KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Patrick Mahomes ranks No. 3 among all players in fan voting for the NFL Pro Bowl team, but it's Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce and kick returner Mecole Hardman who lead their positions in the race for the all-star starting lineups.
Mahomes tallied 349,999 votes in the last round of balloting released by the NFL. He trails Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson (447,481) and Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson (363,955) among all vote getters.
Kelce is the leading vote getter at tight end in either conference with 241,066 votes. San Francisco's George Kittle leads the NFC with 198,355 votes. Meanwhile rookie Mecole Hardman leads all players in voting for the return specialist position with 61,993 votes. Seattle's Tyler Locket (50,036) leads the NFC.
Hardman ranks fourth in the AFC with 437 kick return yards and third in the conference with an average of 23 yards per kick return. His 14.8-yard average on punt returns is the highest in the league for any player with at least eight returns.
He is one of three rookies leading in the voting at their positions along with San Francisco defensive end Nick Bosa and New England punter Jake Bailey. Hardman says it's fun hearing his name among the top candidates.
“I've still got some more games left,” Hardman said. “Hopefully I can keep that going. It would be nice to go to my first Pro Bowl, but obviously there are bigger goals that we're trying to accomplish right now.”
Hardman clearly has caught the attention of other teams without breaking a big return yet. His longest punt return is 36 yards and his longest kick return is 34 yards. But arguably the best compliment teams have paid Hardman is to kick away from him as much as possible.
“I guess they respect what I've got going on back there, even though I haven't put on the performance that I wanted to put on,” Hardman said. “I don't have any touchdowns yet. I think they fear me, I think they know what I can do.”
Chiefs special teams coordinator Dave Toub says he feels his return unit has been close to breaking a long return. Hardman feels the same way, and he believes he has room to improve in the final weeks of the season.
“It's always there for us, it's there,” Hardman said. “It's just more that we've just got to strain to finish. I've got to do better at setting up my blocks, I've got to do better actually making somebody miss or seeing a hole better. I put a lot on me, I put a lot responsibility on me as well. I take most of it, because I should be way better than I am, especially late in the season like this.”
The fan vote counts one-third toward determining the Pro Bowl selections. Players and coaches votes also count for one-third each.
Fans can vote online using Twitter or the NFL's online Pro Bowl ballot. Fan balloting ends on Dec. 12 with the Pro Bowl rosters announced on Dec. 17