New York Jets Draft Pick Analysis: Receiver Stephen Hill

Chris Gross breaks down New York Jets second round pick, wide receiver Stephen Hill

The 2011 New York Jets lacked many assets to make them a playoff team, as displayed by their .500 record. Among their several missing pieces was a big, playmaking, wide receiver that could stretch the field and open up the offense. Plaxico Burress fit the “big” bill, but having been over a full year removed from football, he lacked the speed to create any separation from defensive backs, and his presence hardly garnered any respect from opposing defenses. The Jets desperately needed to add a speedy, home run threat to their offense this offseason, and that may be just what they got in their 2nd round selection, wide receiver Stephen Hill.

Having come from Georgia Tech’s triple option offense, it is difficult to get a diverse sample of film on Hill to evaluate his receiving skills. In fact, during a 20 play stretch against Georgia last year, the Yellow Jackets ran the ball 18 times, while passing just twice. However, during that sample of plays, Hill was able to display his terrific blocking skills. What makes his blocking so effective is that he works his hands and feet tremendously. His hand placement is near perfect the majority of the time, complemented flawlessly by his ability to move his feet with the defender. Hill is also very aggressive and stronger at the point of attack than one might expect him to be. He blocks right until the whistle, and has shown he can crack down on toss sweeps, displaying some pancake blocks along the way.

As far as receiving skills go, from the small sample of plays that the offense did actually throw the ball last season, Hill stands out. He repeatedly showed the ability to blow by man coverage, and proved that he can adjust to the ball very well. The quarterback play at Georgia Tech last season was subpar at best, so there were many plays where Hill had to comeback for a ball or adjust his route to make the play. His speed can certainly hurt opposing defenses as well. Several times last year, Hill was able to take advantage of any cornerback that peeked into the backfield, blowing by the coverage, while the safety was usually one step too slow to make it over in time.

Hill also has very strong hands and does a good job of utilizing them to catch the ball. Of all the film I reviewed on him, not once did he catch a pass against his body. He can make the highlight reel plays too, as he displayed numerous amazing one handed catches last year, most notably the one against North Carolina.

Hill is excellent after the catch. Besides the obvious fact that he is extremely fast and agile, he is also much stronger than you would expect, and he proved to be very difficult to bring down. Hill has a very rare combination of size, speed, and physicality that could make him a nightmare for defenses as he develops down the road.

What is also appealing about Hill is that he seems to have a blue-collar mentality. Although he came from a run first offense, that didn’t necessarily utilize his skill set to the greatest extent, Hill showed no sign of moping around like a typical diva wide receiver that wasn’t getting the ball. Instead, he went out and continued to work on every play, whether that meant blocking or running routes. This speaks very well to his character, something this team needs, especially on the offensive side of the ball.

The biggest concern about Hill is how he will adjust from the triple option scheme to an NFL type offense. Although his route running is much better than I expected it to be, he still has a lot of work to do in this area, specifically on underneath routes, in order to ever be a true number one receiver. He also sometimes tends to focus on the run after the catch, before actually catching the ball, which caused for some drops last season.

Hill is a raw product. He has all the physical tools needed to make him an elite NFL wide receiver, but it will take him some time to develop. He clearly has tremendous upside, and the Jets offensive scheme will play to all of his strengths, which is going to make him an early contributor. He is big, strong, fast, and a great blocker, while he also has the ability to stretch the field and be the long home run threat that New York’s offense lacked in 2011. Hill will be able to create separation between the 20s due to his tremendous speed, while his height and jumping ability will make him a valuable red zone threat.

Hill and the Jets are seemingly a perfect fit for each other. With the offense that Tony Sparano is going to implement, a run heavy scheme with a desire for “chunk” plays, Hill is the ideal wide receiver. He should be able to block and stretch the field for the Jets right away, while working on developing a more balanced game for the future. Quarterback Mark Sanchez will likely enjoy having Hill in his weaponry because the former Georgia Tech product fits his skill set so well. Yesterday at Turn On The Jets, Joe Caporoso noted that one of Sanchez’s strongest points is his play action pass. Hill’s ability to stretch the field should prove to be a vital weapon on these play action passes as he will be able to take the top off of any defense and really open the offense up.

