Chiefs wide receivers showcase speed during indoor race

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Mecole Hardman is probably faster than 99% of players in the NFL.

Tyreek Hill happens to be in the 1%.

The two Chiefs wide receivers have traded barbs about their speed ever since Hardman was chosen in the second round of last year’s draft. Hardman and Hill both have world-class speed — that much was never in question — but just who was the fastest man in Kansas City wasn’t settled until the two lined up in the team’s indoor facility this past week.

Hill won easily. Hardman copped to it on social media with a sad-face emoji.

“Every day we find ways to better ourselves,” Hill said in a social media posting. “Really enjoyed the competition level and the way we push each other. It’s all love.”

The real winners, though, are probably the Super Bowl champs. Throw in veteran Sammy Watkins, rookie running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire and even tight end Travis Kelce, and the Chiefs just might have the fleetest group of skill position players in a league that has grown increasingly dependent on speed.

“The Tyreek and Mecole race, I mean, both the guys are super fast. I’m just lucky to have both of them,” Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes said during a break from training camp meetings and workouts this week.

“Tyreek got the first one,” Mahomes said with a smile, “but I’m going to try to keep them from racing anymore. I’d rather them just run down the sidelines scoring touchdowns during the game week.”

All of the Chiefs’ wide receivers did plenty of that last year.

Hill caught seven touchdown passes last season. Hardman had six. Another member of the dynamic group, Demarcus Robinson, hauled in four TD catches and Watkins finished with three.

On one of Hardman’s touchdown receptions, an 83-yard catch in Week 3, he hit a top speed of 21.74 mph that put the play among the fastest all season, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. Watkins hit 21.33 mph on a 38-yard TD catch in Week 1.

Hill didn’t quite reach those speeds last season, mostly because he’s often so far ahead of defenders by the end zone that he’s able to throttle back a bit. But gaze back at previous seasons and the two-time All-Pro regularly has some of the fastest single plays in the NFL. In fact, he had the two fastest during the 2016 season, at one point hitting 23.24 mph.

It’s not just straight-line speed, either. There is a significant difference between being fast and playing fast. And the ability of Hardman and Hill in particular to stop on a dime, change directions and immediately accelerate to full speed is uncanny.

Those also happen to be traits that allowed Edwards-Helaire to become a first-round draft pick.

Most draftniks thought the Chiefs would select a defensive player in the first round, but they instead made the talented running back out of LSU their choice. They were enamored by his blocking in the pass game, his ability to catch passes out of the backfield and, yes, his speed and elusiveness — and it wound up being a decision that carried even more importance when Super Bowl star Damien Williams decided to opt out because of coronavirus concerns.

“It’s something that I was born with,” Edwards-Helaire said of his unique athletic ability. “I feel like that was a gift I had (and) you always try to make yourself better, find a way to make it elite, as some guys would say. I wanted to work on it, being quicker and faster than the next person is always the name of the game. It’s the way I make my game in, being quick and fast in small areas. It’s the way I run the ball. It’s the way I got to the Kansas City Chiefs.”

It’s a big reason why Hardman made it to the Chiefs. Why Hill made it, too.

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