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Right around the time of the 2019 NFL Draft, the Kansas City Chiefs suspended all-pro Tyreek Hill indefinitely for an off the field issue. The day after that announcement, the Chiefs moved up into the second round to draft Georgia wide receiver Mecole Hardman.
The heavy speculation was Hardman was drafted to replace Hill, both having similar skills and top notch speed. In the end, Hill’s issues would be resolved and Hardman would now be flanking him instead of taking over. The overall result was an assortment of big plays and a trip to the Superbowl.
Sure, we’ve seen teams put up staggering numbers and heavy passing yards but does any other team have this kind of speed? Hardman has firmly planted himself as the number two wide receiver for the Chiefs and he is used all over the field.
He’s the team’s main kick returner, racking up a total 871 return yards and a touchdown. He averages 20.7 yards per reception and is second on the team with six receiving touchdowns. The way he’s used gives defensive coordinators another headache going into any game versus the Chiefs.
All the motion and pre-snap movement Kansas City uses can be attributed to the team’s speed. Defenses have to respect Hill and Hardman wherever they line up. Kansas City uses this to its advantage, freeing up the run game and giving tight end Travis Kelce a bit of free roaming space in the middle of the field.
It also frees up any other wide receiver on the field and right in time for the playoffs, Sammy Watkins has cashed in. Watkins was signed to a three year deal in 2018 in large part due to what Hardman eventually got drafted for.
Watkins is a player also known for his speed and after catch play but didn’t have the type of season he had hoped for. He had 198 receiving yards in week one but then after dealing with some hamstring issues he hadn’t sniffed anything near that the rest of the season. The post- season has been a different story however.
Watkins now has nine catches for 190 yards and a touchdown in two playoff games. The attention given to the other offensive players has now made him a dangerous weapon going into Superbowl 54.
Watkins, Hill and Hardman are all interchangeable parts, too. All three could line up on the edge, in the slot, or even out of the backfield. The options are endless and the formations Andy Reid has developed to utilize all of his offensive weapons remain innovative and fresh.
This type of deception doesn’t bode well for the San Francisco 49ers in their big match-up. There might not be a way to stop every one of these receivers because every time they catch the ball it’s off to the races.