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Mecole Hardman

Uncertain outlook with Watkins gone

There was a recent discussion of Mecole Hardman here. Personally, I'm not a big fan. I think he was drafted as a replacement for Tyreek Hill when the star's career seemed to be in jeopardy, and instead he's been a largely unnecessary accent piece. But I'm open to having my mind changed.

Most will recall Kansas City cutting Kareem Hunt in December 2018 after video surfaced of him shoving and kicking a woman. A few months later, just before the 2019 NFL Draft, there was an incident in which Hill's 3-year-old son suffered a broken arm. Hill was suspended from team activities while an investigation occurred, and the Hardman pick looked like the team preparing to move on. But Hill returned to the team, and Hardman has instead been largely a No. 3 or 4 receiver the last two years.

When Hill missed four games in 2019 due to a shoulder injury, Hardman put up his best numbers, confirming (for me) the belief that the best thing for his career would have been for Hill to move on. But since now Watkins is gone, I thought I'd look at every game in Hardman's two seasons when either Hill or Watkins missed all or most of it. There have been 13 such games; Hardman's numbers in them are below. Final row shows what they would have been projected over a full season's worth of games.

2019at Oak.64611
2019at Det.5290
2019at Den.32281
2019at LAC42130
2020at Buf.1000
2020at Den.22570
2020at L.V.11160

Had those projected numbers been Hardman's full season a year ago, he would have been the 51st-ranked PPR wideout, right down by DJ Chark, Darnell Mooney and Christian Kirk. These are just receiving numbers; should he get some opportunities as a runner (8 carries thus far in his career) it could help, and he's also a returner (a punt and a kick return touchdown in his first two seasons).

For Hardman to pay off in fantasy leagues, he needs to step it up from those numbers. It's his 3rd season, and there's minimal competition to play ahead of him; Demarcus Robinson (who's put up really modest numbers when Watkins has been sidelined the last couple of years), Byron Pringle, fifth-rounder Cornell Powell. The opportunity is there.

I think he'll probably be a draft by draft proposition for me -- someone who makes it onto my team if he falls late enough, but cuttable if he doesn't show something early in the season.

--Andy Richardson

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