Wide receiver Mecole Hardman of the Georgia Bulldogs

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2019 NFL Draft: Hardman will be electrifying

April 24, 2019 - 11:51 am
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Carey "Mecole" Hardman-#4

University of Georgia Bulldogs

5:10.2-187

Agility Tests...4.28 in the 40-yard dash…1.51 10-yard dash…2.47 20-yard dash…4.25 20-yard shuttle…6.75 three-cone drill…36 1/2-inch vertical jump…9'-11" broad jump… Bench pressed 225 pounds 17 times…30 1/4-inch arm length…9-inch hands…71 5/8-inch wingspan.

Background... Don't get me wrong, Hardman is not a finished product, but for a player with just two years of wide receiver experience, well, let's just say he is well ahead of the learning curve. The Bulldogs coaches needed a season to determine where the high school quarterback and defensive back would fit. They recognized that he was a smooth, fluid and wiry athlete with lean bulk.

They would soon discover that Hardman is an explosive athlete with tremendous feet and acceleration traits. He possesses the top end speed to consistently win footraces in the open field and has the agility and change-of-direction skills to make multiple defenders miss in space. Still, they felt that he must continue to add bulk and strength to his frame. Once he did (added fifteen pounds), it led to two exciting seasons for Georgia fans with 59 receptions for 950 yards and eleven touchdowns through just thirteen starting assignments.

At Elbert County High School, Hardman competed at both quarterback and defensive back. On defense, he was an American Family Insurance/USA Today All-USA second-team pick. The five-star recruit was rated 26th on PrepStar Magazine's Top 150 Dream Team. ESPN.com regarded him as the second-best athlete in the nation and fifth-best player in the state of Georgia. 247Sports.com called him the best athlete in the country and the number-two recruit in Georgia.

The 2015 Georgia Sports Writers Association Class AAA Offensive Player of the Year, was also that group's Class AAA All-State offensive pick. He was also named to the 2015 Atlanta Journal-Constitution Super 11 in Georgia and Class AAA All-State team (offense) after he led Elbert County to an 11-3 record and a trip to the quarterfinals of the Class AAA playoffs.

Hardman had one of the cleaner uniforms on the Georgia team in 2016. He appeared in 11 games, posting six special teams tackles that included two stops each vs. Florida and Louisiana, as he also returned one kickoff 17 yards vs. the Ragin' Cajuns.

The 2017 season saw the Southeastern Conference Academic Honor Roll member move to wide receiver from the defensive backfield during spring drills. He would start one of the fifteen games he appeared in, catching 25-of-37 targeted passes for 418 yards (16.7 ypc) and four touchdowns, gaining 228 yards after the catch. In 318 snaps, he also rushed for two scores via eight attempts for 61 yards.

On special teams, Hardman registered five tackles (4 solos) and totaled 505 yards on twenty kickoff returns (25.3 avg) and 271 yards running back 23 punts (11.8 avg). He ranked eighth nationally in punt returns (first in the SEC) and 21st in KO returns (2nd in the SEC). He also had 1255 all-purpose yards, including a season-high 203 vs. Auburn. He scored both of Georgia's touchdowns vs. Alabama in the CFP Championship Game: a 1-yard rush and an 80-yard pass, as he was named the Vince Dooley Special Teams MVP at the team’s post-season awards gala.

Hardman matched a season-high with four receptions in the SEC Championship game for 67 yards. He hauled in his first career touchdown from Jake Fromm to put Georgia up 7-0 in the first quarter against Samford. He caught three passes for 51 yards at Georgia Tech, including a 39-yarder that set up the Bulldogs’ third touchdown of the day. He made first career start at wide receiver at Notre Dame and hauled in a team-high four receptions for 27 yards in the win against the Irish.

In 2018, Hardman earned All-American Super Sleeper Team honors from The NFL Draft Report, despite starting just five of fourteen games. He was Georgia’s second-leading receiver, with 34 catches of 56 targeted tosses for 532 yards and seven touchdowns. The stellar kick returner, despite falling just short of minimum qualification standards (1.2 returns per game) for NCAA rankings, he would have ranked second nationally, first in SEC, in punt returns at 20.1 yards/return, running

16 kicks for 321 yards and one touchdown.

