The Kansas City Chiefs have had a lot of movement in their personnel from this season whether it be due to the fans having a voice, the Chiefs wanting to try something new, or players simply playing bad enough to lose their playing time. Most of that movement came on the Chiefs defense, understandably, as the unit was nothing short of awful to start the year.
Another position that seems to have received a lot of shakeup and varying snap counts for several players is wide receiver. Essentially everyone besides Tyreek Hill has seen themselves play anywhere from 3 to 30 snaps on a weekly basis.
Wide receiver Mecole Hardman clearly started the year as the No. 2 option at receiver for Kansas City all the way up until a few weeks ago. After what could have been a costly fumble against the Green Bay Packers and two drops on top of that, it appears Hardman has finally fallen out of favor. In the last three games (Raiders, Cowboys, Broncos) Hardman has seen his snaps decrease from 24 against the Raiders, 12 against the Cowboys, to just 9 offensive plays most recently against the Broncos.
To throw salt in the wound of Mecole Hardman, he also appears to have lost his special teams returner role to cornerback Mike Hughes. Special teams coordinator Dave Toub even had some honest words about Hardman’s struggles as a returner from a fundamental standpoint.
Is Mecole Hardman’s time up?
Year three was supposed to be the make-or-break year for Hardman. He knew that and he acknowledged that over the offseason and made it his goal to become a more complete receiver.
Unfortunately, Hardman hasn’t made that jump. For a player that it seems the Chiefs have been trying to replace since last April, he doesn’t seem to have a great sense of urgency or situational awareness. Not only has he not made the jump, but he’s been almost eliminated from the rotation—as expected when you put the ball on the ground.
You could even make an argument that Hardman has regressed since his rookie year. Hardman may have never been a reliable receiver to this point but he would always have his huge explosive plays for a touchdown., but this year he hasn’t been that big of a deep threat.
People will point out that he’s actually on pace for a career year in receiving yards which is true. He currently sits at 436 yards, but we have to take into account that a huge chunk of those yards come on manufactured targets or designed plays behind the line of scrimmage.
A lot of players can make a living off designed handoffs and manufactured touches, but Hardman cannot consistently get open, beat the press, win over the middle, finish his route, or hang onto the ball and that’s a deal-breaker. He’s a glorified Dexter McCluster. That’s just the reality.
So, does that mean Hardman’s time in Kansas City could be coming to a close?
While I do believe Hardman will be in Kansas City all the way through his rookie contract, there’s no reason to believe the Chiefs will get rid of a player on a rookie contract that can still be a weapon unless someone really wants to trade for him, this most recent development in Hardman’s playing time does kind of feel like the point of no return.
It’s year three, the coaches have given him every opportunity to get involved even though he probably should have been benched even before then, and they’ve tried to force-feed him the ball on multiple occasions to no avail. Hardman can still make a nice career for himself, but it feels like the currently unfolding scenario is going to be the final nail in the coffin for Hardman being a big part of the offense going forward.