Editor’s Note – Physically, Stephen Hill has everything you would look for in a number one receiver. What is most encouraging is the mental attitude he brings along with the physical skills. It is not easy to be a wide receiver in a run heavy offense but Hill embraced it and blocks with a skill and tenacity that his highly admirable. He is coming into the perfect situation with the Jets. He is not ready to be a number one target because his route running is too raw, however with Santonio Holmes and Dustin Keller on board he doesn’t have to be. Hill will see favorable match-ups and be able to focus on being a deep threat this year and in time can develop into being this team’s number one receiver. I think five years from now, we will remember this as the “Stephen Hill draft.”

New York Jets Rookie Mini Camp Report

Chris Gross on the five most important takeaways from New York Jets rookie minicamp

We let Chris Gross out of the film room long enough to break down five key points from the New York Jets rookie mini-camp. Check back tomorrow for his breakdown of safety Josh Bush and then throughout the week for our closer look at DeMario Davis, Stephen Hill and Quinton Coples.

1.) DeMario Davis needs to continue leading. Rex Ryan and the Jets’ coaching staff raved not only over Davis’s tremendous speed, but also how vocal and assertive he proved to be during team drills. While this is exactly what you want from one of your linebackers, Davis needs to prove that he can be just as confident and vocal when the veterans come into camp. It is often natural for guys to feel comfortable around their peers, however, the true test will come when respected and established players line up alongside Davis. Ryan has compared his demeanor and confidence to that of future Hall of Famer Ray Lewis’s. He needs to not be afraid to step on anyone’s toes, and just continue to be himself. This will be key to his development and success this season.

2.) Don’t get your hopes up on Robert T. Griffin. Griffin has generated some interesting buzz coming out of rookie mini camp. He reportedly has been quite impressive to coaches and media alike. While I am not doubting Griffin’s potential, it is simply foolish for anyone to declare him in competition for playing time after three days of non contact drills. It is not difficult for offensive lineman, especially those with size comparable to Griffin’s, to look decent while scrimmaging without pads on. As we previously noted here at Turn On The Jets, Griffin is a long way from being a productive NFL lineman. He will not be the solution to New York’s Right Tackle situation anytime soon.

3.) No Surprises. Out of all the stories that came out of training camp, one that should not have come as a surprise to anyone is Stephen Hill’s impressive display of speed and size. We all know the physical ability of Hill, so it shouldn’t be shocking that he stood out during the weekend long camp. What will be interesting to see is how he plays when he eventually gets reps against the Jets’ first team corners in training camp. It will benefit Hill greatly to be able to compete against two of the best corners in the league in Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie during practice.

4.) Let Him Play! After an impressive first day of camp, first round selection Quinton Coples was told by coaches to sit out of team drills. While this was most likely a ploy for the coaches to fairly evaluate the tryout players who were overmatched by Coples, they have to be careful with this approach. For a player who has been labeled lazy at times, perhaps a bit unfairly, the last thing he needs in his quest to earn respect is for his peers to see the coaches pampering him by giving him rest, while they are all on the field working. Again, I’m sure this is not too big a deal, but New York needs to be careful not to turn their newest pass rusher into a prima donna.

5.) The Headline Grabber. In typical New York Jets fashion, the team was highly discussed on Sunday and Monday due to the signing of QB Matt Simms, son of New York Giants great Phil Simms. The Jets simply have too many holes on the roster to carry four quarterbacks. We all know Sanchez and Tebow aren’t going anywhere, and Greg McElroy is light-years ahead of Simms as an NFL Quarterback. At best, Simms provides a body through training camp, and then lands a practice squad deal for the season. This is seemingly a move consisting of Mike Tannenbaum being Mike Tannenbaum and generating that coveted buzz that he appears to enjoy so much.

