ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 29: Stephen Hill #5 of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets reacts after their 31-17 win over the Clemson Tigers at Bobby Dodd Stadium on October 29, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
The Jacksonville Jaguars will be looking to upgrade their wide receivers this offseason and one of the places they can do that is in the 2012 NFL Draft. In the draft, especially after the combine, there's always a handful of players who catch your eye and force you to go back and do a lot more work on them. Last season for me it was quarterback Colin Kaepernick. This season, it's Georgia Tech wide receiver Stephen Hill who absolutely destroyed the NFL Combine. Hill measured in at 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds with long arms and good size hands for a receiver. Hill combined his great size with a 4.36 40-yard dash time and a 39.5 inch vertical jump, not to mention looking fantastic in wide receiver drills.
So the question is... where do you slot Stephen Hill in the upcoming draft?The problem with going back and watching Georgia Tech games to get a better finger on Hill's ability is the offense he played in. Paul Johnson runs a triple-option at Georgia Tech that also hits teams with big gainers in the passing game, often lulling them to sleep and catching them off guard. Georgia Tech has had a slew of big fast receivers with the ability to do this in Calvin Johnson (who left before Paul), Demaryius Thomas, and now Stephen Hill. Hill averaged an eye popping 29.3 yards per catch, but he had just 28 receptions on the season. A lot of that is because as a team, Georgia Tech threw the football only 167 times on the season. Hill definitely has the natural talent to be successful in the NFL and possess a lot of things that you simply can't coach. Luckily for the team who selects Hill, he's already shown vast improvement from his final game at Georgia Tech to the NFL Combine.
At Tech, Hill's routes are a bit sloppy and he doesn't really explode out of his breaks. At the NFL Combine however, Hill looked significantly better in both areas running drills. A lot of that is he put in the work to get better at it, which should be a big bonus check for NFL staffs. It shows that he's coachable and takes to the coaching and willing to put in the work.
Let's take a look at some of what Hill brings to the table. Here's a series of Hill's snaps against North Carolina.
Right away on the second play, you can see something that will make some teams drool over Hill. He has a massive catch radius and does a good job going up for the football. While you like to see two-hand catches, not many will fret over a spectacular one-handed catch that you fully extend for with a defender right on you and you haul it in for the catch. The very next play shows Hill's pure speed, beating the safety who's supposed to come over in the zone to the spot for an easy long touchdown.
You then get a shot of Hill doing a nice job of (albeit pushing off) blocking out the defender and adjusting to a poorly thrown ball in the air to secure the catch, then fight for the endzone. The next play shows Hill lined up in the slot and he does a good job of seeing the hole in coverage and sitting in it for the first down. A few plays later, you see one of the big knocks on Hill, drops. He's wide open for another easy long touchdown, but instead of just plucking the ball out of the air, he lets it into his body a bit and drops the easy touchdown pass. He's a guy who will drop a few easy passes, but he'll also make some spectacular catches.
The question with Hill is, where do you take him? He has the greatest upside in this draft in just raw ability, but a team will have to determine if they can harness it and coach him up. He's still very raw in terms of route running, but he showed vast improvement working out prior to the draft, so a team with a good wide receiver coach (AHEM) should be able to do wonders with him.
EDIT: Here's the catch Dwalk is talking about: