New York Giants GM Jerry Reese is not afraid to draft the best prospect on the board, regardless of team needs. So, if Georgia Tech wide receiver Stephen Hill happens to fall to them at pick number 32 in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft, Reese might have no choice but to pull the trigger on Hill. The Giants lost wide receiver and Super Bowl hero Mario Manningham to the San Francisco 49ers in free agency and adding someone with Hill’s skill set and size might be too good to pass up.
At 6-4, 215 pounds, Hill is the best wide receiver in this draft in terms of speed and size. In recent years the Giants have shown an affinity for going after tall receivers such as signing Plaxico Burress as a free agent and drafting Ramses Barden, a project out of Cal Poly that hasn’t lived up to the potential the Giants saw in him when they drafted him in the third round of the 2009 NFL Draft. Hill has a much greater pedigree than Barden did coming out of college but is still a little raw when it comes to making catches. He can make a spectacular one-handed grab on one play and then drop a seemingly easy pass on another. He needs to learn to look the ball into his hands before looking up field trying to make a play. That could be a byproduct of playing at Georgia Tech where the passing game took a back seat to the running game. Last season he made 28 catches for 820 yards, an astounding 29.3 yards per catch so he definitely made the most of his opportunities.
Hill possesses big play potential using his size and speed and long arms to make the catch. He should be a threat in the red zone for quarterback Eli Manning. One of Hill’s greatest assets is his willingness to take a hit. He isn’t afraid to go over the middle to make a catch and can take a hit and stay upright but also has the ability to stretch the field deep. He will fight for that extra yard and will lower his shoulder into a defensive back to get it.
There are some negatives aside from his taking his eye off the ball. He was ruled academically ineligible for the 2010 Independence Bowl but he has improved his work ethic both on and off the field. Hill has taken accountability for his actions and has earned the respect of coaches and teammates.
Hill fits the Jerry Reese style of drafting. The Giants can afford to ease him into an offense where he can emerge in a year or two as a legitimate threat. He could step into the number three receiver slot or contribute on special teams, possibly as a replacement for the departed Devin Thomas, while he learns the offense. The mismatch problems he would create in a defensive backfield, especially when teamed with Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz could make the Giants one of the most formidable offenses in the entire league. The Giants have moved away from the running game over the past couple of seasons and last year they proved they could win while getting limited production from their backs. It would make sense for Jerry Reese to give Eli Manning and Head Coach Tom Coughlin and Offensive Coordinator Kevin Gilbride a weapon as dangerous as Stephen Hill. Manning is in the prime of his career so taking advantage of that by giving him as many weapons as possible makes complete sense. I would not be surprised if the Giants scoop up Hill if he is still available when it is the Giants turn to draft.