Did Jets WR Stephen Hill Live Up to Rookie Expectations in 2012?

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Did Jets WR Stephen Hill Live Up to Rookie Expectations in 2012?
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The New York Jets had to have known when they drafted Stephen Hill that the Georgia Tech wide receiver would not be abundantly productive in his rookie season.

If they didn't get that idea from his limited college production—49 receptions for 1,248 yards and nine touchdowns in three seasons—they could have simply looked back at the production of previous wide receivers in the second round. 

Granted, that would never factor into a team's pre-draft evaluations of a player, but it could certainly factor into our reflection of Hill's rookie season.

Hill was not far off the average production for a rookie wide receiver drafted between picks 33 and 53 from 2006 through 2011. 

You could look at it through one of two lenses—either he still performed up to expectations despite added pressure on him, or he failed to exceed expectations despite being given an increased opportunity. He was not supposed to be a big part of the offense this season, but a healthy Santonio Holmes and Dustin Keller were foregone conclusions that did not come to pass during the Jets' season. 

Hill battled injuries of his own, missing five games with hamstring and knee injuries, but there were long droughts of limited or no production even when he was on the field. Hill failed to record a single reception in five of his 11 games this year, and in back-to-back games on two separate occasions.

Of course, his struggles are slightly more understandable given the dreadful play at quarterback this year, which resulted in eight games below 50-percent completions, the most in the NFL in 2012. The Jets got the least production in the NFL out of their wide receivers. That being said, Hill dropped six passes at a rate of 22.2 percent of catchable balls (via ProFootballFocus.com), which put him among the most frequent droppers in the NFL in 2012.

There were occasions this year, however, when Hill showed exactly what he was brought in for: his athletic abilities as a receiver and his presence as a big-play threat.

He wasted no time, putting it on display right from Week 1 against the Bills. He didn't do anything spectacular to create separation, just a simple double-move to the inside and then going deep.

The overaggressive play of Bills cornerback Stephon Gilmore here was a huge help, too. He bit on the pump fake, expecting Mark Sanchez to throw on the break.

Instead, he went deep to Hill, who leaped high to come down with the ball while Gilmore flailed and failed to knock the ball loose.

That big play got his career started on a great note, but there were too many big mistakes throughout Hill's rookie year.

Take the dropped pass against the Patriots, for example.

Had he caught this, it would have been a first down and maybe even a touchdown. Instead, it's just another "what if" memory in a long season full of them for the Jets.

If the Jets are going to get out of the rut on offense, they'll need to get more explosive plays from their wide receivers, but fewer mistakes by Hill will result in fewer of those "what if" moments going forward.

 

 Erik Frenz is the AFC East lead blogger for Bleacher Report. Be sure to follow Erik on Twitter and "like" the AFC East blog on Facebook to keep up with all the updates. Unless otherwise specified, all quotes are obtained firsthand or via team press releases.

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