NFL Draft 2012: T.Y. Hilton Could Go Earlier Than Most Expect

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - DECEMBER 20: Wide receiver T. Y. Hilton #4 of the Florida International University Panthers rushes upfield after a pass reception in the second quarter against the Marshall Thundering Herd December 20, 2011 in the Beef 'O' Brady's St. Petersburg Bowl at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

In the second quarter against the Louisville Cardinals, Florida International wide receiver T.Y. Hilton caught his first two passes of the game. Combined they racked up 157 yards of receiving and two touchdowns as the first went for 74 yards and the second went for 83 yards.

Hilton finished the game with a school-record 201 yards receiving on seven receptions and two kick returns for a combined 67 return yards. It was indicative of the type of game that has many NFL scouts buzzing and the reason why he will likely be a second day pick.


Related: NFL Draft 2012: Chris Givens, Potential Second Day Gem

While most media outlets have projected Hilton as a mid- to late-round pick, sources have told me that Hilton is high on most NFL team draft boards and that he could be a second round pick and a third rounder at the latest. The fact that all 32 teams attended the FIU Pro Day only validates that belief.

Here are a pair of game cut-ups provided by DraftBreakdown.com, including the Louisville game that I mentioned earlier in the article:

After the first play of the cut-up, a kick return, the next two plays look like the beginning of a T.Y. Hilton highlight tape. In the first play from scrimmage shown on the video, Hilton lines up in the slot against a Louisville defensive back, Zed Evans, who sets up five yards off the line of scrimmage. Evans never lays a hand on Hilton and after quickly eating up the cushion he makes a sharp cut off his outside foot across the middle of the field.

After that, Hilton uses his impressive 4.34 speed to tear past the safety and remaining defenders for a 74 yard touchdown. On the next play, Hilton again shows off his speed from the slot position by flat-out running past the opposing cornerback and by the safeties on the back end.


Related: NFL Draft 2012: Brian Quick, Best Of The Next Group?

Both plays show Hilton's elite top-end speed and why he forces cornerbacks to get their hands on him at the line of scrimmage.

On a later play in the video, Hilton again shows a cutting ability off his outside foot that allows him to beat opposing cornerbacks to the middle of the field.

In the final play of the video that I'm going to highlight, Hilton lines up in the slot again and displays an impressive show of hands, pulling a low pass up before hitting the turf and turning his body to prevent the ball from hitting the ground.

The second video provided by DraftBreakdown.com is against the Marshall Thundering Herd in the 2011 Beef O'Brady's Bowl. While the game is nowhere near as productive as Hilton's game against Louisville and features two fumbles from the receiver, his speed is still on display as FIU does all they can to ensure their playmaker gets his hands on the ball.

In the first play on the video, Hilton gets the ball on an end around and makes a sharp cut around the right tackle to immediately head north up the field. After making a man miss, he allows the ball to get away from his body and it ultimately ends in a fumble that the Panthers are fortunate to recover.

In a later play in the fourth quarter, Hilton again shows a propensity to allow the ball to get away from his body and it again results in a fumble. This time the Panthers aren't so fortunate and Marshall recovers.


Related: NFL Draft 2012: Michael Floyd, The Draft's No. 1 WR?

However, unlike Hilton's game against Louisville, this game shows Hilton's ability to beat zone coverage from the outside with a cut off his inside foot. In a first quarter play, Hilton runs an out route that gets by the cornerback and makes a crisp turn towards the sideline before the safety can get over in time. It shows the perfect route to beat a cover two scheme and features an effortless catch with two feet down at the tail end.

The concerns with Hilton will likely come most with his size. At just under 5-10 and 183 pounds, Hilton likely projects best as a returner and slot receiver that has the speed necessary to be a deep threat and possibly take the top off the defense. But whether or not his body can take the type of beating that NFL slot receivers have to take will certainly be a question that can't be answered until he sees the field.

According to a source, the two receivers the Jaguars will likely target are Hilton and Illinois WR A.J. Jenkins, both of whom have had private visits with Jaguars personnel and both of whom have sub-4.4 speed.

Both are possibilities for the Jaguars in the second round and if either are available in the third round it would be surprising to see Gene Smith and company pass.

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