The 6 Biggest Strengths and Weaknesses of Stephen Hill's Game

Dan Hope@Dan_HopeContributor IIIApril 17, 2012

The 6 Biggest Strengths and Weaknesses of Stephen Hill's Game

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    Georgia Tech wide receiver Stephen Hill was the top standout of any player at the 2012 NFL Scouting Combine. As a 6’4’’, 215-pound receiver who ran a 4.36-second 40-yard dash, and had a vertical jump of 39.5 inches and broad jump of 11’1’’, he certainly made scouts take notice.

    Once a fringe Day Two pick, Hill is now a likely late first-round selection in the 2012 NFL draft.

    There are reasons to be concerned about projecting Hill as a top prospect, but there are many impressive areas about his game that should not be ignored. Both his strengths and weakness are evaluated in the following slides.

Strength: Speed

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    Stephen Hill’s best trait going into the National Football League is his ability to be a deep downfield weapon in a passing offense. Being a deep threat requires speed, which Hill unquestionably has.

    Hill’s 40-yard dash time tied for the best among wide receivers and for the second-best overall time among all players at the scouting combine. That same speed translates on the field.

    On tape, Hill can be often be seen beating defensive backs and using his speed to separate downfield. He has legitimate breakaway speed that will enable him to gain separation from cornerbacks, even at the NFL level.

    Hill’s speed is remarkable for a 6’4’’ wide receiver, and it is the biggest asset that has put him into the first-round conversation.

Weakness: Lack of Receptions

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    The biggest concern that surrounds Hill is his lack of overall production as a college football player. Over three seasons at Georgia Tech, Hill only had 49 total receptions.

    Those numbers pale in comparison to the receptions that the other top receivers in the draft class had. In last season alone, Oklahoma State’s Justin Blackmon caught 121 passes, Baylor’s Kendall Wright had 108 receptions and Notre Dame’s Michael Floyd had 100 catches.

    Hill only caught four or more passes in two games last season, and had one or zero receptions in five games last year.

    While Hill projects as a dangerous deep threat at the next level, can he be a consistent receiver who can be involved with many catches throughout a game? This is a definite uncertainty in projecting Hill to the next level, for he was unable to display that in Georgia Tech’s triple-option offense.

Strength: Verticality

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    Hill has drawn comparisons to both Calvin Johnson and Randy Moss, two of the biggest deep threat receivers ever to play in the National Football League. Both of those players have tremendous speed, but they are known for their verticality even more than how fast they are.

    Hill has the same verticality that those players possess. Hill has ideal height for a wide receiver at 6’4’’, and a terrific vertical jump of 39.5 inches, a mark which tied for fifth-best at the combine.

    Hill’s tremendous length and leaping ability give him the ability to make catches within a wide window when he is able to speed up and get full extension.

    Additionally, Hill should be able to win virtually every jump-ball situation that he is ever thrown into in his NFL career, for few cornerbacks he faces will have the height and vertical leap to get up as high as Hill can.

Weakness: Route Running

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    When watching game tape of Stephen Hill, one will be hard-pressed to find him running any sort of route tree. In Georgia Tech’s triple-option offense, Hill’s routes were almost exclusively straight-line, go routes that required little knowledge of routes or the ability to get in and out of breaks.

    To be fair, Hill’s lack of route running display in college should not be a direct indictment on him. Hill played in an offense that emphasizes running over passing, with most pass plays being play-action deep balls.

    That said, Hill is going to have to be able to learn route running quickly if he is to contribute in his rookie season. While his primary NFL skill may be his ability to get open in the deep passing game, he will need to be able to run a full route tree for whichever offensive system he is drafted into.

    Hill has displayed the ability to run some routes well at the combine and at his pro day, but actually doing so in game play is a tougher task.

Strength: Blocking/Physical Strength

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    While Hill did not have to be able to run a full route tree as a wide receiver in Georgia Tech’s offense, he certainly had to be able to block. For a wideout, Hill displayed that he was an excellent blocker in college.

    Hill has a terrific frame and carries good physical strength with it. Hill does a very good job of blocking in the run game, by anchoring well and using his strength and size to win battles with defensive backs.

    Hill’s ability to block will be a huge asset for him to get on the field early and contribute. Additionally, he uses his physical strength well as a receiver, as he is not afraid to use his body and does so well to establish advantage against smaller cornerbacks in man-to-man coverage.

Strength/Weakness: Hands

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    When evaluating Stephen Hill’s hands, I am not sitting on the fence. However, his hands have been both a huge asset as well as a serious concern.

    Hill is a natural hands catcher, which he displayed with flawless catching at the scouting combine. Hill has displayed his hands by making his fair share of spectacular catches in his collegiate career, with his greatest coming with a remarkable one-handed, full-extension grab last year against North Carolina (Watch the video).

    However, while Hill has tremendous hands that could be a great asset to him, he also suffers from the same syndrome that has plagued other deep threats such as Moss, Terrell Owens and Braylon Edwards.

    While Hill uses his hands to make spectacular catches, he also has an issue with occasionally dropping the easy passes. Hill was credited with five drops last season, according to CBS Sports.

Overall Breakdown

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    Having played in a run-first offense and only caught 49 passes in his collegiate career, Stephen Hill is a developmental project going forward to the next level.

    That said, Hill may have more upside than any other wide receiver in this draft class, and could emerge as an elite deep threat if he is developed properly.

    Hill has the potential and skill set to be the next Randy Moss/Calvin Johnson, but he would be a very risky first-round draft choice. Due to his lack of experience with route running, he may need more development before he can be a starting wide receiver in the NFL.

    Hill has a rare combination of size, athleticism, the ability to block and to make spectacular grabs. He should be able to follow in the footsteps of Johnson and Demaryius Thomas, also former Yellow Jackets wide receivers with similar physical attributes and skill sets.

    Hill’s upside makes him worth being a late first-round or early second-round selection, even though he was not a consistent producer as a collegiate player.

    Hill’s Grade: Second round

    Position Rank: No. 5

    Overall Prospect Rank: No. 31


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