Two rookie wide receivers are hoping to play pivotal roles for their respective teams in Super Bowl LIV. Kansas City Chiefs’ Mecole Hardman’s dynasty outlook in 2020 gets a little more intriguing with teammate Demarcus Robinson set to be an unrestricted free agent. Deebo Samuel will get his breakdown on the eve of the big game, so, for now, we’ll focus on the Chiefs second-round pick (56th overall) in the 2019 NFL Draft.
It’s not intended as a slight to say that Hardman’s dynasty value was at its highest before he set foot on an NFL field. A small-ish receiver who has good straight-line speed, acceleration, and cuts quickly, it seemed like Hardman was drafted as a short-term contingency plan for Tyreek Hill’s off the field actions resulting in their assumed consequences.
Hardman’s 2019 was marred by inconsistency. There were splash plays and signs that point to him being able to translate his college production to the NFL. However, for dynasty cases, little was done to increase his value. As a rookie, Hardman topped 75 yards twice, never recorded more than four catches in a single game, and failed to record a catch in four outings.
The most puzzling thing is that Hardman was targeted far less after the first third of the season. When Tyreek Hill lost Weeks 2 through 5 to injury, Hardman was an involved part of the offense. Yet upon Hill returning, Hardman was mainly relegated to the bench. In the strictest terms, Hardman was able to fulfill the reason he was drafted. The discouraging side of that coin is he didn’t seem to show the coaching staff that he should be involved further in the offensive gameplan.
Shortly after Hill returned to the lineup, Hardman failed to record three or more targets in 8 of the remaining 11 games of the season. Demarcus Robinson putting together the best year of his career didn’t help matters, but the case is clear, Hardman has had a rough rookie year. He put up double-digit fantasy points eight times this year, but 30% of his production is from touchdown receptions, of which he had six. A touchdown every 4.3 receptions is phenomenal, but we all know that’s not at all sustainable.
Now with the bad out of the way, here is why Hardman is an absolute steal this offseason where opportunity abounds in his sophomore campaign. Demarcus Robinson is set to be a free agent after the Super Bowl. Sammy Watkins does technically have one more year on his deal with the Chiefs but will be cut if he does not rework things. He’ll currently head into 2020 with a massive $21 million cap hit, making his the second-highest cap hit on the team, 24th highest in the NFL, and tops for the wide receiver position. Conversely, the Chiefs will only see $7 million in dead cap if he is not on the team in 2020.
Hardman currently ranks as Tommy Garret’s WR 40, 101 overall. On such an explosive offense, that number should go up by the end of next season. Hardman was splitting his reps with Robinson, so if the latter departs in free agency, the opportunity grows exponentially for Hardman’s sophomore campaign. Add in the Watkins news, and Hardman steps in as possibly the third leading target getter. Progression is by no means linear, but it is beyond easy to see things trending up for Mecole Hardman’s dynasty outlook in 2020 and beyond. It all starts with an impressive performance at Super Bowl LIV.
Andrew Thomas Jordan is an editor and analyst for the Pro Football Network covering Fantasy Football. You can follow him @The_ATJ on Twitter.