While there is an old saying that claims defense wins championships, today’s NFL requires offenses to put the ball into the end zone and light up the score board. The league has evolved in a way that favors the offensive side of the ball so scoring is a must.
The Dallas Cowboys have taken steps this offseason that are an effort to help Dak Prescott and company do just that including bringing Jason Witten back into the fold, re-signing the likes of Allen Hurns and Tavon Austin, and inking a deal with veteran wideout Randall Cobb.
However, it appears that the Cowboys are still searching for talent to add to its offense. It is always fun to track who Dallas brings in for 30-visits during the draft process, and the wide receiver position has been popular:
South Carolina's Deebo Samuel and Missouri's Emanuel Hall have already been confirmed as Cowboys pre-draft visitors, and you can now add another wide receiver: Georgia WR Mecole Hardman.— Bobby Belt (@BobbyBeltTX) March 29, 2019
Interesting to see the number of receivers getting a look from the Cowboys.
The Cowboys have brought in a trio of SEC wide receivers: Deebo Samuel, Emmanuel Hall, and Mecole Hardman. Samuel is a slot receiver that can make an impact in a variety of different ways, Hall is a bigger target that tested off the charts at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, and Hardman possesses track speed that can take the top off defenses.
Dak Prescott would surely be more than thrilled about adding any of these talents to his arsenal of weapons.
Hardman was an elite, blue-chip prospect coming out of Elbert County High School in the 2016 recruiting class — ranked as the 12th overall prospect in America by the 247Sports Composite. Naturally, because of his scary speed and slight frame, Hardman was also looked at by some schools to play defensive back.
Georgia opted to keep Hardman on the offensive side of the ball, wanting to get their speedy playmaker the ball. That turned out to be a smart move, as the Georgia native terrorized defensive coordinators throughout his career in Athens.
Hardman burst onto the scene for the Bulldogs as a sophomore for Kirby Smart’s squad in 2017. The 5-foot-10 and 187-pound playmaker totaled just under 500 total yards from scrimmage, scoring four touchdowns as a receiver and running in two more on the ground for a team that came just seconds away from winning a national title.
One of the biggest plays of his career came in that game against Alabama, burning by the Crimson Tide defense down the sideline en route to one of his two touchdowns in the game:
Furthermore, Hardman performed very well in athletic testing, posting a 4.33 40 (95th percentile) and testing above average in the 20-yd split, 10-yd split, and the bench press. Hardman may be small in stature, but he makes up for it in other ways.
Mecole Hardman posted an elite #RAS after putting up good agility numbers at his pro day. Aside from size, he didn't post a single athletic test under average for his position. pic.twitter.com/HzYJY51Jlk— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) March 30, 2019
Hardman’s speed aids him in his route-running, enabling him to create separation from the defensive back and find the open spot in coverage. Here is a good example versus Missouri in 2017:
Mecole Hardman motions across formation as coverage indicator (C1)— Brad Kelly (@BradKelly17) March 28, 2019
▪️Stems inside to hold DB/clear space towards sideline
▪️Pushes vertical, DB commits hips to stay on upfield shoulder
▪️Horizontal break creates separation
Mecole got the DB’s hips flipping like a roller coaster pic.twitter.com/r14UuhszuR
Creating separation is crucial for a wide receiver in the NFL, as it allows the quarterback to get the ball in a window for the target to make a play. Here, Hardman — again versus Missouri — not only utilizes his dangerous speed, but also his head-fake and cuts in his route-running:
Mecole Hardman Corner-Post “Copper” route:— Brad Kelly (@BradKelly17) March 28, 2019
▪️Move the DB by threatening space towards the sideline
▪️Sell the corner route with eyes
▪️Accelerate through vertical cut
Key - Stay light on your feet throughout double move ‼️#NFLDraft pic.twitter.com/zMC7KEcxXx
Georgia made sure to use Hardman in more ways than just on offense. The former five-star prospect showed what he can do in the return game during his collegiate career, averaging over 15 yards per punt return for the Bulldogs.
Winning the battle of field possession is a crucial element in determining the outcome of games. Hardman’s 15.2 punt return average on 39 returns put Jake Fromm and company in good position to put the football in the end zone. Unless, Hardman decided to just do this:
Mecole Hardman will likely hear his name called on day two of the NFL Draft. With needs at defensive line, safety, offensive line, and other areas, there is some debate on whether or not the Cowboys should spend one of their two day two selections on a wide receiver; however, there is obviously some interest there if the Cowboys decided to bring him in for a visit.
Adding as much talent as possible seems to be a smart strategy.
The Cowboys did add Cobb in free agency, but the former Green Bay Packers target has battled injuries throughout his career and Dallas only inked him to a one-year deal. Drafting a player of Hardman’s talent with his game-breaking speed and fluidity would only help Dak Prescott, Kellen Moore, and Jason Garrett.