Since the Tampa Bay Buccaneers agreed it was time to move on from their relationship with DeSean Jackson, the team is in need of a deep threat who can challenge opposing defenses and open up underneath options for other receivers and tight ends.
Yes, Breshad Perriman should be able to help with this. However, if we’re being honest, it’s not the smartest plan to think of him as your team’s lone speed option in 2019. Justin Watson showed some wheels in testing and Bobo Wilson is a known speed threat, but neither man did enough to earn regular rotation last year or even before last year for Wilson.
Drafting another speed option is the best chance Tampa Bay has at finding their speed threat for the future. And we’re going to look at one candidate today.
MECOLE HARDMAN’S CAREER
Hardman spent three years in Athens, Georgia as a member of the Bulldogs. He appeared in 33 games and brought in 60 catches for nearly 1,000-yards while averaging 16 yards per catch and scored a total of 13 touchdowns.
In addition to his contributions as a receiver, Hardman returned more than 70 punts and kicks with solid return averages in both categories.
As a punt returner, Hardman was the one of the best return men in the game coming in at or near the top of the conference in yard categories across the board and taking one back to the house in 2018.
Speed. Hardman is quick and fast. His ability to burn defenders will give him plenty of cushion and his ability to manipulate the space he’s given is going to be one of the factors which determines how his pro career develops.
He’s as unpolished as he is fast as a receiver - which might sound like a flaw - but it’s a positive when NFL receiver coaches are dealing with so much athleticism. Whoever gets him first is going to be able to mold him into the receiver he needs Hardman to be.
As a punt returner, his speed is going to give coverage teams fits. One solid lane and he’s gone.
And he’s really fast.
He’s only played wide receiver for two years, so he’s just starting to learn the position. Again, this can be flipped into a positive if the right coach is paired with him.
One side effect is his lack of willingness to absorb contact while catching the ball. He’s going to need to get open for conistent production, so schemes and play-calling are going to have to help him as he develops into a physical receiver - if he ever does.
WHY THE BUCCANEERS NEED HIM
DeSean Jackson is gone. Breshad Perriman has yet to prove capable as a consistent player in the NFL. Justin Watson and Bobo Wilson are depth and practice squad candidates until proven otherwise.
Who doesn’t need speed? Everyone knows Bruce Arians intends to play aggressive. Everyone knows this includes stretching the field looking for home run opportunities. Lock, meet key.
WILL IT HAPPEN
If Hardman goes in the second-round then probably not. Truth of the matter is the Buccaneers simply have greater needs on their roster to float an early day two pick on Hardman.
Now, this being said, any extra second-round picks earned in a trade don’t apply to this policy. Those are extra picks. And extra picks can be spent on really exciting players with more potential than promise.
In the third-round, I would be hard pressed to say the Bucs would pass him up. In this situation it would really just depend on who is still waiting with Hardman to be drafted at that point.
If Hardman is there in the third and the Buccaneers don’t draft him, then I’m going to be really excited about whomever they do draft if the team felt highly enough about that guy to pass on Hardman.