By Matt Dolloff, 985TheSportsHub.com
The 2019 NFL Draft is fast approaching and the New England Patriots are looking closely at this year's deep wide receiver class. Their latest private meeting is with Georgia Bulldogs wideout Mecole Hardman, who had previously drawn interest from Foxborough.
Hardman revealed through his Instagram account (via Billy Marshall on Twitter; h/t Pats Pulpit) that he's at Gillette Stadium, presumably for a top-30 pre-draft visit with the Pats. He snapped a photo of Sony Michel's name above the locker belonging to Hardman's former Georgia teammate.
The Patriots have already publicly shown interest in Hardman, whom Bill Belichick personally scouted at Georgia's Pro Day last month. The 'Dawgs have a trio of receivers who may interest the Patriots. Riley Ridley and Terry Godwin are two other names to know ahead of the draft, in addition to Hardman.
It's easy to see why the Pats are taking an even closer look at Hardman. His relative lack of size (5-foot-10, 183 pounds) won't scare them off. He has elite speed, posting a 4.33 40 time at the Combine - tied for fifth-best among all players. He's as dangerous as anyone in the draft with the football in his hands, using his speed and elusiveness to make defenders miss and turn shorter passes into big gains. He can contribute on special teams as a returner, or even a gunner, thanks to his speed. He's a Bulldog, part of a program that's practically become the Patriots' minor league affiliate down in Athens, Ga.
Hardman's relative lack of experience as a receiver (only two seasons at the position since moving from defensive back) and need for further development make him a day 2 pick at the draft rather than one of the top prospects. But he's widely considered one of the most athletically gifted receivers in the 2019 class and could develop into a Tyreek Hill-esque weapon down the road.
There's a chance that Hardman could get his name called by Patriots center and fellow ex-Bulldog David Andrews, who will announce the team's third-round picks at the 2019 NFL draft in Nashville.
Even if Hardman never becomes the next Hill ... can he be the next Malcolm Mitchell? The Patriots need playmakers at receiver and/or tight end at some point, and it looks like they're going to target someone in the 2019 draft. Don't be surprised if Hardman is the guy.
Matt Dolloff is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff or email him at [email protected].