WR Stephen Hill may not have had a season to remember, in 2012, but it's too early to fairly judge him. [Original: Getty Images]
There are many questions marks for the Jets in the wide receiver department, going into 2013. The biggest question mark is 2nd year receiver Stephen Hill. Namely, can he take a large step forward and become a NFL-caliber receiver, or even a big threat?
Hill was plagued by drops and an inability to run decent routes last year. However ,that is not to say that he cannot produce in the NFL. Hill flashed several times last year—we all remember his Week 1 break-out game against the Bills—but according to ProFootballFocus.com, Hill graded out positively as a receiver in only 3 of the 11 games he played last year.
Hill has several issues that require some 'tender loving care,' but these issues are not beyond fixing. Let's take a closer look at Hill and some of his issues.
Hill is a physical specimen, with good size (6’4", 215 lbs) and blazing speed (4.36 40 yd dash). Hill was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2012 Draft by the Jets for these traits, and due to his break-out receiving year at Georgia Tech in 2011. That year, Hill put up 828 receiving yards on 28 receptions with 5 touchdowns, utilizing his freakish speed and size to make plays like this:
More Hill after the jump...
Hill was regarded as a first or second round option in the 2012 NFL Draft coming out of Georgia Tech, a school that produced such vaunted receivers as Calvin Johnson, who led the league in receiving yards last year, and Demaryius Thomas, who led the league in 'WR rating' per PFF, with a 126.2 rating. Hill’s speed and size place him in the same league as these two specimens, but speed and size do not make a wide receiver alone.
Hill’s numbers were mainly a product of the Georgia Tech scheme. Georgia Tech ran a run-heavy, option offense, and with this type of offense, Hill was able to make use of his size/speed to abuse defenders. This is not to say that Hill isn’t talented; you can’t teach size or speed, and Hill used them to his advantage at Georgia Tech. Hill’s speed was evident last year when he beat defenders in space as shown here at 0:44:
One criticism of Hill is that he was not challenged during his college career at the line of scrimmage. Per Bleacher Report's scouting report of Hill, due to Georgia Tech’s scheme, opposing defenses would simply sit back and “read the backfield option, or in a defensive back’s case, drop in reverse and run with their assignment…” thus giving Hill a free release off the line of scrimmage, something he has not encountered at the NFL level.
This is something that several scouts cited as a negative about one of the receivers he has been compared to: Calvin Johnson. Johnson, coming out of Georgia Tech, was criticized for becoming frustrated at being jammed at the line of scrimmage. This is an aspect of his game that he has improved on, and has become one of the best receivers in the game.
Hill’s route running was also extremely raw coming out of Georgia Tech, simply because the Georgia Tech scheme did not require him to run many different routes. This translated to his NFL career and is evidenced via PFF’s “yards per route run” statistic. This statistic gives us an insight into how often a player went into a passing route, and the receiving yards gained when they went into a route. Hill went into a passing route on 262 of 421 snaps last year, and only gained 0.96 yards per route, tied for 147th in the league.
Drops were a major issue with Hill’s game last year. Again, per PFF, of Hill’s 21 receptions, 27 of these were catchable passes, however he dropped 6 of them, giving him a 22% drop rating, tying him for 26th in the league. This was not an issue for Hill in college, and was actually something that Bleacher Report lauded him for. This can most likely be attributed to the speed of the NFL game compared to the college game. Again comparing Hill to Calvin Johnson, Johnson also suffered with drops during his 2nd year in the league, logging 13 drops overall. This is something he remedied, but still struggles with to this day, logging 14 drops in 2012.
How much of Hill’s issues were related to rookie growing pains along with an offense that was extremely anemic in the passing game is a fair question to ask. Hill has shown that he has the ability to shine on the NFL stage, and still has lots of upside going forward. Many fans have criticized Hill for all of his issues, but not all receivers are going to be Calvin Johnson or Julio Jones coming of out college.
Hill shows major promise, as I said before, you can’t teach size or speed. Hill has the physical tools to be successful in the NFL, and with the coaching of receivers coach Sanjay Lal, and the implementation of a 'pass-happier' offense, Hill’s role is only going to increase this year. If he can stay healthy, Hill will be a major contributor to the Jets offense.