In my last article, I opened by talking about how important a fit is to a prospect. This is perhaps most true for the prospects that are raw in certain nuances of their position. These players, who can almost be looked at as pieces of clay, are heavily dependent on the sculptor. On one hand, the sculptor can produce something beautiful, such as Vulca’s Apollo from Veii, and on the other hand, you might get something that looks like it came out of a high school ceramics class. Or even worse, something a toddler mashed together with Play-Doh.
A piece of clay that every offensive coach wants work with is one that is 6’4, 215 pounds, can run a 4.36 40 yard dash, and posts vertical leaps and broad jumps of 39.5 and 133 inches respectively. Of course, we aren’t talking about just a piece of clay at this point, but rather about former Georgia Tech, and current New York Jets WR Stephen Hill. While Hill’s combine performancecertainly overshadowed his on the field production (just 49 catches in 3 seasons), he was not simply just a freak athlete. Beyond his ideal build and combine stats, he showed quite a few promising qualities at Georgia Tech. Hill displayed tremendous body control, plucked the ball away from his frame, and he showcased the ability to use physicality. Hill also showed some skills as a runner with the ball in his hands.
Obviously, there were also flaws to Hill’s game. If he didn’t possess these flaws, with his skill set, there was no way he was making it to the second round. Beyond just the limited production, Hill had concerns about all the “little things” that make a receiver special. Too often Hill would have concentration lapses and put the ball on the ground. His route tree was pretty limited, and he wasn’t polished as a route runner. One of the biggest things I noticed is that he had some issues with coming out of his breaks, and more than a few routes just flat out weren’t run correctly, with proper depth, timing, etc. Another thing was that he wasn’t always getting the most out of his speed on his bread and butter play, the 9 route. However, I still saw enough that I thought Hill could one day develop into a good X receiver, and have an impact his rookie season similar to that of Torrey Smith’s.
I thought he would have been a great fit for a team that likes to get vertical frequently, or in a situation in which his skill set could complement another receiver. The Texans at pick 26 would have been perfect in my mind. In fact, that’s where I placed Stephen Hill in my mock. I didn’t find his “slide” to be all that surprising considering his rawness, but I did find the Jets selection of him to be a bit surprising. It’s true that they needed another wide receiver, but I didn’t think Hill fit what Tony Sparano was looking to do. Sparano has talked about his willingness to throw the football, but when Rex Ryan talked about his new OC, I couldn’t help but get the feeling that the Jets were going to try and find their form as the “power running” team they’ve always wanted to be. Not only that, but I don’t think the Sanchez/Tebow show at QB is what any deep threat is exactly dreaming about. Furthermore, I happen to believe if the Jets don’t make big strides this year, this is the end of the Rex Ryan era, so picking someone you don’t expect to contribute early doesn’t make much sense.
So, if Stephen Hill’s career wasn’t off to an auspicious enough start based on the fit, there’s this. Recently it has been forced down our throats by the Jets and ESPN that a big addition to the Jets’ offense is going to be the use of CB Antonio Cromartie at WR. Poor Stephen Hill. Considering how much he struggles moving laterally as a corner, it’s tough to imagine Cromartie being able to do much more at WR then run 9 routes, or perhaps catch a few WR screens. While Stephen Hill is very raw, if this is what the Jets are looking for out of a WR, why do you even draft Hill? This role seems like it would be a much better way to break the rookie in. Another thing we’ve heard constantly from the Jets is how having Tim Tebow is going to force defenses to prepare differently. Fair enough. This argument can’t even be applied to Antonio Cromartie. There’s nothing he can bring to the table that Hill cannot. Hill is every bit as much of a “freak athlete” as Cromarite is, and even though he’s quite raw, he’s still most likely more refined than Cromartie at the position.
Before we even get to the snaps that Cromartie will take from Hill, think about what this is doing him now, in training camp. The Jets are devoting excess time to build a special “Throw To Cro” package. They can’t just stick Cromartie out there, so the coaching that could and should be going to Stephen Hill is now going to Antonio Cromartie. Those extra practice reps, that Hill’s development could surely use? They are now Cromartie’s. Realistically, it would have been hard to expect a huge year from a player as raw as Hill. I’d just like to know why the Jets would take him, only to squander his talents, in favor of a cornerback. I’m not suggesting that the Jets trying to get Cromartie on offense turns Hill into the water boy, but there is no doubt it is subtracting from a few things Hill sorely needs. I am also not saying that Stephen Hill is surely going to bust now, but the Jets certainly stacking the cards against someone who already needed a lot of things to go right in order to achieve his immense potential.