Through the first quarter of the fantasy season, the Chiefs’ WR pecking order was up for grabs. Home run hitter Tyreek Hill was traded to Miami and replaced by underneath threat JuJu Smith-Schuster. It’s safe to say that there was going to be a bit of a turnover. Yet, from Week 5 to Week 9, fourth-year wideout Mecole Hardman had 17-226-3 receiving splits while tallying 3-35-2 on the ground. It seemed as though Hardman had finally put it all together and Andy Reid found his new gadget. However, Hardman would, unfortunately, go down with an abdomen injury in Week 9, landing himself on IR until Week 15.
THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY
Although Hardman is not projected to play until Week 15 against the Texans, his long-term value comes from the IR designation. He’s the perfect stash as leagues move towards the playoffs, with very little to lose in keeping around the speedster. Targets have spread around in the new-look Chiefs’ offense, but Hardman seems to have found his way into high-leverage situations.
Following Week 12, Hardman ranks second in FP/target at 1.95, trailing only Christian Watson (2.42). He also ranks in the top five of the highest passer rating when targeted, fourth in the league at 139.0. The sample size of four games may be small, but Hardman has the trust of both Reid and Patrick Mahomes to deliver in big situations.
The worst thing about Hardman’s late-season return is that he cannot suit up until Week 15 — the first round of most leagues’ playoffs. It’s a slight gamble to have him fill your IR spot, but only because you’d have to cut ties with another player as you enter the playoffs. Unless you have someone like Cooper Kupp sitting in your IR spot, there isn’t someone else out there that could swing a matchup like Hardman. I suggest that he be your man on IR moving forward.
Take a look at your waiver wire because Hardman was dropped by most of his managers and is now available in 70% of leagues. If you can do some roster maneuvering, now would be a good time to stash Hardman before it’s too late.
The Chiefs acquired Kadarius Toney as one of the early moves at the trade deadline. While this move isn’t a death sentence for Hardman by any means, it does muddy the waters of that receiver room. Toney has had his own issues with injuries in his short career, playing in one full game this year. I don’t foresee Toney taking too many targets from Hardman, but the addition of more talent on the outside will keep his return murkier than expected. Toney has a similar skill-set as Hardman and can be deployed in a similar way once he returns from his own injury.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Even with the loss of Hill, Mahomes has stepped his game up to another level and has put up an MVP performance this season. Travis Kelce is the obvious No. 1 target in the offense and I don’t see that changing, of course. However, this offense is too potent not to have at least a small piece of it. The price is too low for a guy with the red zone presence and big play ability to not stash away for the stretch run. If you have the roster space, slide Hardman into your IR spot in preparation for the playoffs.