KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Mecole Hardman got up to 21.7 mph on his 83-yard touchdown during Sunday’s game against the Baltimore Ravens. But the Kansas City Chiefs receiver said he was nowhere near top speed on the play.
“I was about 80 percent [speed], 85,” Hardman after his touchdown helped the Chiefs to a 33-28 win at Arrowhead Stadium.
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Perhaps that’s some exaggeration by Hardman. Perhaps not. Either way, the rookie had the fastest speed by a ball carrier on any touchdown in the NFL so far this season, according to Next Gen stats.
That speed is why the Chiefs made Hardman their top draft pick this year when they selected him in the second round. At the time, he was considered insurance in case Tyreek Hill was suspended. After scoring his second touchdown in two weeks, Hardman is doing a nice job of replacing the injured Hill. He’s playing so well the Chiefs will have to find playing time for Hardman when Hill returns later in the season.
The Chiefs like how Hardman runs with the ball in his hands, so they’re calling plays for him other than just down the field. He had an end-around for 7 yards against the Ravens and quarterback Patrick Mahomes has tried to get him the ball on bubble screens.
His role increased not just because of Hill’s absence but because he knows more of the playbook.
“[The game] is getting slower,” Hardman said. “That comes with watching film, [getting] more practice and getting more comfortable in the offense itself and knowing what I need to do.”
But the deep ball is Hardman’s calling card. He caught a 42-yard touchdown on a post pattern last week against the Raiders and had a 72-yard score called back because of a penalty.
He had a chance for a big play early against the Ravens but Mahomes’ pass in his direction went incomplete.
“It was more of a miscommunication thing,” Mahomes said. “I thought he was going to run more vertical, but he saw [safety] Earl [Thomas] over the top so he flattened it off and he has the ability to do that. I just have to make sure I’m on the same page as him. So I told him to just keep running, keep doing what he was doing, keep playing fast.”
That’s what Hardman does best. The Ravens left him uncovered in the second quarter and this time Mahomes got him the ball. The Ravens pursued Hardman but with him running almost 22 mph, they couldn’t chase him down.
“Once the ball gets in his hands it’s like the Tyreek effect,” Mahomes said. “It’s just about over.”