NOVEMBER 18: Head coach Andy Reid said Hardman’s IR stint is viewed as “short-term,” as opposed to season-ending (Twitter link via Herbie Teope of the Kansas City Star). That will be welcomed news for the Chiefs when they look to get healthy at the skill positions towards the end of the regular season.
NOVEMBER 17: Mecole Hardman‘s absence will extend to at least five games. After missing the Chiefs’ Week 10 matchup against the Jaguars, the fourth-year wide receiver is now on IR.
The Chiefs have made numerous changes at receiver this year; Hardman resided as the only constant. Kansas City traded Tyreek Hill and let Demarcus Robinson and Byron Pringle walk in free agency. The team signed JuJu Smith-Schuster and Marquez Valdes-Scantling and drafted Skyy Moore in Round 2. Former Giants first-round pick Kadarius Toney is now on the team, with the Chiefs having traded third- and sixth-round picks to land the mercurial speedster.
Hardman, 24, arrived as a second-round pick during a window in which it was far from certain if Hill would play for the Chiefs again. Hill did, in fact, return from his second major scandal. With the world-class speed merchant in the fold, Hardman delivered an inconsistent first three seasons. This year, however, the auxiliary playmaker has six touchdowns in eight games; he scored three against the 49ers in Week 7. Hardman has totaled 328 scrimmage yards in his contract year.
This injury blunts Hardman’s momentum; his return late this season stands to be important for his long-term prospects. As this year’s bevy of receiver trades helped show, next year’s free agent market is not exactly teeming with prime talent. Smith-Schuster, Allen Lazard, Jakobi Meyers and Parris Campbell are on track to be the top names available. A lighter market would give Hardman, who has a returner Pro Bowl nod on his resume, a chance to score a nice payday. How the Georgia alum finishes his contract year will help cement his value.
The Chiefs are also uncertain to have Smith-Schuster in Week 11. Their leading wide receiver suffered a concussion after an over-the-middle collision against Jacksonville. Kansas City being without Hardman and Smith-Schuster would stand to give Toney, who has dealt with numerous injuries in his short pro career, a bigger role in his third game as a Chief. Toney totaled 90 scrimmage yards and a touchdown in Week 10.