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Mecole Hardman's Updated Fantasy Outlook After Chiefs' 2nd Preseason Game

Adam WellsAugust 21, 2021

Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Mecole Hardman (17) can't make the catch as Arizona Cardinals cornerback Malcolm Butler (21) defends during the first half of an NFL football game, Friday, Aug. 20, 2021, in Glendale, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin

Things are looking up for Mecole Hardman as a viable fantasy option coming out of the Kansas City Chiefs' 17-10 win over the Arizona Cardinals in Friday's preseason game. 

Hardman's final stat line isn't going to immediately stand out, but there are reasons for optimism going forward. The 23-year-old had four receptions for 39 yards and one touchdown on eight targets. 

Patrick Mahomes, who played the first three drives for the Chiefs, was responsible for six of the eight targets Hardman received. 

Hardman's touchdown came on a 17-yard pass from Chad Henne late in the second quarter. 

Kansas City Chiefs @Chiefs

Mecole Hardman snags the touchdown in the back of the end zone!<br><br>πŸ“Ί: <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/KCvsAZ?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#KCvsAZ</a> on ESPN <a href="https://t.co/JxDrHuKsrN">pic.twitter.com/JxDrHuKsrN</a>

Henne's throw was wildly off target, making Hardman's ability to do a 180 and go to the ground while keeping his hands in the air enough to keep the ball from hitting the ground that much more impressive. 

Hardman's stat line could have looked even better, if not for a missed opportunity by Mahomes. The star quarterback had his third-year receiver open in the front of the end zone on a 3rd-and-goal from Arizona's five, but instead of throwing the ball, he drifted back about 15 yards before throwing an errant pass that was picked off by Byron Murphy Jr.

Chiefs head coach Andy Reid appeared to be using this game to figure out who could be the No. 2 wide receiver opposite Tyreek Hill. 

Nathan Jahnke @PFF_NateJahnke

Chiefs WR snap count after 3 drives<br><br>Mecole Hardman 30<br>Demarcus Robinson 27<br>Byron Pringle 21<br>Marcus Kemp 5<br><br>Out of 33 plays

Per Nathan Jahnke of Pro Football Focus, the way Reid used Hardman in this game is a good indication that he could be featured in the offense during the regular season:

"He played in every formation, including two-receiver sets instead of Byron Pringle. Even if Hardman plays nearly every snap in just 11 personnel, that will be a significant increase to his role compared to last season. He appears clearly ahead of Pringle on the depth chart through two games."

Hardman has the kind of rare speed to take advantage of Mahomes' downfield throwing ability. He ran a 4.33-second 40-yard dash at the 2019 NFL scouting combine, leading the Chiefs to draft him in the second round. 

The Georgia alum looked like he could challenge Hill as the best big-play receiver on the Chiefs as a rookie. He averaged 20.7 yards per reception and had six touchdowns on just 26 receptions in 2019. 

Things took a downward turn last season, as Hardman's yards per catch fell to 13.7 and he had four touchdowns. He had more than three receptions in just three games during the 2020 campaign. 

Week 8 against the New York Jets was Hardman's only game with more than four receptions (seven for 96 yards and one touchdown). 

Kansas City has been spending the past two years trying to find a viable No. 2 receiver. Sammy Watkins never panned out and is now playing for the Baltimore Ravens. 

Hardman, Byron Pringle and Demarcus Robinson are competing for the role this season. Everything so far would seem to indicate the job is Hardman's to lose. 

Given the high-volume of passing plays Kansas City calls, Hardman seems worthy of at least a late-round selection in fantasy drafts. 

According to FantasyPros, Hardman is coming off boards as the No. 55 wide receiver and No. 142 overall player in drafts. He's got the speed to break off a big play at any moment, as long as Mahomes trusts him enough to look his way on a consistent basis.