Florham Park, N.J.– Going into this offseason the goal of the front office was to not only improve the overall talent on the team, but to add speed as well. With the way the league has changed over the past few years the Jets knew they had to get younger and faster and they achieved that goal with each of their first three picks, but it was with their second pick, the one they traded up for so they were guaranteed to get their man, that the Jets added some world-class speed with Georgia Tech receiver Stephen Hill.
Hill has blazing speed and he knows it. He ran a 4.3 40 at the combine and when asked if that is routine for him, Hill said, “That was definitely routine. I worked a lot on that. I actually told the Jets I was going to actually run that time. It was definitely routine.”
“Yeah, that’s right.” Hill said confidently when a reporter asked if he really told the Jets he would run a 4.3.
“We try to ask the guys (what they’ll run) just to get a feel for what they’re thinking.” Joey Clinkscales said, “In our interview, that is exactly what he said and went out and did it.”
“To his credit he did it.” Mike Tannenbaum said, ”They don’t always run what they say they are going to run.”
Hill was projected to be a first round pick because of his athletic ability so the Jets were happily surprised to find out he was within reach and didn’t waste anytime deciding if it was worth it to trade a fifth and a seventh round pick to swap second round picks with the Seahawks.
“We feel real fortunate to get Stephen Hill in the second round. We had to move up a little bit to make sure that we got him, but we are really excited to get Stephen.” Tannenbaum said, “He has a chance to come in, play right away and start right away. He is a very good blocker from playing in coach (Paul) Johnson’s offense at Georgia Tech. We are really excited about his upside with his height, weight and speed. He only had 28 catches this past year, but we feel he has a ton of potential.”
Somehow Georgia Tech keeps turning out exceptional athletes at the receiver position, but because they run the triple-option offense these receivers often get lost in the shuffle. This makes it hard for NFL teams to properly evaluate them, but this time Hill’s experience in the option is a big part of why they Jets felt confident he was the right pick, as he will be a perfect receiver to play immediately for any Wildcat/option packages the Jets run.
“We studied that quite a bit and obviously looked at Demaryius Thomas who recently went through it as well. We spent a lot of time with him (Hill) and got in on him early.” Tannenbaum said, “We brought him in here for a private workout. Sanjay Lal, our receivers coach and Brendan Prophett went down (to Georgia Tech) for another workout. We really feel he can run all the routes we’ll ask in our offense. Again, he was a very good blocker in a run-oriented offense. He has very good football acumen and we feel the transition can happen really quickly.”
But the Jets didn’t trade up in the second round just for a receiver’s blocking skills. Hill’s experience with the option is a plus, buts it’s secondary to his physical ability and the Jets drafted him to make their offense more explosive.
“Absolutely (big-play ability factored into decision). That was a big factor for us.” Tannenbaum said, “We felt like this will make Santonio Holmes better since all of the coverage won’t have to go his way. We are really excited that he was there for us.”
“To be honest with you, I’m not sure it’s the style of offense. I think it is more about his skill set. He is a tall kid who can run.” Clinkscales said, “He is flexible, can sink his hips, he can drop his weight and get in and out of routes. More than then the offense is his skill set and I think his skill set transfers to this level pretty well.
“He’s unique. He’s a 6’4 kid that weighs 215 and runs a 4.32. He’s a unique athlete, he really is. Calvin Johnson maybe? And I’m not going to put that label on him but from a height, weight, speed moniker. He’s just a unique athlete.”
Read that last quote again carefully before you start thinking Clinkscales temporarily lost his mind. Clinkscales compared Hill and Johnson as athletes, not receivers. Strictly as an athlete the Hill/Johnson comparison makes sense, but Johnson was a far more polished receiver than Hill coming out of college.
Hill is young and raw and must improve his route running, but he gives the Jets offense the type of dynamic playmaker they’ve been missing. Hill has some work to do before becoming a complete NFL receiver, but it’s something he looks forward to and he has all the confidence in the world he can help the Jets in different ways.
“A lot of big plays down the field and getting big touchdowns in the right time, of course. But other than that I feel like I can bring a lot, actually.” Hill said, “Especially with blocking, I can definitely put somebody on their butt.”
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