Mecole Hardman is going to be an interesting study in drafts this summer. On the one hand, he's a second-round pick working with the league's best quarterback -- an intriguing choice for a Year 2 breakout. On the other hand, there are significant extenuating circumstances with both his initial selection and rookie performance.
At the time of last year's draft, Tyreek Hill had just been suspended from all team activities. "For the foreseeable future," according to GM Brett Veach. As we all know, that incident ultimately went away, and Hill returned to the team. But at the time Hardman was drafted, it seemed very possible that Hill had played his last game in Kansas City. And that the Hardman selection was an insurance policy: a similar kind of explosive deep threat who could step in if Hill needed to be released.
Fast-forward to the actual season, during which Hill missed all or most of five games due to injury. The idea of Hardman being an insurance policy for Hill seems to be supported by the difference in what he did in the 11 games Hill played some or all of, and the five games he didn't.
|HARDMAN WITH HILL SIDELINED|
In those 5 games, Hardman averaged 5 targets, 3 catches, and 52 yards, with 2 TDs. Here are the numbers for the 11 games when Hill was available.
|HARDMAN WITH HILL HEALTHY|
In those games, Hardman averaged 1 catch for 25 yards. He caught 4 TDs, so there's that, but no one could call him a big part of the offense. (These are just receiving stats; Hardman did run 4 times for 17 yards, adding a kick return score.)
It's Year 2, so Hardman should be a little more involved in things. And maybe the plan will be to have him out there on the field plenty with Hill, shunting Sammy Watkins and Demarcus Robinson, both of whom are still around, into lesser roles. Or maybe Hill gets hurt.
But I can't get behind using a good pick on Hardman and expecting him to put up significant numbers. Barring an injury ahead of him, I don't think he can be counted on in starting lineups.