Fantasy Football: What to expect from Mecole Hardman in 2021

2021 is a make-or-break year for Mecole Hardman, so will he have a breakout fantasy season?

Mecole Hardman, Fantasy Football
Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

With Sammy Watkins all but formally gone , Mecole Hardman seemed lined up for a breakthrough in 2020. Then Watkins agreed to a pay cut to stay with the Chiefs, and that buzz went away (never to return). When it was all said and done, some people’s projections came fairly close to what Hardman actually did (41 catches for 560 yards and four touchdowns).

In 16 games last year, Hardman had at least 48 yards or a touchdown seven times (six before Week 10). Through Week 9 (the Chiefs had a bye in Week 10), Hardman was WR37 in standard fantasy scoring. From Week 3-9, covering all six of those aforementioned games, he was WR29 in standard scoring.

This offseason Watkins actually left Kansas City, signing a free agent deal with the Baltimore Ravens. That leaves Hardman competing with Byron Pringle, Demarcus Robinson and to some extent Antonio Callaway for the starting spot opposite Tyreek Hill. With questions about Hill’s status during the 2019 draft, the Chiefs saw Hardman as a viable facsimile if need be.

Nate Taylor of The Athletic (subscription required) recently noted Hardman’s “sizeable improvements” in route-running, catching passes and “overall demeanor” this offseason. Taylor has landed on Hardman as having the “best opportunity” to be the “breakout player” on the Chiefs’ offense this year.

Through Week 8 of his rookie season in 2019, during which Hill missed four games with a collarbone injury, Hardman was WR27 in standard fantasy scoring. From there his role dried up, but he showed enough potential to foster optimism heading into 2020.

The Chiefs passing game runs through Hill and Travis Kelce. Running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire is lined up for a bigger role as a pass catcher this year. Pringle and rookie tight end Noah Gray also captured attention during OTAs. So there are still a lot of mouths to feed in the Chiefs’ offense. Anyone not named Hill, Kelce and Edwards-Helaire will be fighting for what’s left.

Mecole Hardman 2021 Fantasy Outlook

Hardman’s target share bumped to over 10 percent last year. Watkins is leaving behind 55 targets from last year (5.5 per game he played; a 9.0 percent target share). Hardman should take a fair chunk of those vacated targets from Watkins, but week-to-week consistency will still be elusive.

Via Fantasy Football Calculator, here’s a look at Hardman’s ADPs right now.
12-team standard: WR58 (pick 13.03)
12-team full PPR: WR56 (pick 13.04)
12-team half PPR: WR56 (pick 12.06)

Fantasy Pros’ Consensus Rankings have Hardman in similar territory, WR53 in standard scoring and WR60 in full PPR.

As fliers go late in a fantasy draft there will be far worse ways to go than Hardman. Handcuffing a wide receiver is rarely viable, but the third-year man is essentially the handcuff to Hill for those who may be so inclined in leagues with 12 or more teams. As for real confidence in a full-on breakout, that has to be postponed (again) for Hardman until at least 2022.