House-call Hardman: The Chiefs Secret Weapon.

By Alex Lewis (@alexlewis226)

The Kansas City Chiefs have one of the most stacked offences in the league, if not the most stacked.

Asking someone to name off their weapons would be like asking the Army to name all of theirs; they’d get half-way through and you’d already know that you were going to lose.

Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, Travis Kelce, Damien Williams; the list goes on and they really do seem as dangerous on paper as on the grass of the Hard Rock Stadium in Miami where they will face up against the equally impressive San Francisco 49ers for a shot at the Lombardi Trophy.

But despite all the big names on their roster, and despite all the first-round picks on the 49ers defence, there is a certain name you should be looking out for as soon as that ball is kicked off on the 2nd February.

Mecole Hardman.

A second round pick out of Georgia this last year, Hardman’s explosive rookie season has seen him go to the pro-bowl as a returner, and as I’ll explain, may take him to Super Bowl MVP.


Return to sender


Hardman’s impact as a return specialist has been incredibly impressive in just his rookie season.

You can expect the Pro-Bowler to attempt to affect field position and even cause some danger to the end-zone in Miami as Hardman has a serious chance to be the first player since Devin Hester to return the opening kick-off of a Super Bowl for a touchdown.

Related image
Stan Szeto/UAS TODAY Sports

The Chiefs not only lead the post season in return yards with 247, but also post the highest average return of any team that featured in the Championship round.

The 49ers gave up 148 kick return yards to the Minnesota Vikings in the Divisional Round, so the possibility of breaking a big runback is there for Hardman who ranked highly in all returning statistics this season.


A helpful alternative


Mecole Hardman’s fairly lowkey status may also be of huge assistance as he shoots to become the Chiefs main Super Bowl weapon.

With Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce likely to be doubled by the 49ers defence, there is space for an alternative threat to emerge for Andy Reid’s offence.

Image result for mecole hardman travis kelce tyreek hill
Abbie Parr/Getty

Hill will be in crosshairs come game time after his performance in the AFC Championship meaning that he may see coverage rolled his way by Niners DC, Robert Saleh.

And as for Kelce, well you can expect to see him struggle in Florida as well, as the 49ers gave up just 552 receiving yards to Tight Ends in the regular season, the fewest of any team.

Kelce suffered a similar fate vs the Tennessee Titans as he saw chips and bracketing galore in an attempt to slow him down, which worked.

These techniques used by opposing DC’s to prevent the Chief’s main weapons often give up some space to players like Hardman to make a name for themselves, or indeed Sammy Watkins who ended up over 100 receiving yards last time out.


Slotting into place


Both at the University of Georgia and indeed as a Chief, Hardman has done much of his business from the inside the hashes.

37% of his season has been spent trying to take advantage of the slot and the people who defend it, and it has been fairly successful as Hardman collated 6 receiving touchdowns in his debut campaign.

Image result for mecole hardman lined up
Icon Sportswire/Getty Images

This week he is likely to face up against Slot Cornerback K’Waun Williams who had a good game against the Green Bay Packers and specifically Allen Lazard.

The challenge for Williams this week is the incredibly rapid Hardman, who times in over a quarter of a second faster over 40 yards (4.33 to 4.58) than Williams and posts far higher agility and speed scores, per PlayerProfiler.

The 2019 49ers defence for all its dominance, have given up 50+ yard and one touchdown receiving games to both Tyler Lockett of the Seattle Seahawks and Pharaoh Cooper of the Arizona Cardinals.

Of all the players to have returned against the Niners, interestingly these two post the hights snap share in the slot, 50% and 67% respectively, all of which could be pointing to an area of small weakness for Andy Reid to try and use.


Rushing to conclude


If I hadn’t already convinced you to back Hardman at the Hard Rock, then just give me one last chance.

Any college football fans will probably recall, the 2017 National Championship between Alabama and Georgia, but what you might not remember is Mecole Hardman having over 130 all purpose yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Image result for mecole hardman georgia vs alabama
Jamie Squire/Getty

Apart from preventing concerns that Hardman struggles to perform when the lights are bright and the pressure is on, his rushing touchdown in that game on a Jet Sweep leads me to my bravest prediction.

Andy Reid often takes advantage of trick plays like Jet Sweeps and motions from his receivers like Tyreek Hill’s first touchdown of the Championship game.

He has only rushed Hardman four times this season, preferring Hill for this duty, which if I’m not mistaken, is setting us up for an attempt or two in the big game for number 17.

Hardman may just end up with a rushing touchdown to match the 150 all purpose yards and a receiving touchdown that i’ll be betting on him to have.

Pick It Apart; Johnathan Abram

The Draft is in the books and the dust has settled. But how well did your team do in the first round?

We are taking a look back at every selection in the first round and giving you the lowdown on the pick; Was it a reach? Was it a steal? We’ll tell you and give you the impact for fantasy football….

Pick: #27

Player: Jonathan Abram

Drafted by: Oakland Raiders

Grade: B-

Analysis:

This pick is of course the Dallas Cowboys’ pick that was sent to Oakland for Amari Cooper midway through the 2018 season.

I’m not sure Lee would’ve been so kind on the grade on as few levels. Firstly, the player level. Surprising the Abram was taken here consideringhe was a 2 star recruit, kept transferring back and forth from Georgia to Jones County and finally Mississippi State. Secondly, the positional value. Safeties are not in vogue at the moment in the NFL. It’s all about linebackers and pass rush. The back end… not so much. It’s true in the NFL and in horse fancy dress costumes.

Abram managed to produce in his final year, with a team leading 93 tackles and made the 2018 First team All-SEC. He also had the title of the hardest hitting safety in College. We’ll see about that if he gets a chance to run towards CJ Anderson.

His qualities are more in stopping the run game and many question his abilities to cover for an extended amount of time. He has sideline to sideline abilities and pursuit speed is pretty decent, as told by his 4.45 40 yard dash at the combine. Spending a pick on someone who will want to effectively play as an extra linebacker this high is questionable but with that being said, would actually be a decent tight end match maker. He doesn’t have the greatest vision or playmaking skills, illustrated by just 2 opportunisitic interceptions in College. He also doesn’t look the most comfortable in zone coverage and will be most effective when being used in blitzes or any time he is asked to go forward. He is known also for his leadership skills, something in which Chuckie likes on his team.

Jon Gruden and Mayock obviously have plans for him, as they do Clelin Ferrell otherwise it would be nonsensical to pick him here. He’ll be an instant starter on team lacking on defensive talent (if only they had someone like Khalil Mack..). He’ll be a physical, tough and hard hitting addition to the NFL (which can bring durability concerns) and it’ll be interesting to see how he puts his mark on some opposing players.

Overall, I am not sure the pick here at 27 will be justified and probably could have waited til pick 40 at the very least.

Fantasy Football Impact:

None, absolutely none. Oakland are a poor defence, you wont be drafting them. Maybe some deep IDP league appeal.