Hardman added 36 yards on five carries and 271 yards on 23 punt returns to generate 1,242 all-purpose yards. One of two winners of the Kevin Butler Special Teams Award at the teams post-season awards gala, he raced 70 yards with a punt return for a score vs. Middle Tennessee State and had a 65-yard punt return vs. Kentucky that led to Georgia’s first score of the game. He caught a team-high six passes for 103 yards (both career highs) and a touchdown vs. South Carolina, as he also had a 30-yard rush on a lateral play vs. the Gamecocks

In the Georgia Tech clash, his lone reception was good for a 44-yard touchdown. Hardman had a team-best three catches vs. UMass for 68 yards, including a 57-yard scoring reception. He amassed 180 all-purpose yards in win at Missouri that included a 54-yard touchdown catch and a 23-yard punt return. He also gained 100 all-purpose yards vs. Alabama (21 rec., 63 KOR, 16 PR).

Hardman closed out his career with thirteen starting assignments through forty appearances. He caught 59-of-93 targeted tosses for 950 yards (16.1 ypc) and eleven touchdowns, gaining 520 yards after the catch, in just 720 snaps. He gained 97 yards with a pair of scores on thirteen carries and recorded eleven special team tackles (5 solos). He returned 35 kickoffs for 875 yards (21.9 avg), 39 punts for 592 yards (15.2 avg) with a touchdown to finish with 2,514 all-purpose yards.

The Scouting Report

Athletic Ability... Hardman possesses a tight abdomen, good shoulder depth, solidly-built thighs and calves. He has the desired size in his hands to secure and extend for the ball. He has toned arms, good flexibility, balance and knee bend. His strong legs let him break tackles and his explosiveness will generally see him win foot races in the open field. Ford demonstrates excellent athleticism for his position, as few opposing defenders can mirror him on deep routes due to his speed. He not only has the acceleration needed to threaten the deep secondary, but the body control, lateral quickness and change of direction agility to make the underneath catches.

He is very fast moving laterally and with his high school experience in the high jump, he can certainly get vertical with the best of them. He has a sudden burst off the snap and maintains his stride throughout the routes, demonstrating superb balance, especially when working along the sidelines. He has worked hard to improve his strength, but even when he takes on bigger defenders as a blocker, he compensates for bulk issues by staying low in his pads and sinking his weight to anchor.

Even with his speed, do not confuse him for a sprinter, as he shows no hesitation going for the ball in traffic. He has a rapid running stride and quick feet and is very elusive after the catch. He knows how to vary his speed in order to not out-run the pass and with a still unanswered questions at the Tech quarterback position, he has had to rely upon his great field vision to work back for the ball when the quarterback is pressured. He looks very fluid and natural getting into his patterns and with his flexibility, he is a valid deep threat, if only the team can settle on the quarterback situation.

Release... When Hardman gets a free lane, he is explosive coming off the snap, immediately getting into his routes. He is highly aggressive with his hands, as he always manages to win those tough battles vs. physical press cover types (see 2018 Missouri, UMass, Georgia Tech games). He shows the acceleration needed to stem on the route and the quick feet to explode down the sidelines. He is not the type who will turn and eye the quarterback too long and when he does see the pocket in trouble, he will not hesitate to break off his route to come back and lend support. He takes very crisp angle cuts and flashes the ability to get in-&-out of his breaks, playing at a low pad level to generate even more speed in his stride. With added bulk, he should have no problems vs. the press at the next level, as his body tilt and lean, coupled with his burst and acceleration lets him attack the second level in an instant.

Acceleration/Quickness... While he has fine speed, Hardman is capable of simply exploding past defenders at the next level. He plays a physical game with good field savvy and shows enough speed and impressive head fakes and juke-moves to surprise a lethargic cornerback. He is crisp in his cuts and comes out of his breaks with no wasted motion, giving him the opportunity to separate on slants. He has strong hands to excel getting to the ball in a crowd. He can quickly build up speed on deep patterns and sees the ball very well, showing outstanding hand/eye coordination, very good hand placement and moves - whether going to his left or right. He excels at making body adjustments when going up for the ball in flight. Hardman has good running numbers and shows great separation on film. He has good quickness off the snap and no matter how fast the cornerback might be, Hardman seems to always find ways to gain and eat up the defender’s cushion.

