NAME: Mecole Hardman
POSITION: Wide Receiver
JERSEY: No. 4
RECRUITMENT RATING: 5-star
WT: 183 lbs
Route Running – Hardman ran a mostly limited route tree during his junior season at Georgia, but his traits suggest that he’ll translate into a fuller one in the NFL. His cuts can be flexible and explosive, as he can turn and accelerate at a fast pace. Hardman would show head fakes that got the defensive backs biting, before smooth cuts to separate. His best routes came vertically when he was given a free release, as defensive backs struggled to keep up with his acceleration. Operating a lot out of the slot, Hardman rarely saw any press coverage. When he was contacted in his stems, he struggled to deal with it. Additionally, Hardman could lack awareness when he was crowded at his route breaks, sometimes breaking directly into contact. On certain reps, he can take too long to get his around around to the quarterback.
Athleticism / Speed – Hardman is one of the more explosive athletes at the wide receiver position in the NFL class. Though he’s a bit light, Hardman has a muscular frame that suggests durability won’t be a weakness. He has a rare combination of quickness and speed, and can explode in an instant. Developed on the lateral chain, he can shift his weight at full stride. He should test like an elite athlete in his agility drills at the NFL Combine.
Hands / Ball Skills – Hardman makes a conscious effort to always be catching the ball with his hands. At all angles, he will use his hands to pluck the ball out of the air. While he fails to fully extend back towards the catchpoint, the ball will rarely come into his body. Hardman has suffered from a number of concentration drops, but when he’s able to catch the ball in stride, he transitions into a runner at an elite pace. Running at full speed doesn’t seem to phase him, as he accelerates through the catchpoint with ease.
Body Control – Hardman is in total control of his body and cuts, as his shiftiness adds to his elusiveness. When attacking the catchpoint, he positions his body well and adjusts his angles when tracking the ball.
Ball Carrier – Hardman is a natural ball carrier with a feel for space. His acceleration and burst allows him to pick up yards in an instant. He sees openings well, taking them vertically with his quick movements. On jet sweeps, he knows when to take the alley or bounce further outside. He sets his blockers up before moving laterally, an ode to his feel for the defense. When he sees contact coming, his built up speed can allow him to bring some force as a ball carrier, especially for a smaller athlete.
Stalk Blocking – Hardman is an effort blocker, who does his 1/11th to the best of his ability. When he engages in a block, his feet are moving at a fast pace. Due to his lack of size, he rarely takes on defensive backs head on. Rather, he tries to shield off half of the defender and run his feet to turn them. Added strength in the lower half could open up multiple lanes for the ball carrier.
Versatility – Hardman is one of the more versatile players in the class, as he took reps as a defensive back during his time at Georgia. A talented ball carrier, Hardman was featured as a kick and punt returner. With a ton of production as both, he has potential in that role for an NFL team. He will be used as a versatile slot receiver with 4 down ability at the next level.
BEST TRAIT – Speed / Ball Carrier
WORST TRAIT – Strength
RED FLAGS – N/A
Hardman is one of the most electric weapons in the NFL Draft class. He uses his speed and fluidity to stretch the field from the slot, showing promise on deep balls. Additionally, his ability in space can be utilized in the RPO game. Hardman’s field vision and elusiveness allow him to be one of the best kick and punt return prospects in the NFL Draft. Hardman had just mediocre production, which was likely due to the talent surrounding him on Georgia’s offense. He projects as a better professional receiver than college, an an NFL team may be able to better utilize his ability. After the NFL Combine, I expect Hardman to be considered on Day 2 of the NFL Draft.
PROS: Speed, speed and more speed. Can run by off coverage with ease and tracks the ball well over his shoulder. Used as a gadget player and showed exceptional acceleration to the edge out of the backfield.
Outside of a vertical, best route is the deep out from the slot. Showed good burst out of his break and the ability to finish along the sideline on a few occasions. Overall athleticism is impressive, short-area burst matches the long speed, and his hops are said to be eye-popping.
CONS: Listed 5-foot-10, 183 pounds and size is a limitation on tape. Willing blocker, but too often overwhelmed by bigger corners. Can get gripped up vs press coverage and has a hard time working free. Have not seen any examples of him winning in contested catch situations.
Route tree is typically simple and Georgia would scheme him open from time-to-time. Sense of timing and efficient movements in routes is inconsistent. Only a sophomore last year, but could easily be described as raw and more of a specialized piece than a complete receiver. Caught only 25 balls all year in a run-heavy offense, so still very much in the process of building an NFL-caliber resume.