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Call it ironic if you wish, but as the Kansas City Chiefs have opened up their first few weeks of training camp, it feels as though every player — at some point — has had his moment in the sun. Seventh-round pick Isiah Pacheco has both made his name known and spelled correctly; Skyy Moore has needed all of two weeks to force the NFL to likely wonder, “How did we allow Kansas City to draft him?” Towards the tail end of the week, the arrow of appreciation appeared to spin Mecole Hardman’s way.

It could go left unsaid, but it's always important to take seven-on-seven reps in early August with a grain of salt or two. There’s always a question of what truly matters and what doesn’t

But if you were grading Hardman on one of those elementary grading scales (“S” for satisfactory, “N” for needs improvement, etc.), it’s expected to rank his speed with an “S” and his ability to separate as a route-running technician or contested-catch specialist as a work in progress. That makes little developments like this all the more wholesome.

Or this: 

Sift through Chiefs Twitter, and you’ll notice that almost anyone with the ability to generate a conversation has noted something in regards to Hardman’s recent string of practices.

He’s spoken publicly about both his willingness and ability to pigeonhole into Tyreek Hill’s role of taking the top off of a defense. That much was already known, though. Hardman hasn’t been asked to make contested snags a ton or dissect one-on-one coverage with a deceptive route. His 5.9% contested catch rate (on 17 targets) is the No. 97 rank, and his 1.60 yards of target separation is the 54th-best rank in the NFL. This would be a part of the next step of his evolution.

That Hardman is making said strides route-runner bodes well, essentially since he’s already earned Patrick Mahomes’s vote of confidence as a go-to deep threat. Hardman tokened that phrase “take the top off” and since it applies here, why not use it as well? It’s convenient that these growths in his game also take the top off, or raise the overall ceiling of his potential play in 2022-23.

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Hardman made his 1,000-yard goal public back in February. In hitting that benchmark, the stage would almost certainly be set for both a “successful season” and a payday shortly thereafter. When considering the amount of vacated targets up for (literal) grabs, if there were ever a season to do it, this would be the one. Under that same line of thinking, Hardman’s increasing year-over-year yardage totals provide little pause in that he simply can’t do it for a fourth consecutive season. 

The lack of a 1,000-yard scrimmage season to this point gives it about as much excitement as a T.J. Maxx clearance sale, but continual improvement can’t be denied. It’s arguable that some of the same things that helped his opportunity — such as the gravity and fear that Hill and Travis Kelce put into opposing defenders’ hearts — are the same things that limited them. In 2022-23, with 340 vacated targets, something has to give.

Not that it would’ve necessarily helped Hardman surpass the 1,000-yard mark, but his film last season was littered with little decisive moments that could have upped his numbers even slightly. This underthrow against the Chargers immediately comes to mind. He’s proven that he can make the most of his touches, or something close to it: Of the players with under 85 targets last season, his catches (59) and yards (693) rank first and third, respectively. 

Of the players with under 200 targets over the last three years, Hardman ranks second in yards (1,791), fourth in catches (126) and tied for fifth in touchdowns (12). If anything in the world is fair, an increase in role and expectation will subsequently increase productivity.

To put the numbers aside for just a second, it’s also important to remember where the Chiefs’ wide receiver room is for a moment. If you’ve survived the first 700-ish words of this article, you can probably take a wild guess on who the most experienced wide receiver on this team is when it comes to Chiefs’ terminology and roster stability. That, as Hardman jovially noted in an analogy and joke-filled press conference on Saturday, could mean something. For the first time in his career, younger wideouts are asking him questions. He’s suddenly become the grizzled, old veteran.

Chiefs fans are expecting the fountain of youth to have an effect on defensive veterans (see Frank Clark and George Karlaftis), and it’s possible that the spirit of competition and new wideouts does the same for experienced offensive talent, too.

That experience could also play a role in how creative Andy Reid and the coaching staff get in terms of putting Hardman in different positions and alignments such as the Wildcat, as they’ve done already. In any case, the ensuing weeks (and months) will tell the story itself. In perhaps the greatest opportunity he’s had just yet, Hardman is positioned to up his ante for a fourth straight season.

And for the Chiefs’ sake, here’s to hoping he’s ready to deliver it not just with Amazon speed, but with Amazon Prime speed.