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Mecole Hardman's game will fit what Chiefs want to do

After seeing second-round pick Mecole Hardman during rookie minicamp, it's clear why the Chiefs valued the receiver out of Georgia. Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Even before wide receiver Mecole Hardman took the Kansas City Chiefs practice field for the first time over the weekend, the similarities between Hardman and Tyreek Hill were difficult to miss. They're both fast and Hardman at 5-foot-10 and 187 pounds is about the same size as the 5-10, 185-pound Hill.

Then Hardman looked a lot like Hill at the Chiefs' rookie camp. He showed his 4.33 40 speed and lined up like Hill in a variety of spots, both in the slot and split wide.

"The things coach [Andy] Reid [does] in this offense suit me well," Hardman said. "I feel I can do a lot of things in the offense. I'm versatile. I feel wherever he needs me to go, I can go. Whatever he needs me to do I can do. So it's just up to him to see how he's going to use me."

Hardman will undoubtedly be used much as Hill has been if Hill is suspended or released. Hill was barred indefinitely from all team activities by the Chiefs after disturbing audio of a discussion between Hill and his fiancée, Crystal Espinal, surfaced just before the draft. An investigation into injuries sustained by the son of Hill and Espinal has been reopened by the Johnson County district attorney's office. Hill's lawyer has issued a denial of child abuse allegations.

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The Chiefs viewed Hardman as an insurance policy so necessary they traded up in the second round of the draft to make him their top pick.

The Chiefs also have veteran wide receivers Sammy Watkins and Demarcus Robinson, but see Hardman as being able to contribute significantly when the season begins, if there's a need.

"I would anticipate him playing a bunch Week 1 because he's extremely talented and he's a smart kid, too," general manager Brett Veach said. "This kid is smart, he's intelligent, he'll pick it up.

"[Hardman is a] guy that played at the top level, played in the SEC for four years. I would expect you'd see a bunch of him and I think he'll be ready to go Week 1 for sure.

Hardman wasn't a big producer in college at Georgia. During his final season with the Bulldogs he caught 35 passes for 543 yards and seven touchdowns and he had just 60 catches for 961 yards and 14 total touchdowns in three seasons. That's one reason he lasted until the second round.

The Chiefs are convinced there is a lot more where that came from.

"At Georgia, they run the football a lot, so there are some technical aspects that he needs to work on," Veach said. "The stats ... aren't similar to someone that played at a passing offense like Texas Tech or Oklahoma. But I think you see all the skills you need to see. He is smooth in and out of his break. He has great transitional quickness. And then he can just run.

"Our coaching staff does a great job of [teaching] receivers and getting the most out of them, but at the end of the day, you can either run or you can't run. And he has something that you can't coach. His ability to take a simple bubble screen 80 or 90 yards is exciting. His ability to flip position on the kick return game and punt return game is exciting, so I am sure coach Reid will have a lot of fun with him."

Judging from the many ways the Chiefs used Hardman at rookie camp, Reid is already doing so.

"We like his speed," Reid said. "But he is more than that. He can play inside, he can play outside. He did both at Georgia. And then he is a phenomenal returner, arguably the best returner in the draft. ... This is someone Brett had his eye on from the get-go."

Hill played more at running back than receiver in his one season in major college football, at Oklahoma State. He was a receiver from the start with the Chiefs and he caught 61 passes as a rookie in 2016. His production increased in each of the two seasons since.

"This kid is probably closer to where Tyreek was coming out as a wide receiver," Reid said. "Now you've seen the growth with Tyreek and I think you will see that with this kid. He catches well. He has great secure hands and he can run like a son of a gun."