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It’s Time To Be Honest About This Chiefs Second-Round Bust

It’s been three seasons for the Chiefs since they drafted Mecole Hardman in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft. After a promising rookie year that saw him finish as a second-team All-Pro returner with a Pro Bowl selection, his career has not exactly taken off since. Through his first three seasons, he’s averaged just 628 scrimmage yards and four touchdowns per season. For the Chiefs, this simply isn’t enough production.

However, things were supposed to be different in 2022. for three seasons, Hardman played alongside Tyreek Hill. Of course, perhaps the biggest reason Hardman was selected by the Chiefs in the draft was his build as a wide receiver and similarities to Hill. In the spring of 2019, Hill was yet again found in the midst of potential legal trouble and a league suspension seemed to be fast approaching. As a result, the Chiefs reacted accordingly and picked the wideout they saw as the best fit to fill Hill’s role in the offense.

However, Hardman has hardly shown that ability on the football field for the Chiefs. He’s struggled mightily at times. The hope this season by many, myself included, was that Hardman would finally succeed within Kansas City’s offense with Hill now out of town and playing for Miami. Instead of playing in Hill’s shadow, Hardman could step into that role full time and finally become more than a gadget player. However, developments this season have shown that the most the Chiefs will get from Hardman seem to be exactly what we’ve already seen.

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The Chiefs 2022 Season Has Not Seen Improvement For Mecole Hardman

It just hasn’t happened for Hardman this season, even with his close friend Tyreek Hill now in Miami. Entering the team’s Week Four matchup against the Buccaneers, he had just seven receptions for 67 yards and one touchdown. Those totals — which would be a fine line for a single game — are all he’s mustered on the entire season so far. Not only has Hardman been unable to take a step forward this season, but he’s actually appeared to take a step back.

Against the Colts in Week Three, Hardman played on 68% of snaps but was targeted just one time all game. Not only was Hardman not a factor, but he seemed to be a part of the offense’s miscommunications as well. On the game’s final offensive play that saw Mahomes throw a tipped pass interception, Hardman looks to have run the wrong route.

Juju was not happy after the final play and was talking to Hardman, gesturing about the route. This looks to me like Juju was expecting a pick from Hardman's route and didn't get it. And given the man coverage here it would've worked. — Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) September 28, 2022

Hardman looks to have been expected to run a pick on his route that would’ve helped open Juju Smith-Schuster. Instead, he doesn’t and the play ends in a game-sealing interception caused by the miscommunication. Patrick Mahomes seemed to comment earlier this week on a related issue, saying that there was really just “one guy” out of place often this season. Is that player Mecole Hardman?

It didn’t end there for Hardman. In the first half of Sunday Night’s Week Four matchup, Hardman was wide open downfield for an easy touchdown reception. Instead of even looking his way, Mahomes tossed a ball deep to the endzone that was narrowly missed but closely covered by the Buccaneers’ defense. Patrick Mahomes has no trust left in Mecole Hardman. He doesn’t even look his way during his read-progressions and that lack of trust is the nail in the coffin for Hardman with the Chiefs.

The play in which Mahomes didn’t even look Hardman’s way will unlikely have an impact on the outcome of Sunday’s game. While writing this, the Chiefs have a commanding 41-24 lead over Tom Brady’s Buccaneers. However, it may prove to be one of the more impactful plays of Hardman’s young career. Entering the season, the book was still out on the young wide receiver. It looks like the book is rapidly coming to a close in what is a contract year for Hardman.

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