On the Monday mailbag edition of the AP Laboratory, we were asked who would have more receiving yards in 2020: Mecole Hardman or Clyde Edwards-Helaire?
In his rookie year, Hardman amassed 538 receiving yards at an absurd 20.7 yards per reception. He showed a lot of ability as a big-play vertical stretch — making an impact on several games during the season with explosive play. The nature of his season was high variance — hence the high yards per reception. In fantasy football terms, Hardman was the definition of a boom-or-bust player on a week-to-week basis.
In researching this question, I came across some interesting numbers on Hardman’s season. 69.5% of his receiving yards in 2019 came in the first half of the season. What’s more is that 45.7% of his receiving yards on the season came in the four games that top receiver Tyreek Hill missed.
When the Chiefs were at full strength with Hill, Travis Kelce and Sammy Watkins all on the field, Hardman struggled to find consistent footing on a week-to-week basis. The argument could be made (and I believe it could be true) that Demarcus Robinson’s opportunities might be reduced to make way for Hardman. Interestingly enough, Robinson only amassed 10 catches for 131 yards in the second half of the season. Robinson and Hardman combined for 16 catches, 295 yards and three touchdowns in the second half of the regular season. Simply put, it could be tough to feed another mouth outside of the big three on a consistent basis, especially since a talented rookie running back is likely to eat into the target share.
Edwards-Helaire is going to be the primary running back in Kansas City for the foreseeable future. He is one of the best pass-catching running backs in recent memory and possesses an every-down skill set that will allow him Andy Reid to call whatever he wants, whenever he wants, without tipping off defenses of their intentions with personnel. Here’s another interesting statistic I pulled up: Kareem Hunt was pacing for 550 receiving yards in 2018 before he was released.
Edwards-Helaire is a better, more dynamic receiver than Hunt and is playing in the best offense in football. He should have a high floor as a pass-catcher for a running back. That being said, only three running backs surpassed 600 receiving yards — which is the number I expect Hardman to hit in 2020.
Edwards-Helaire has a high floor, but Hardman has the ceiling that should win this competition. I don’t see a drastic uptick in production for Hardman simply because of the mouths to feed, but he should be make a statistical progression with a moderate increase in targets. If he continues to produce at the 20-plus yards-per-reception clip he did his rookie year, just a small improvement in targets will lead to 600 to 700 yards a season and likely a couple additional games where his impact is significantly felt.
That’s a scary proposition for the rest of the NFL — especially since Edwards-Helaire will be very productive in the passing game as well.
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Who finishes with more receiving yards in 2020?
This poll is closed
RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire
WR Mecole Hardman