New York Jets: Rookie Mini-Camp Is Time To Feel Good

The early returns on the Jets top draft picks were positive, but let’s not get carried way

The New York Jets, not unlike many other teams in the NFL, had rave reports about their rookies and how they performed at mini-camp over the past weekend. DeMario Davis is the next Ray Lewis. Stephen Hill was a man among boys. Quinton Coples had six sacks in a single practice.

This isn’t a criticism of Rex Ryan’s effusive praise or the fan’s excitement about new players. Every team around the NFL is taking part in the same practice right now. Robert Griffin III has already been crowned Sonny Jurgensen by a Washington writer. You would think the Colts are improving from Peyton Manning in his prime this season with Andrew Luck under center. And Ryan Tannehill apparently threw some of the prettiest 10 yard out routes ever seen on tryout NFL players not wearing equipment.

The point is not to get carried away. Should you be excited about DeMario Davis because he is fast and seems to have natural leadership skills? Yes. Should you be fantasizing about 90 yard Stephen Hill touchdown receptions? I know I am. But as Bill Parcells used to say after a particular player was being hyped a little too much early in his career, “let’s not put him in Canton yet.”

Let’s see how the rookies handle the veterans and full contact practices, then let’s see them making plays in the pre-season, then let’s see them playing when it really counts. I do think that Stephen Hill and Quinton Coples will start this year. I’d be surprised if DeMario Davis wasn’t in a number of defensive packages and a special teams ace but they all have a long way to go.

In case you weren’t keeping track, here are the player comparisons we have heard so far for prominent Jets rookies –

Coples – Trevor Pryce, Shaun Ellis, Muhammad Wilkerson

Hill – Calvin Johnson, Demaryius Thomas, Keith Jackson

Davis – Ray Lewis, Bart Scott

And our very own at TOJ, from the rookies Chris Gross and myself have reviewed

Jordan White – Jerricho Cotchery

Antonio Allen – James Ihedigbo

Terrance Ganaway – A quicker Shonn Greene (hopefully).

New York Jets Rookie Camp – The Path To Playing Time

How can the 2012 New York Jets draft picks find themselves playing time this season?

The New York Jets eight draft picks and a large collection of undrafted free agents and tryout players will gather for a mini-camp this weekend. Focusing down on the eight draft picks, what will it take for each of them to receive playing time this season? Who will be their primary competition? Let’s take a closer look –

Quinton Coples – Regardless of whether Coples starts at defensive end or not, he is going to see substantial reps on the defensive line rotation particularly on third downs. In a way Marcus Dixon, Kenrick Ellis and Mike DeVito are competing for playing time with him but in reality Coples has a much different skill set than all three and will likely be used in many unique ways by Rex Ryan. Ideally, at a minimum Coples is a pass rushing specialist this year and then sees the rest of his game develop in the coming years.

Stephen Hill – Unless he bombs out in the pre-season, Hill will be the opening day starter at split end. He has too much speed and size to keep on the bench. Chaz Schilens and Patrick Turner will be competing to be his backup but shouldn’t see anywhere near the amount of playing time Hill does this season.

DeMario Davis – Outside of Aaron Maybin, Davis will be the fastest of the Jets linebackers. While I do not think we will see him in a starting role this season unless there is an injury, he should fill in for Bart Scott at inside linebacker in certain packages and could also line up at outside linebacker for Bryan Thomas to utilize his ability to cover the tight end. He will be competing with players like Josh Mauga, Nick Bellore and Garret McIntyre but considering his skill set and where the Jets drafted him, I’d look for Davis to both make the roster and be a regular contributor on defense.

Josh Bush – Bush’s skill set make him the most natural free safety on the Jets roster. Unless he is beat out by Tracy Wilson or DeAngelo Smith, he should immediately contribute in a handful of defensive packages and be the top backup to Eric Smith who is technically the team’s free safety even though he is miscast in that role.

Terrance Ganaway – He will be competing with Bilal Powell to be active on a weekly basis and then competing with Joe McKnight and Shonn Greene for playing time. His comfort of playing in an option offense makes him an immediate candidate to be a factor on offense when Tim Tebow is under center. Don’t be surprised if Ganaway ends up contributing a few hundred yards of offense this season.

Robert T. Griffin – As our breakdown later in the day will show, Griffin has a long, long way to go before becoming a contributor on a NFL team. This season he will compete with Caleb Schlauderaff and Austin Howard for a spot on the active roster. However, it is much more likely he will end up on the practice squad.

Antonio AllenMake sure you click the link to read Chris Gross’ full breakdown of Allen, who should end up being LaRon Landry’s backup this season, a contributor as a blitzer and play special teams. I’d be surprised to see a journeyman like Tracy Wilson or DeAngelo Smith beat him out.

Jordan WhiteMake sure you click the link to read Chris Gross’ full breakdown of White. He will compete with Patrick Turner and Eron Riley for a roster spot and projects to backing up Jeremy Kerley in the slot if he can make the roster.

New York Jets Draft: Thoughts On Hill And Davis

Thoughts on the Jets selection of Stephen Hill and DeMario Davis

A few quick thoughts on the New York Jets decision to trade up for wide receiver Stephen Hill and draft linebacker DeMario Davis

1. It appears the New York Jets are taking the best player available instead of looking to fill needs. They have ignored right tackle, outside linebacker, and safety despite major holes in their depth chart. With no picks in the 4th or 5th round, look for them to sign Yeremiah Bell, Chris Johnson, and maybe Vernon Carey down the road when they come to the realization that Wayne Hunter, Vlad Ducasse or Austin Howard isn’t the answer at right tackle.

2. I love the Stephen Hill selection, he is a physical freak who has the right attitude to take advantage of his natural abilities to become a big time player in the NFL. It is fair to question the value of spending a 2nd round pick on a receiver in a Ground and Pound offense but if Hill becomes the needed big play threat opposite Santonio Holmes and makes Sanchez that much better it will be worth it.

3. Davis is a great athlete with a high motor who will hopefully be starting next to David Harris at inside linebacker by next year. The Jets have put together the pieces to play a much larger share of snaps in the 4-3 instead of a 3-4. How about this for a 3rd down line up? Coples and Maybin at end. Wilkerson and Pouha at defensive tackle. Harris and Davis at linebacker. Revis, Cromartie, Wilson, Landry and a free safety in the secondary. That should be a line up that gets after the quarterback.

New York Jets Select WR Stephen Hill

The New York Jets have swapped 2nd round picks with Seattle to select WR Stephen Hill out of Georgia Tech. Hill gives the Jets the deep threat their offense has been lacking at Wide Receiver since the departure of Braylon Edwards.

At 6’4″ 215 lbs, Hill is an athletic freak, having run a 4.36 40-yard dash at the combine, which is remarkable considering his size.
A big play specialist, Hill had 820 receiving yards on only 28 catches in 2011, averaging a mind blowing 29.3 yards per catch. Of his 28 catches last season, 9 were for over 30 yards, 5 were for over 50, and 2 were for over 70. His season long was an 82 yard touchdown in Georgia Tech’s opener against Western Carolina. There is no doubt that he can make the big play, and with his impressive size and blocking experience (coming from a run first offense), he will contribute to the run game immediately.

The move to get Hill certainly gives New York much needed depth at Wide Receiver and he should be able to come in and compete for the starting spot opposite Santonio Holmes right away. Hill is still a raw prospect, especially coming from the option offense at Georgia Tech, but his tremendous upside gives him great value at this pick, and he should be able to open up the offense for the Jets as he develops. This move seemingly rules out any reunion with Braylon Edwards.

New York still has several needs at OLB, S, and RT, so keep an eye out for how the remainder of the night plays out. The Jets own the 77th overall pick in round 3 tonight.