ATHENS — Saturday, April 27, 2019, has been declared Mecole Hardman Jr. Day in the Northeast Georgia town of Bowman, where he was born and raised. But on Friday, April 26, Hardman was taken with the No. 56 pick by the Kansas City Chiefs in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft.
Bowman city hall and all local government offices will be closed Saturday, April 27th in honor of Mecole Hardman Jr. Day so that our we can take time to celebrate with our families. We hope that you have an enjoyable holiday as well. #4 #MecoleHardmanJrDay @MecoleHardman4 pic.twitter.com/A52Qq9b2Bu
— Bowman Georgia (@CityofBowmanGA) April 23, 2019
No matter where and when he goes, it’s a safe bet that Hardman will be a pro for a good long while. After all, last time we checked, there is a market for receivers/kick returners that can run 4.3-second 40s at will.
“They see the potential,” Hardman said of his NFL evaluations. “They’ve seen two years of film, combine and pro day. They see that I can play.”
Here are three things to know about Hardman as he prepares to hear his name called in the 2019 NFL Draft:
Say whatever you want about Hardman’s resident skills as a football player. There’s no substitute for one thing he brings to field — raw, unmitigated speed. Hardman was electronically timed at 4.33 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis. That was fifth in this year’s combine and Hardman actually was disappointed with it. He wanted to run in the 4.2s, which he says he’s done before. His stints on the UGA track team as a sprinter early in his career would seem to validate that.
It’s almost hard to remember that Hardman began his career on the defensive side of the ball. Playing Hardman at cornerback was the decision that the Bulldogs made when they recruited the former 5-star prospect out of Elbert County High School. In Elberton, Hardman primarily played quarterback out of a wing-T set and occasionally played safety on defense in important and closely-contested games. To his credit, Elbert County coach Sid Fritts said from the outset, “I’d rather see him with the ball in his hands.” And the Bulldogs came to that conclusion as well as the cornerback experiment ended after one season in which his only touch was a 17-yard kickoff return.
3. High ceiling
As good as he was as a wideout for Georgia, Hardman remains relatively raw as a receiver. In two full seasons at the position, he finished his UGA career with only 950 yards on 59 receptions and 10 TDs. He had some problems hanging onto the football his first season in 2017 and even struggled with drops some as a junior last season. But he showed great strides last season and his skills should only improve working full time on his game. Meanwhile, what makes Hardman a particularly valuable commodity for NFL teams is his skills as a returner. Last year, he finished second in the nation in punt returns with a 20.1-yard average and he also averaged 25.2 yards a return on kickoffs.
“He has been elite from a special teams standpoint, and still think he has great upside at the wide receiver position,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said after Hardman’s UGA Pro Day performance last month. “He will flourish at the next level, but he hasn’t even reached his full potential.”