Route-Running... I really like how Hardman uses head and shoulder fakes in his routes. Most people with his speed rely more on their burst to separate, but Hardman likes running up on the defensive back and then executing a sharp cut to break free. He does a fine job of stabbing and stemming to set up the defender and knows how to shift gears to change the pace in his running stride. He is crisp in and out of those breaks and has a knack for finding holes in the zone. By staying at a lower pad level, he is capable of generating the second gear needed to pull away from the pack. He runs posts and slants very well and understands stems, sticks and gaining leverage. His loose hips are a great advantage, as it helps him in attempts to get the needed depth in his routes.

Hardman is the type who is able to generate the explosion needed to simply separate, but he is also a precise route runner who comes out of his breaks cleanly, doing a nice job of generated YAC when used on slants. For a player of his size, he gets in and out of his cuts so well, thanks to his ability to drop and sink his weight. He is shifty in the open and uses solid head and shoulder fakes to con his man on his patterns. He shows the vision and balance to come back for the ball and stay square.

Separation Ability... Hardman’s footwork is well above average when trying to separate. He uses his power well to get a clean release and he will surprise a lethargic defensive back with his ability to gobble up the cushion on deep patterns. He also has enough of a short area burst to settle in the soft spots. Even though he does not have the ideal quarterback to utilize his deep speed, what really separates him from other receivers in this draft class is his uncanny ability to adjust underneath and working on comeback routes. He shows above average sideline awareness, good alertness and field presence. He gets in and out of his breaks fluidly and shows decent ability to accelerate after the catch.

Leaping Ability... Hardman shows solid leaping ability, as he has made it a regular habit to fly over defenders and get vertical to secure the ball in a crowd. He times his leaps well and has confidence in his ability to reach for the throw at the high point. He knows how to get vertical, when he has to and will not hesitate to fight for a high throw. He has no problems getting vertical, even over the much taller defenders. He is an outstanding leaper who shows the proper timing to go up and get the ball at its high point. He is very competitive in traffic, despite his angular frame and has the ability to win most jump ball battles.

Hands... Hardman is a natural pass catcher and keeps on getting better. His soft hands let him snatch and pluck. He also makes very good body adjustments to deliver the over-the-shoulder grabs. His concentration skills are above average and it is rare to see him drop the ball due to a lack of focus. He does a fine job of catching away from his body and is fearless going for the ball in a crowd. He does a very good job of using his frame to shield the ball from the defender. Scouts have been very impressed with his ability to extend and pluck the ball away from his frame. He has that “Tyreek Hill" ability to make the difficult catch and maintain concentration to either look the ball in or come back and help when the quarterback is pressured.

Run After the Catch... Hardman has that peripheral vision and feel for coverage to weave in and out of traffic. He can generate enough of a big burst, especially running the flash screen. He has more than enough acceleration to pick up extra yardage and shows the body control needed to turn up field. His acceleration after the catch will regularly make the slower tacklers miss him. NFL teams can be very confident that Hardman is the type of player who possesses the quickness, acceleration and elusiveness to take a shallow crosser for the distance, as finding the end zone has become a regular habit for this underrated talent.

Blocking Ability... As a former defensive back, Hardman is highly effective when asked to throw a block for a teammate in the open field. He will face up with aggression at the line of scrimmage, and always gives total effort, even when challenged by much bigger defenders. He could develop into a good position and pester-type who will stalk, but if he adds more bulk for the next level, he could develop into a quality second level blocker in the “Greg Jennings/Hines Ward” mold.

Compares To... Tyreek Hill-Kansas City Chiefs... Like Hill, Hardman is more than your average, speedy pass catcher. Old time scouts also liken this Bulldog to Joey Galloway. In his prime, Galloway was a terror for defensive backs due to his explosive acceleration after the catch. Hardman is much like the former split end, as he excels at getting depth in his routes and the Georgia product has few peers with his pull-away burst to gain separation. He is a savvy route runner who has had very good success beating a cornerback on deep patterns, thanks to his hip snap and being light on his feet.