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Sophomore predictions: Justice Hill

Pittsburgh Steelers v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

In this series, I will be analyzing each of the Ravens 2019 draft picks and predicting what fans should reasonably expect from each player during their second season.

Baltimore‘s first pick on Day 3 of the 2019 NFL Draft was RB Justice Hill out of Oklahoma State. Hill was expected to give the Ravens a jolt of speed and home-run ability to the running back room.

Hill became the third man on the depth chart behind veteran RB Mark Ingram and second-year RB Gus Edwards. Edwards led the team in rushing with 718 yards and two touchdowns on 137 attempts as an undrafted rookie in 2018 after taking hold of the starting RB role from Alex Collins. Edwards accomplished this despite only playing in 11 games and only starting six of them.

Even though Edwards had tremendous success alongside quarterback Lamar Jackson in Baltimore’s option rushing attack, general manager Eric DeCosta still signed Ingram to be the team’s new starter at the position. Ingram proved to be worth it after rushing for 1,018 yards and 10 touchdowns on 202 attempts. Ingram also caught 26 passes for 247 yards and five more touchdowns, bringing his total to 1,265 yards and 15 touchdowns. This earned Ingram an invitation to the Pro Bowl. Meanwhile, Edwards had nearly identical stats as the year before, this time rushing for 711 yards and two touchdowns on 133 attempts.

Combine the stats of both running backs with Jackson’s 1,206 rushing yards and there was little opportunity for Hill to make his mark as a rookie. Hill rushed for 255 yards and two touchdowns on 58 attempts while adding another 70 yards receiving on eight receptions. His most rushing yards in a game came in Week 17 against the Pittsburgh Steelers when he rushed for 39 yards on 10 attempts as the second-string RB behind Edwards in a game where several key starters rested.

Hill showed potential as a dangerous change-of-pace back as a rookie, particularly down the stretch of the season, but it’s hard to imagine his role will increase much with the addition of second-round pick J.K. Dobbins out of Ohio State. Dobbins possesses quick-strike ability and receiving skills and should be in line for the top spot in the RB room in a year or two. With three years left on his rookie contract, Hill has more value than Edwards, who is set to be a restricted free agent in 2021. At 30-years old in the second year of his three-year contract, Ingram isn’t set to be around much longer either, which could leave Hill behind Dobbins as the No. 2 back in a few years if Dobbins lives up the billing.

As for Hill’s sophomore season, I don’t predict much of a jump on the stat sheet given the circumstances. Hill could make his presence felt more in the passing game, however. I predict Hill to finish the 2020 season with just over 300 rushing yards and 200 receiving yards.