The wide receiver from Georgia Tech is a specimen of elite athleticism. Standing at 6-4 205 lbs., Stephen Hill has been climbing up draft boards with his eye-popping measurables such as his 4.36-second 40-yard dash and 39.5-inch vertical leap.
In a recent story posted on BaltimoreRavens.com, the Ravens’ Director of College Scouting Joe Hortiz expressed how impressed he’s been with Hill’s performance up to this point:
"I was really impressed with his overall performance. I thought he caught the ball well, obviously he ran fast. He definitely generated a lot of buzz for himself."
There’s been a lot of speculation as to whether or not Hill’s name belongs in the discussion of 1st round prospects next month in the 2012 NFL Draft. Coming from a triple-option offense in college, Hill didn’t have many opportunities to light up the field in such a run-heavy scheme, but when he did get the ball he made the most of it. This past season, Hill caught just 28 passes. But, on the flip-side, Hill produced 820 yards for a staggering 30 yards-per-catch average.
(After the "Jump", see more on Hill and if the Ravens may be warming up to selecting him with their 29th overall 1st round pick)
The main dilemma with Hill is that he hasn’t produced the numbers during his college career that scream worthiness of a 1st round choice, but he combines every physical attribute into one package that teams look for and covet in a modern wide receiver.
Al little by the numbers on Hill and some of his Draft counterparts:
Hill: 28 catches/820 yards/30 yards-per-catch/5 TDs
Michael Floyd (Notre Dame): 100 catches/1,147 yards/11.5 yards-per-catch/9 TDs
Justin Blackmon (Oklahoma State): 121 catches/1,522 yards/12.6 yards-per-catch/18 TDs
By comparison, both Floyd and Blackmon have performed at higher statistical rate and both are considered high-mid 1st round locks. Whereas Floyd and Blackmon may stand-out on the stat-line, Hill makes up his ground with his potential. Hill, at 6-4, ran the fastest 40 yard-dash time out of any receiver at the Scouting Combine this year and seems to have put his biggest worries as a wide receiver to rest at his Pro-Day.
One of the biggest knocks against Hill was that he wasn’t a great route-runner and may have to work on his hands and catching ability at the next level. During his Pro-Day, Hill caught all 12 passes thrown his way and received high-praise from analyst Mike Mayock on his route running and hands:
"His hands are great. He’s a hand-snatcher. (Hill) catches the ball very easily."
Well, if Hill’s measurables are off-the charts and he seems refined and ready to transition to the NFL as a complete receiver, then the question becomes: why the lack of college production? Though some believe that the option-offense that he was working in while at Georgia Tech shouldn’t be used as an excuse for Hill, it’s hard to argue with those that do point to the offensive system as a reason for Hill’s lack of statistical proof. During his time at Georgia Tech, their offensive unit ran the ball a whopping 80% of the time. In the triple-option system, many of Hill’s assignments were primarily on deep routes in one-on-one coverage. Though many will point to his lack of production and savvy running the NFL’s complex route-tree, it’s quite easy to see how Hill could contribute in Baltimore.
As previously mentioned, Hill’s main duties were going deep…a lot. Remind you of any particular offense you may be akin to? The Air Coryell offense that the Ravens run is specifically designed to get as many deep-targets down field as often as possible. Though the scheme that the Ravens run is simple in principle, it requires several special talents at multiple receiver positions to be fully successful and max-out its potential. The Ravens’ acquiring of Torrey Smith last year was a great first step in adding a speedy deep-threat to Joe Flacco’s arsenal, but if the Ravens are committed to the long-ball, the team could use another speedy athletic freak like Hill to maximize the current system.
Even still, many will continue to doubt Hill’s ability to make the transition to the NFL, especially if he finds himself as a 1st round pick next month which will up the ante a bit more for Hill to contribute and ‘wow’ immediately. Hortiz believes you have to be true to your grade on a prospect and look at the full body of work from each college season’s worth of tape all the way down to the Combine and Pro-Day workouts and interviews that take place mere weeks before the Draft:
"I think what you’ve got to do is you’ve got to look at the film that’s provided. Then you look at the combine and his performance there, running routes, how he catches the ball. He’s probably going to have a lot of private workouts and his pro day that (we had) scouts down to. You take the whole thing together and get him on a spot on the board."
Will that spot on "the board" be the 29th overall selection where the Ravens sit in this year’s Draft? Only time will tell, but it seems as though that the Ravens are at least flirting with the idea of selecting the extremely gifted, albeit raw, receiver Stephen Hill.