Our NFL rookie profile series continues with this analysis of 2019 NFL Draft Prospect Mecole Hardman, WR from Georgia. You can also check out all of our NFL Draft Prospect articles here. We will continue to provide you with these in-depth rookie profiles and a ton of other fantasy football rookie analysis right up through the NFL Draft. Stay tuned, and stay ahead of your league!
On the field, my first thought after watching Mecole Hardman was “discount” Tyreek Hill. Hardman is an explosive athlete but raw in terms of his route running and catching the ball in contested situations. With just two years at the position, the former high school quarterback and defensive back still has a lot to learn about the subtleties of playing wide receiver but his athletic ability and his prowess on special teams will make him an interesting prospect for a team late on day two of the NFL draft.
Let’s get into his profile.
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Stats from sports-reference.com.
Hardman didn’t really begin learning or playing the wide receiver position until his sophomore season at Georgia but his blazing speed and downfield ability were evident almost immediately. You won’t find gaudy numbers here mostly due to him being a secondary receiving option in a run-first offense but he was productive with limited opportunity.
Highlight reels are great for getting an idea of a player’s upside but I’d urge you to take a look at game cut-ups as well. Here’s what I’ve learned from watching several of Hardman’s games in 2018.
Hardman is almost the exact opposite kind of wide receiver prospect when compared to Riley Ridley, his more highly touted teammate at Georgia. While Ridley relies more on a variety of moves at the line and subtleties within his routes to gain separation, Hardman simply dominates his competition with speed and explosive athleticism. He is too sudden of an athlete to have much success pressing him at the line and if a defender gives him too much space, he has enough tackle-breaking ability to get by the first man and take it all the way to the end zone.
With the ball in his hands, Hardman plays like a running back. He can certainly blow by a defender with his speed and quickness, but also runs tough and isn’t afraid of contact. The opposite is true however on tightly-contested throws where Hardman hasn’t learned how to use his body to block out defenders and protect the throw from defenders. It’s almost like he hears ghosts at times, anticipating the big hit that is never going to come. It does occasionally makes concentration drops an issue.
One thing I do love about Hardman is he always attempts to make the catch with his hands, with very few making it into his body. He possesses the ability to extend his arms to make a hands catch at all angles and adjusts well to poorly thrown balls whether it’s placed high, low, or behind him. When he does catch the ball in stride, it’s a sight to behold. Due to his elite acceleration and speed, he transitions incredibly well from receiver to runner.
As previously stated, Hardman isn’t a refined route runner. He ran an extremely limited route tree at Georgia with his best routes being run vertically from the slot. Hardman wins with his speed and acceleration but shows the traits necessary to become more than just a versatile athlete in the NFL. He did seem to struggle a bit when a defender initiated contact early in a route so his ability to deal with physicality at the next level will be key for his NFL success.
As you can see, Hardman is certainly undersized. Measuring in at just 5’10 and 187 pounds, he hits the 16th and 17th percentile respectively. He wears that 187 pounds well though in a muscular frame. Not that the bench press matters much for a wide receiver but 17 reps at his weight is impressive and shows off his strength.
Clearly where Hardman excels is in the speed department, running a 4.33-second 40-yard dash, which was good for third in the wide receiver class behind only Parris Campbell and Andy Isabella who both bested him by just 0.02 seconds.
It would have been nice to see him run the agility drills but maybe we’ll get that data at his pro day.
- March Rookie ADP: WR20, 41st overall (4.05)
- March Startup ADP: WR100, 236th overall (19.08)
As of March 18, Mecole Hardman had not been involved in any trades on MFL.
There are plenty of reasons to not like Mecole Hardman as an NFL prospect. He lacks the production profile, size, and route running abilities of an NFL wide receiver. What he does offer, though, is speed and sudden explosiveness for days. Speed kills in today’s NFL and someone will take a chance on him.
To me, he represents a cheaper version of Parris Campbell who is now getting buzz as a late first-round NFL draft pick. Both are versatile space players who can score on any given play, but lack polished route-running ability at this point in their careers.
Hardman profiles as a vertical slot receiver in the NFL who can be used in a variety of ways, especially in space and on jet sweeps. Early in his career, touches may need to be manufactured for him but his abilities after the catch will make him attractive to NFL teams as early as day two. Remember, Hardman has only played the position for two seasons so there is ample room for growth.