There are surely huge expectations for the Kansas City Chiefs in 2020. After winning a Super Bowl last year, the hype has never been higher to repeat as champions again this year. Even with the onset of the COVID-19 virus, the expectations are beyond any of the previous 50 years.
One piece of the puzzle to help them get back to the top of the mountain is the maturity of wide receiver Mecole Hardman. Andy Reid understands the talent of Hardman and how his contribution to the Chiefs is critical for another run at the Lombardi Trophy.
“He worked his tail off in the offseason and he’s working hard now,” Reid said. “He understands all that, but he keeps working and getting opportunities. He had a couple great snaps [Wednesday]. He was learning last year, but now it’s fit in.”
Hardman understands the luxury being on the receiving end of a future Hall of Famer in Patrick Mahomes. Not to mention, learning from the experienced receiving corps the Chiefs have at their disposal including Tyreek Hill.
“I think I’ve improved being a more overall receiver instead of just a deep threat. I can do the intermediate routes well now. Just improving on that. Having Tyreek in my corner, having him and watching him work, what he’s been through the last four years, it’s a great motivator so I can go get to the level that he’s at.”
In the NFL, it’s not as simple as blowing by players with your natural speed as Hardman did in college. The key to his development this year is learning technique and more route-tree patterns. Using his speed to keep the secondary in check will pay dividends to get more targets this year. The cast of characters around him certainly takes away from the huge numbers potentially. That being said, learning to maneuver in tight windows can only help the ceiling go even higher.
“I know I can go deep; I know I can run the deep ball very well,” Hardman added. “I’m basically just trying to become a more complete receiver with the intermediate routes and the short game and try to improve in that area.”
Working on these things brings more value to the toolbox for him to use. Getting in rhythm with Patrick Mahomes for another year certainly benefits the high expectations for him and the team. Unfortunately, the four weeks in preseason leading up to the kickoff won’t be there. However, Hardman is an avid learner. Moreover, the pressure really isn’t on him to be anything he’s not. In other words, the plethora of stars makes it less time-sensitive.
Last year Hardman didn’t know the shape he would have to be in to be successful in the league. Preparing for an NFL Draft compared to getting ready for a season is two totally different animals. Especially, the preparation for getting his body in shape.
“I think when you’re coming out of college you focus on the 40, your routes, you’re not in that football shape,” Hardman said. Now I think when you get to the rookie minicamp and the OTAs, I think you realize I’m really not in shape. I thought I was, but I am not”
Look for Hardman to be ready for the next stage of his career when the season kicks off. In limited capacity (about 45% of offensive snaps), he managed 26 receptions for 538 yards, including 292 after the catch. Six of them went for touchdowns.
Now he’s primed to take his game to another level.