowl-caliber offense, you have to be more consistent than that. In the preseason Hardman both showed that big play upside and some issues with being on the same page with quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
If Hardman can earn Mahomes’ trust and be a guy that can consistently catch 4-5 passes per game while maintaining that big play upside it would be a huge addition to the offense. How can a secondary protect against Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, and third reliable target with the speed to score any time he touches the ball? The answer is they can’t. Hardman becoming a reliable number three option in this offense would be yet another step in making the Chiefs almost impossible to beat.
Now let’s move over to the other side of the ball.