Stephen Hill has exceptional size and athleticism, but he is an extremely raw, meaning unrefined, player who came from a run-oriented option offense. His route tree, the number of routes he had to know while at Georgia Tech, was extremely limited due to the college’s offensive scheme.
Unlike the majority of the New York Jets beat writers/analysts, I had actually watched some of Hill’s games prior to his selection by the team. I think he has good catching ability, which is a trait that in my opinion is more important than athleticism at the wide receiver position, but based on the games I’ve seen I found his route running was mediocre and not crisp at all.
When I watch the best NFL wide receivers I immediately notice their steps are coordinated and smoothly executed, which is a major component of route running. Players need to learn specific steps for different plays, much like dancers learn different steps to various dance styles/routines. This is a skill that comes from a significant amount of practice and Hill will need to commit to improving this component of his skill set.
The amount of time that Hill will need to devote to practicing this skill and learning routes, before becoming a star wide receiver, is tremendous. I highly doubt that he will have a good statistical year due to the fact that he will likely be used to draw the focus of opposing defenses away from Santonio Holmes and Dustin Keller as more of a decoy, instead of being utilized as the primary deep threat in 2012.
One role that Hill could excel in is as a red zone threat. I could see him being efficient in that role right away due to his frame and ability to fight in traffic.
Fans need to also consider that last year’s most athletic draft prospect Julio Jones, a first round pick who was a far more game ready wide receiver than Hill, struggled in 2011 with a better quarterback, Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, than the Jets player will have in Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow.
It also doesn’t help that the Jets will be emphasizing the “ground and pound” offensive philosophy. In two or three years Stephen Hill might become a star wide receiver for the team but to expect a performance rivaling that of Randy Moss or Calvin Johnson in their rookie seasons would be ridiculous.
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