As a secondary option in a run-oriented offense at Georgia for the last two seasons, Mecole Hardman has largely stayed out of the national spotlight. And while his production profile isn’t spectacular there are reasons to like his chances of finding success at the next level. At 5 feet 11 inches, 183 pounds, can Hardman secure a role in the NFL that leads to fantasy relevance?
THE EARLY YEARS
Labeled an athlete by 247 Sports, Hardman was a five-star recruit with offers from almost every high-profile program in college football. He enrolled at Georgia in June 2016 but saw very little playing time as a freshman, mainly contributing on special teams.
2017 AND BEYOND
In his first full season at the wide receiver position, Hardman finished third on the team in receptions (25), yards receiving (418), and touchdowns (4) in 2017. Because of his speed and quickness he also played a role in the return game averaging 11.8 yards per punt return. As a junior in 2018, his raw production increased slightly (35-543-7) but he accounted for just 19 percent of the Bulldogs’ receiving yards and TDs. This falls well short of the 30 percent production threshold found to be predictive of future success. We know how important college production is for WR prospects but there are other ways in which Hardman could still find success.
As one of the youngest WR prospects in the 2019 class, Hardman’s final-year age (20.8) is one of his best attributes. Blair Andrews found that WRs who finish their rookie season at age-21 have historically produced at least one WR2 season around 40 percent of the time:
Just three years removed from high school, Hardman also stands to gain the advantage of being an early draft declaration. According to further research from Andrews, WR prospects who declare early for the draft produce a 200-point season within their first two NFL seasons nearly 24 percent of the time compared to prospects with exhausted eligibility who find the same level of success less than four percent of the time.
Hardman clearly checks a bunch of boxes related to age, but I’d be remiss not to circle back to production. His lack of a true breakout season is troublesome. And when we run Hardman through Anthony Amico’s WR Regression Tree, his lack of TDs relegates him to a cohort of historical prospects that have hit 200-points at least once in their first three NFL seasons just two percent of the time:
We’ll have to wait a few more weeks for official athletic testing results, but if Hardman’s high school numbers are any indication, his draft stock could rise after the combine. And at the very least, NFL front offices are likely to value Hardman’s acumen in the return game, which is a positive indicator of future success based on historical data compiled by Jon Moore. Barring a super-human combine performance and/or a massive jump in draft stock, Hardman is a strong candidate to be a bargain in dynasty rookie drafts based on his age and early declaration status.