Here we go, the first post in my series that will look at the most talked-about position of need for the Bears; Wide Receiver. This prospect is intriguing because he has been climbing up draft boards following an impressive combine but there are a lot of reasons to worry about this guy being a high draft pick. While he might be a reach at 19, perhaps the Bears could nab him in the second or in a trade down into the latter part of the first round scenario. I will let you guys handle that part of it, first I'll give you a rundown of Stephen Hill, as objectively as I can, then you all can let loose with your thoughts.
Stephen Hill is a wide receiver out of Georgia Tech. GT is one of the few schools outside of the service academies that runs a very basic, old school, option offense. This makes their wide receiver prospects difficult to analyze. However, they have produced some studs of recent, namely Calvin Johnson Jr. and Demaryus Thomas. The thought of getting "the next...type" of those receivers is a thought that will leave a lot of Bears fans salivating.
First, the measurables, courtesy of NFL.com: 6'4", 215 pounds, ran a 4.36 40, 39.5" vertical
Getting you a little hot under the collar isn't it? Well, here's what NFL.com says about his strengths:
Hill will be a legitimate deep threat at the next level -- by recording nearly 30 yards per catch as a senior, he showed he was capable of going deep and scoring on every play. He consistently runs past corners on deep routes and is impressive at the point of the catch, as he is able to lay out for the ball or rise above his defender. Hill is a very good blocker who uses his length well and surprisingly doesn't get off-balance often, something that is usually evident of players with his frame. Though it's risky to throw early comparisons of Hall-of-Fame-caliber players on prospects that don't even garner first-round consideration, Hill could remind some of Randy Moss when it comes to running a pure, one-on-one deep route.
Wow, getting a Randy Moss comparison is heavy duty, although as they point out, a very cautious one. One of the pluses I took out of this though, is that since he played in a run-first offense he HAD to block. You can never have enough willing blockers at receiver and no doubt that would be something seen as a plus for Mike Tice and Lovie Smith.
Now, though, his weaknesses:
Hill's value is based purely off his ability as a deep threat. He has average quickness and moves off the line of scrimmage to avoid a jam. He ran a very basic route tree at Georgia Tech that didn't allow him to showcase many skills. Outside of catching jump balls, he struggles to read coverages and understand how to find holes in a zone. Hill looks uncomfortable with the ball in his hands and resembles a lengthy track star on the field instead of a football player. He dropped as many big balls as he made big plays; his YPC stat defines him perfectly as a player who is capable of making flash plays but isn't reliable.
"Unreliable" is not a word I like to hear associated with a first-round pick, especially one who would be drafted to be the number one guy.
One thing I don't particularly like about NFL.com's Combine profiles though is that they do not update them after the fact, so all of this was written before the combine, let's see what some other sites have to say about Mr. Hill.
Release: Has exceptional length, reach, and power in hands, and easily negates the press. Not overly sudden, needs some steps to get to top speed. Tends to release a bit high and upright. Not overly explosive initially, but top speed is impressive once attained. Hands: Has generally good hands, with the capacity for the outstanding catch. Tremendous ability to high point. Good at tracking the throw and adjusting his route. Natural hand catcher. Has great leaping ability and can extend and snatch with elite skill, even at full speed. Route Running: Has to gear down a bit to make sharp cuts. Is best when running routes that require smaller cuts. Has great top end speed and is really difficult to match on deep routes with a few not-so-sharp cuts. After the Catch: Has great top speed. While not that shifty in the open field, has a good stiff arm, is strong, and can break tackles. Blocking: Top grade here. Has outstanding range, technique, and power. Consistently dominated smaller DBs and had success blocking LBs. Was a focus blocker on the GaTech offense with plays designed to run behind his blocks. Intangibles: Smart, durable, hard working athlete. No apparent reason to question a high intangibles grade here, which is important for a prospect going from a triple option to the NFL, not a small adjustment for a WR.
NFL Comparison: Darrius Heyward-Bey - Oakland Raiders
Another less-than-stellar comparison there; Heyward-Bey has not done much in his career thus far, but then again no one thought he was worthy of the number 8-overall selection at the time anyway.
Here's some more from CBS:
As a wide receiver, Hill was mostly asked to run straight or slant deep go routes. None of his QBs at Georgia Tech were strong armed and, hence, such passes were floated to Hill, many times with a lot of defenders around. Hill was not asked to run a lot of choppy routes, and does not have elite turning ability. Hill demonstrated mostly exceptional ball skills, but will also drop an easy pass now and then.
That leaves the question: what would Hill look like in a downfield passing offense with a strong armed QB? For the answer to that question, we have pre-Draft workouts and speculation. Needless to say, Hill could have shocking upside, even Randy Moss upside. That Olympic caliber long jump in high school shows up on tape. Hill can really go get it on deep passes, and has elite top speed.
There are plenty of examples, Matt Jones being perhaps the worst, of receivers being taken in the first round who were greater "projections" than Stephen Hill. Grading Hill from his Georgia Tech data is difficult. Denying his upside is negligent. Hill has first-round upside. Expect Hill to be in high demand for private workouts.
So, in conclusion there are definitely some red flags and big question marks with this guys but a lot of upside that could easily have some teams willing to look past the questions and drafting this guy on potential alone.
Personally, I'd say if the Bears traded down several spots and wanted to get him with 25th or later pick I'd be fine with it. No. 19 might be a reach. Walterfootball.com has him going to Houston at number 26 saying this:
...So, who's the top wideout? It's not Alshon Jeffery anymore, as he reportedly turned teams off in the interviews. Reuben Randle disappointed at the Combine. Mohamed Sanu doesn't have No. 1 potential. The top receiver on the board is Stephen Hill. Hill had an amazing Combine, both in terms of his triangle numbers and drill work. The success of Demaryius Thomas only helps his cause.
If the Bears do their homework, scout him hard, get him at his pro day and a private workout and run him through some different routes and maybe even have Jay Cutler throw to him during a workout (Can they do that? Just wondering) and if he shows an ability to pick up some of the offense and run some different types of routes, I would be very satisfied with the pick. He's definitely got upside but he's a guy that needs to be diligently studied to justify a high(er) first round pick.
Finally, here's some video highlights. Some may want to know upfront that the video is mute-able because it's just music over the highlights, no game-commentary or anything like that: