SCOUTS NOTES: BUYER BEWARE ON COMBINE "WINNER" STEPHEN HILL OF GEORGIA TECH
The NFL Combine has come and gone, and it's time for some prospects workouts to be overblown, misunderstood, and interpreted as major "stock rising". Sometimes even NFL teams buy into these workout numbers a bit too much, and actual game film gets overlooked at times.
This year, it seems that one intriguing prospect who stood out from the raw combine numbers is Georgia Tech receiver Stephen Hill. And at 6'4, 215, with a 4.36 forty time and a host of other great numbers, what's NOT to like?
Well, I'd be happy to key you in on why Hill is more of a question mark than your team's answer at receiver.
First, let's look deeper at the Combine and the numbers themselves. As I pointed out in this article before, each drill does have meaning as a way to "quantify athleticism", something that is obviously very difficult to do.
Hill, in a sense, showed supreme athleticism for his size in most drills. He measured in at 6'4, 215, remarkably impressive size for the numbers he was about to put up. He ran a 4.36 "official" time, a 39.5 inch vertical jump, and a 11'1" broad jump. What does that show?
Well the fast forty time shows the deep straight-line speed Hill possess, something obvious on film as well. The nearly 40 inch vertical and 11' broad jump is extreamely impressive in showing his explosion both in air and straight ahead, obviously crucial for a receiver fighting for jump balls and getting through traffic in air for explosiveness.
But if we're going to use numbers to describe Hill's performance, let's use ALL of them.
Hill also posted the LOWEST 20 yard shuttle time of any receiver who participated, as well as the only receiver to have a SLOWER 20 yard shuttle time than forty yard dash time. He also had the 5th slowest 60 yard shuttle, that likely only being saved due to his straight line speed. So what does that mean? It means that his change of direction and explosion his quick, short areas is lackluster and likely a major deterant for a player at a position where stop-start, change of direction, and keeping balance through cuts is crucial.
Even outside of the Combine numbers, Hill on film is certainly not in the first round discussion. He has been compared to DeMaryius Thomas, former Georgia Tech first round wide receiver who also played in Paul Johnson's triple option offense. And that's fair, they are similar body types, played in the same system, and have some of the same "lack of development" concerns.
To compare them however, and call them near equals is not fair to Thomas. Thomas was a better run after catch receiver (forget stats, watch the games) who could make more defenders miss in the open field, and was able to run through passes much smoother. While neither receiver was asked to run many short-mid area routes across the middle, Thomas did showcase better in traffic, non-jump ball skills as well as Hill.
Along with that, let's remember that despite Thomas being taken in round one and his recent successes in Denver, keep in mind two things: One, he barely was a first rounder in what was a fairly mediocre receiver class. And two, it took him a good year and a half before he showed signs of success, and that was in part to him being a great complement to Tebow at quarterback thanks to his run after catch ability and wide catch radius.
Stephen Hill made himself some money at the Combine, that's for sure. He'll be moving up our board coming next week because his size-speed combo and potential is just too exciting to pass up at some point in the draft.
But he is NOT worth a first round pick. Not a second either.
If a team really feels they can develop his routes, hide his lack of great short area change of direction and balance, and utilize him in jump ball situations on the outside, then sure, he can really develop into an outside receiver in a consistent 3-wide set where he's not asked to have a developed route tree and is used more to open up room for a slot receiver.
Stephen Hill likely will crack our Top 20 wide receiver rankings, and in a rare, elite class like this year's, that's saying a lot about Hill's workout. But as far as outside receiver's go, I'll take Blackmon, Floyd, Wright, Jones, Jeffery, Sanu, Quick, Randle, Criner, and Marvin Jones EASILY over Hill, and I think most level-headed teams will believe the same.