Now that free agency, the NFL Draft, and the schedule release have all passed, we have our initial layout in place in team depth charts and strength of schedule. With that, we want to take a look at some players across the fantasy landscape that are either polarizing, over or undervalued, or just interesting topics of discussion and walk through some of the pros and cons of where those players are regarded in fantasy circles. 

Last week, we explored players such as Kenyan Drake, Austin Ekeler, Marquise Brown, and Tyler Higbee. Today, we are jumping into Mecole Hardman.

For more fantasy content, check out our offseason fantasy football hub with rankings, strategy, and more.

Week 1 Age: 22.5
Contract: Signed through 2022

Using the Dynasty ADP app available at RotoViz, Hardman has made roughly a 30-pick jump in startup market value over where he entered the 2019 season. Among his position, he has jumped only 12 spots, which is more than a reasonable bump given his rookie campaign.

After Kansas City traded up in the second round a year ago to select Hardman, the rookie wideout corralled 26-of-41 targets for 538 yards and six touchdowns. He also was third in the NFL in kickoff return yards and fifth in average per kickoff return (26.1 yards) with a touchdown.

While Hardman’s overall line is modest, he did excel in creating splash plays on his opportunities, flashing the upside he possesses per touch. Out of all 214 players in the NFL with 25 or more targets in 2019, here is where Hardman ranked in a number of explosive play metrics.

Hardman Explosive Plays

20+ Yd. Rec/Tgt%21.9%2
1D/Tgt %43.9%45

Generating big plays frequently when called upon, Hardman finished eighth among all wide receivers in fantasy score over expectation a year ago. Curtis Patrick showed how that type of rookie performance over expectation has been a strong indicator for future odds at producing a future top-24 scoring season. Those are strong odds for a wide receiver you can land as your WR4 right now.

The only rub there is that Hardman had by far the fewest actual opportunities from a target and expected points stance, producing just 59% of the next closest wideout’s targets and 75% of the next closest wide receivers expected point total. Opportunity is still the name of the game for fantasy that we want to chase. There is no doubt Hardman’s rookie-season efficiency and playmaking has earned him a spike in opportunity in his second season, but how much actual opportunity is going to be available for him this upcoming season?

2019 Game Log

WeekOppSnapsRoutesTgtTgt%RecYdsTDPPRWR Rank

Tyreek Hill missed four games outright in 2019 (Weeks 2-5) and Sammy Watkins missed two (Weeks 6-7). So in 13 games that both Hill and Watkins played at all, Hardman caught 12-of-18 targets for 248 yards and three touchdowns. This also includes Week 1 and Week 11, games where Hill registered just 12 and seven snaps played. 

Coming into the 2020 season, the Chiefs have every wide receiver returning that took a snap and had a target for them a year ago except for De’Anthony Thomas (20 snaps and two targets), who they released six games into the season last year. The Chiefs used 11 personnel on 70% of their passing plays in 2019, which was 18th in the league. Their third wide receiver last season averaged 25.1 routes and 2.9 targets per game.

Even if Hardman jumps Demarcus Robinson as we anticipate, we are still looking at the fifth option behind Travis Kelce, Hill, Watkins, and the running back position in terms of passing game opportunity. Sure, it is the fifth option attached to Patrick Mahomes and the upside is present to receive more opportunity moving forwards with added potential of an injury to any rung on the ladder higher than Hardman is in 2020, but there is not a lot of tangible opportunity to actual latch onto. We are strictly swinging on the upside potential here short term with the potential that there is no actual floor we can use.

The long term question to ask is what if that if being a low-volume, big-play option is Hardman’s actual apex as a fantasy option? As a prospect, Hardman never had a breakout season at Georgia, registering a seventh percentile score in career production and 16th percentile for a final season before entering the league.

Factoring in draft capital, his 41st percentile score in my WR prospect model is extremely low for a second-round draft pick. His size, speed, and final season production as a receiver and returner do share a lot of commonalities with someone such as Ted Ginn Jr. entering the NFL. But all of that is solely to play devil’s advocate. The goal of these writeups is to present the potential pros and cons for the players involved.  

Outside of that stellar explosion he showed as a rookie, Hardman is currently only 22 years old, can fly, was a second-round draft pick, and has attachment to the league’s best passer for multiple seasons at minimum. That is a hell of a lot more than we can say for a number of current fantasy WR4 options in the league.

There is also the potential that any 2020 limitations are just too shortsighted when Hardman will still only be 23 years old entering the 2021 season. We may just be a year early still on the turnover for the Kansas City roster at the receiver position that can open the door like we want. Even if Hardman does not have the 2020 breakout many are hopeful for, his market value can still hold and potentially rise in 2021 if Watkins and Robinson are no longer with the team beyond this season.

For 2020 rankings and Dynasty rankings, I am only a small tick lower than the field on Hardman in both rankings, but I would absolutely take him on my roster for the right cost because of the upside in his range of outcomes. As usual in closing here, in dynasty, every player has potential to be both a buy and sell at the same time. You just have to find the proper context in your league on which he is valued per owner.

Startup ADP and cost is not going to be an exact market for you with team context a driving force in established leagues, but here are the buy and sell point suggestions using that as guideline pending which side you fall on.

2020 Rookie Pick Value: High Second (2.01-2.04)
RB Value Targets: Kareem Hunt, James Conner, Matt Breida, Tony Pollard
WR Value Targets: Diontae Johnson, Mike Williams, N’Keal Harry, Sterling Shepard
TE Value Targets: Hunter Henry, Mike Gesicki, Dallas Goedert