ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 8: Stephen Hill of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets carries the ball against the Maryland Terrapins at Bobby Dodd Stadium on October 8, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
Geoff Hobson of bengals.com writes about how one iconic Bengals figure (and draft day steals) could see the Bengals taking a chance on another receiver in the either the first or second round. Cris Collinsworth thinks that the Bengals offense could be very dangerous if they were to draft Georgia Tech wideout, Stephen Hill, with an early draft pick.
"Let me tell you something," says Cris Collinsworth of Georgia Tech's Stephen Hill, "you put him opposite A.J. (Green), what are you going to do? You're going to have to play seven against the run. You're not playing one of those guys without safety help. I wouldn't."
Hill is ranked as the fourth or fifth wide receiver in the draft, depending on who you talk to, and he can make a significant impact on the field, but his talent is raw (see: everyone who analyzes Hill's skills). His draft stock has risen since is 4.3 40-yard dash at the combine but, as Collinsworth notes, his upside is worth the risk for the Bengals.
Hill, as noted above, has ridiculous speed that would be put to good use in the Bengals offense opposite A.J. Green, but that is not the only positive trait one can find concerning Hill. Georgia Tech was a run-heavy offense in 2011, but this helped him develop an aspect of his game that many NFL wide receivers struggle with and want to get better at--run blocking. The ability for a wide receiver to block is a hot commodity in the NFL. Bengals fans have seen first hand when a wide receiver takes running plays off and the one block that they miss might have sprung a touchdown (I'm looking at you Ocho).
Not only does Hill have the speed to get behind a defense, especially an aging Steelers and Ravens defense, but his size (6-4, 206) allows him to make difficult catches and push around cornerbacks. Hill's size is almost exactly the same as Green's, so Collinsworth's comparison of the two is not without merit, but where Green exceeds, Hill comes up short. So, the comparison ends after their size, but comparing any WR to Green is impossible, so that is certainly not a knock against Hill.
He does have two glaring holes in his game that need to be addressed and are likely reasons that most analysts give him the "raw" comment. The first is his hands. Hill has been known to drop some catch-able passes in his college career and that could raise some flags. Although Hill is known to make circus-style catches, he is also known to drop easy touchdowns because he lets the ball get into his body rather than using his hands to catch. Is this a trait that can be broken in an NFL training camp? It's a legitimate question and we can only wait and see.
The second negative regarding Hill is his explosion off the snap. Collinsworth comments that even though this is an issue, it is not something that should detract the Bengals from taking a hard look at him in the second round:
"What he doesn’t do well, you can fix," Collinsworth says. "He's got to come off the ball harder for one thing. If he came off the line at the combine running the way he came off the ball, he would have run a 4.7. The guy that ran the 40, if he came off the ball like that, he'd give people heart attacks. They don't run routes at Georgia Tech. You've got to teach him and he may be a non-factor for a year, but he's a guy that at 6-4 and runs a 4.3 and he can catch well enough. He's had some really bad drops, but he makes some plays, too."
Obviously Hill can explode off the ball, but it's getting him to do it regularly and routinely that will need to be worked on during OTA's and training camp. Many Georgia Tech officials and coaches were shocked that Hill declared because they all felt he needed another year to sharpen his skills, but the reward that could come from a talent like Hill could be great.
As Collinsworth notes, Hill has a lot of learning to do and would be a good fit as a no. 2 or no. 3 receiver during his rookie year, but all of the negatives said regarding Hill can be fixed and the positive attributes that Hill can bring to the Bengals' offense would qualify him as a solid WR2 and would be difficult to cover for defenders. If the Bengals drafted Hill and used him opposite Green, there is no way that any defense would be able to allow a CB to be on an island with either Green or Hill. This would have a significant impact on the running game, as well. Having to use four defensive backs to cover 2 wide receivers would only leave 7 in the box to stop the run. Drafting Stephen Hill would not only enhance the Bengals' passing attack, it would give our running-back-by-committee backfield a great opportunity to gash defenses and take control of games. It is a win-win for Bengals nation.