When the Jets selected Hill 43rd overall in the 2012 NFL Draft, they knew the young receiver would need some time to adjust to the NFL, after a college career that saw him catch only 49 total passes in three years.
Going into the season, the Jets were counting on Santonio Holmes and Dustin Keller to be the focal points of the passing game, with the 6’4, 215 lb Hill being a deep threat and potential red zone target.
Everything started swimmingly for New York, especially after a Week 1 win that included two Hill touchdown receptions. But after Holmes and Keller got injured, Hill was thrust into the spotlight prematurely.
Having just turned 21 years of age this past April, Hill is one of the youngest players in the league, and while he possesses rare innate physical talent, he’s shown he’s still pretty raw when it comes to being a complete receiver.
Hill has 14 total catches this season along with six drops, and his drop rate is the worst in the NFL among players with at least 30 targets this season. There’s even been speculation that Mark Sanchez is losing trust in him.
“It’s nerve-racking,” Hill said. “But I’ve been through a lot of things. … These guys in the locker room have been helping me out. They’ve been standing behind me. … I always keep a smile on my face.”
Hill is a self-motivated young man, and he’s been busting his behind in practice, trying to refine his game and become a reliable target for Sanchez going forward.
Veteran wideout Chaz Schilens, who has simliar size and speed to Hill as well as valuable NFL experience, has been a nice pickup for the Jets. He’s taken some of the pressure off of Hill and allowed the rookie to just be himself.
Despite another off game from Hill last week, Schilens stepped up with four catches for 48 yards and a touchdown, as the Jets offense chugged along and had its best performance in weeks, leading to an easy Jets victory.
However, the Jets are going to need Hill to start making plays more consistently sooner rather than later. With Holmes out for the season, there is ample opportunity for Hill to put it all together and become a legitimate weapon.
While some fans would be quick to label Hill a disappointment, it’s far too early to give up on him as a player. He’s still a little green behind the ears, but he still has sky-high potential that cannot be ignored.
It might be a little unrealistic to expect Hill to become a big time reliable playmaker here in year one. The Jets knew that when they drafted him. Unfortunately, they don’t have many healthier options right now.
Stephen Hill’s NFL career is a promising one, even if it doesn’t have an immediate payoff. Jets fans will simply have to be patient with him. The only way he’s going to improve is by getting experience.