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Rookie Draft ADP Arbitrage - DK Metcalf vs Mecole Hardman

If you were hoping to grab an elite rookie running back like New York Giants' running back Saquon Barkley last year, there aren't a ton of options. On the flip side, if you're in the market for a wide receiver, there are a number of great young options including D.K. Metcalf of the Seattle Seahawks and Mecole Hardman of the Kansas City Chiefs.

Coming out of Ole Miss, Metcalf was touted by many draft analysts as the top wide receiver in the class. His combination of size and elite speed were traits that you just can't teach. He ran a 4.33 40-yard dash at the NFL combine in March. In his final season in college, Metcalf averaged an impressive 21.9 yards per catch. He was a big play waiting to happen, and that's what the Seahawks were banking on when the grabbed with the 64th pick at the end of the second round.

On the other side of this argument, we find Hardman. Hardman was a more technically refined player in college that didn't put up any particularly elite numbers because the Georgia offense that he played in relied more on the running game to get them down the field. Hardman enters a Chiefs offense that was arguably the best offense in the NFL last season, and he'll be looking to make a splash during his rookie season. So, who should you be looking to grab in rookie drafts this year?

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The Case for Metcalf

The Seahawks drafted Metcalf to help stretch their offense vertically while they work to maximize the talent of quarterback Russell Wilson, who they just inked to a shiny new deal. Metcalf's major strength right now is his strength and speed. He has the ability to move opposing cornerbacks out of the way, or he can just run by them. That will be a little more difficult at the NFL level, but it's still possible. Even former Detroit Lions' wide receiver Calvin Johnson could make plays like that happen.

Long-time Seahawks' wideout Doug Baldwin hung up his cleats a few weeks ago, which made Metcalf the de facto number two option on the depth chart behind Tyler Lockett. Additionally, none of the team's tight ends are major threats to his target share, as Nick Vannett was the tight end leader last season with just 269 yards despite playing 15 games. Metcalf has a clear path to targets, and you can't say the same thing about Hardman in Kansas City.

One major thing going for him is that you know he's going to be a starter. At 6'3" and 228 pounds, he becomes a huge target for Wilson to throw to when the structure breaks down around him. He can chuck it down the field with faith Metcalf can go up and make a play. He's going in the first half of round 1, but it makes sense considering he'll be a starting wide receiver with a good quarterback next season. Why wouldn't you prefer him?


The Case for Hardman

Andy Reid's offense. The answer could easily be that simple. With Reid pulling the strings and quarterback Patrick Mahomes under center, Hardman has the major pieces in place to generate big plays for him. He doesn't have a super diverse route tree, but he does have the shiftiness and athleticism to be able to make big plays happen. With Reid as your coach, that is a requirement for you to be able to get onto the field.

Mahomes can throw the ball a country mile, and Hardman has the juice in his legs to go get it. Sets with he and Tyreek Hill (more on him in a bit) would have opposing defenders tugging at their jerseys after just two plays. Hardman's 4.33 speed is identical to Metcalf, but he doesn't have the raw size. That's ok when you consider Mahomes will throw you open if you just run underneath the ball down the field.

Another factor to consider for Hardman, the Hill situation is completely up in the air. He very well could be suspended for the majority of the year or much longer than that. The Chiefs drafted Hardman in the second round because they needed protection in the event Hill is absent from the team. If he is, Hardman would quickly challenge for those open targets. Hardman would also come cheaper, as likely a back end of Round 1 guy for you to grab or trade up and get.


The Case against Metcalf

Metcalf's major weakness as things stand right now is his technical refinement. He has often won using raw athleticism down the field on vertical routes when opposing cornerbacks just don't have the strength or speed to keep up with him. A lot of NFL cornerbacks can't keep up with him still, but there are a number of him who can. They'll also know how to take advantage of his underwhelming short-area quickness by forcing him to work those underneath routes where they can give him some cushion.

The Seahawks have been a run-first team for the majority of the Pete Carroll era. Since losing Marshawn Lynch last offseason, they've been looking to add a new face to lead that charge. Running back Chris Carson has performed well when healthy, and Rashaad Penny was a first-round pick last year for a reason. Seattle wants to run the ball, and these guys are the ones that are going to make that happen. If they find out they can run the ball as effectively as they did five years ago, that further takes away targets and touches for DK.

Metcalf has only started building chemistry with Wilson this spring. David Moore and Jaron Brown were both here last year to get that relationship started. Why spend an early first-round pick on a guy that could prove too raw to start as a rookie when you could wait to grab a more ready contributor later on? Metcalf has the talent to be an elite receiver, but his injuries and high draft capital investment could cause some to fade him.


The Case against Hardman

If Hill plays without any suspension, Hardman is the clear number three receiver. He's the number five target in the pecking order behind tight end Travis Kelce and running back Damien Williams. That's how quickly things can change depending on how Hill's situation is resolved. Hardman could go from a borderline WR2 to a likely WR4 with some upside.

Hardman is only 5'10" and 180 pounds. He isn't able to win in jump-ball situations. So, when Mahomes launches it downfield to him, how frequently is he going to come down with that ball? The odds aren't exactly in his favor. He only has 60 career catches in two seasons at Georgia. There isn't a ton to of evidence to point to that say he just needs a bigger workload to make a bigger impact, and he comes with a question mark of doubting his floor.

I mentioned how small he was, and, if any larger cornerbacks are able to get their hands on him, he's going to get manhandled at the line of scrimmage. In college, against bigger cornerbacks like Greedy Williams from LSU, he got pushed around off of his routes easily. The Chiefs offense has a lot of timing-based stuff involved in it. If Hardman can't avoid those jams, he's not going to see a ton of looks in Year 1.


The Verdict

Hardman is going to come cheaper. Metcalf will require you to have an early pick in your rookie drafts. Metcalf also has a more clear-cut role to targets right away. The Seahawks are likely going to thrust him into the WR2 role alongside Lockett to see them both stretch the field right away. While the Chiefs operate out of a lot of three wide receiver sets, there are times where Hardman will be forced off the field due to the lineups on the field.

If Hill ends up being suspended or missing any significant amount of time, Hardman's value would skyrocket instantly. The problem is that, with the NFL taking its time to do a thorough investigation, we may not find out that answer for months. You could draft Hardman eighth overall hoping for the best, just to find out Hill will remain the starter for the entire season. If you have a top-five or so pick in the draft with both guys on the board, I'm taking Metcalf with his sky-high ceiling.

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