NFL fans and analysts have been quick to compare Kansas City Chiefs rookie wide receiver Mecole Hardman to Tyreek Hill. And why wouldn’t they?
Hardman, 21, offers similar blazing speed, he is a project coming out of college at the WR position, and the Chiefs traded up in the second round of the NFL Draft to get him with Hill not currently partaking in any team activities.
But unlike everybody else, Hardman does not see himself as the next Hill or a possible replacement. He is too busy working on becoming the first Mecole Hardman.
“Right now, I feel like I’m just myself,” Hardman said, when asked how he compared to Hill ahead of the team’s first rookie minicamp practice on Saturday. “I think I’m Mecole Hardman. I think I can do things that I want to do, and I’m just going to leave it at that.”
The Chiefs have already said that Hardman will play a role for them on special teams in 2019. According to Brett Veach, special teams coordinator Dave Toub called Hardman the closest thing to Devin Hester he has seen in a long time.
And while that may be his role once the veterans arrive, this weekend’s rookie minicamp allows him to showcase what he can do as a receiver.
“The first thought is to get [the playbook] down, simplify it for yourself,” Hardman said. “The quicker you can learn, the quicker you can play. The more you can play, the more confident you play. So, it was fun being out there with the coaches learning the playbook. It’s coming easy right now, hopefully I can get it down to where I can play fast and confident.”
“At Georgia, they run the football a lot, so there are some technical aspects that he needs to work on,” Veach said of Hardman on day two of the draft. “I think you see all the skills you need to see. He is smooth in and out of his break, he has great transitional quickness. And then he can just run. Really, you can’t coach speed. You can coach a lot of things. Our coaching staff does a great job of getting receivers and getting the most out of them, but at the end of the day, you can either run or you can’t run. And he has something that you can’t coach. His ability to take a simple bubble screen 80 or 90 yards is exciting. His ability to flip position on the kick return game and punt return game is exciting, so I am sure coach (Andy) Reid will have a lot of fun with him.”
Reid explained that the way you begin to teach a player like Hardman how to be a pro receiver is by starting in team walkthroughs.
More Mecole Hardman during individual drills pic.twitter.com/R6uggWuxJY— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) May 4, 2019
“You can see right away,” Reid said. “You can see if a guy drops his arms even walking through it and he gets out there and all of sudden your percentages of opportunities to catch the football go way down. Little things like that. You talk to them about breaks and walk them through exactly how you do the break. Then you get out and you practice.
“One advantage that these guys have is they have Greg Lewis coaching them. Greg played in the National Football League and in this offense, so he’s got experience. How valuable is that? That’s a phenomenal thing to have in position if you’re a wide receiver for a guy to come in here and go I know exactly how this works. I know the timing of the quarterback to you, I know exactly how you’re going to set this route up to be beneficial for the offense.”
The other benefit Hardman will have is playing with the league’s Most Valuable Player in Patrick Mahomes.
I have to guess Vegas' reasoning here has a lot more to do with No. 15 than Hardman https://t.co/fMEXXxamcI— Pete Sweeney (@pgsween) April 29, 2019
Mahomes’ arm strength rivals any other quarterback in the NFL, meaning he can take full advantage of Hardman’s ability to get behind receivers.
“Any receiver would be happy to be with him,” Hardman said of Mahomes. “He’s a great quarterback. Hopefully we can get some good chemistry together and hopefully he can throw me open, throw me some routes and we just keep that thing going. I’m happy to be with him.”
Hardman said he spoke to Mahomes shortly after he was drafted.
“I think he’s excited as well—just ready to get the ball moving.”