The Jets took a bit of a splash last year, trading a 4th round draft pick and committing 10 million dollar contract to Chris Ivory, a 4th string back from New Orleans who had an exciting, tackle-breaking, hard-charging style. Ivory was a mixed bag, finishing the year with decent stats but was at times injured and invisible during the important parts of the game. Bilal Powell remains the backup after 3 years where he has teased with flashes but has ultimately been just a guy. It's possible that the Jets could look to add some talent to the backfield.
Jeremy Hill is a guy who could add that talent at a low price. Hill was a 4 star running back out of Baton Rouge who committed to his hometown LSU Tigers to add to their talented stable in the backfield. Hill burst out onto the scene as a redshirt freshman with three straight 100 yard games against South Carolina, Texas A&M, and Alabama, as well as a big game in the Chik-Fil-A Bowl against Clemson. Hill was considered to be part of the very high touted class of 2015/2016 back along with Todd Gurley, TJ Yeldon, Keith Marshall, Duke Johnson, Melvin Gordon, and Mike Davis. However, Hill ran into a few off the field issues, notably when he was arrested for sucker punching a man outside of a bar. This came on the back of a high school incident where he was arrested for engaging in oral sex with a 14 year old student in the high school locker room, which delayed his admission to LSU for a year. After a 1,400 yard, 16 TD sophomore season, Hill decided to turn pro.
Weight: 233 lbs
Class: RS Sophomore
40 yard dash: 4.66
Bench press: 20 reps
Vertical jump: 29"
Broad jump: 9' 5"
Size and Power: Hill is a big, sturdy kid. 6-1, 233 and his size pops out on tape. This kid is difficult to stop when he gets moving downhill. He runs tough, he runs behind his pads, and he moves people. He bowls over DBs and knocks back LBs who dare stand in his way. Kid is a beast.
Burst: For a back of his size, on tape Hill hits holes pretty good. He has the good vision to find the hole and can get through it in a hurry for a big back. Not exactly a speed demon but is deceptive with how fast he gets through the hole, which leads to bad angles. Is not "too slow" for the league.
Tackle breaking: Is almost impossible to tackle one on one. He's too big and has very good feet for a man his size. Almost slides off of tacklers in the open field and has some long runs where he has gotten most of it after contact. Don't even think of arm tackling this guy. It's not a pretty sight.
Balance: The thing that may separate him from other backs in this class is his balance. Even when players attack his legs, he's able to keep his feet and continue his run. Several of his highlights include Hill running through tacklers in the open field and keeping upright when someone with a lesser base may have fallen.
Usage: Running back is a physically demanding position. You take a lot of hits and have short careers. Thus, I look for prospects who have maximum tread on the tires. Hill had 371 career touches between receptions and carries. To me, that's right in the sweet spot between "enough to show that you have legit NFL ability" and "overworked and used up before getting to the league". Hill has displayed an ability to be a workhorse but LSU was able to split the load to avoid grinding their backs to nothingness.
Ball Security: Though the NCAA doesn't officially keep fumble statistics, it is widely stated that Hill has only fumbled one time in his college career. Not bad.
Nose for the end zone: Despite the deep stable of backs and 2 highly touted NFL WRs, Hill still wound up nabbing 16 rushing touchdowns. Was effective in the red zone as he's able to bull his way to pay dirt with his strength and power. A pile pusher who should be an effective TD vulture in the NFL.
Character: Might as well get it out the way off the bat. At 18 in high school, he was arrested after coercing a 14 year old fellow student to give him and a teammate oral sex on school grounds. This delayed him a year into getting into LSU as previously mentioned. While at LSU, he was again arrested for simple battery. There is video of the incident, showing Hill dressed in a toga sucker punching a man that wasn't looking, then high-fiving his friends. It was stupid and dangerous for a man of Hill's significant mass and strength to do, not to mention a little cowardly. Anyone considering drafting Hill may have to reconcile some of Hill's off-field issues before they consider taking him.
Long speed: While Hill has the ability to get past poor angles, no one will ever mistake Hill for Reggie Bush in flat out speed. As the 40 time correctly indicates, Hill isn't going to outrun DBs in a dead heat to the end zone. He does get caught from behind a few times on tape.
Bounces outside too much: One thing I don't like is Hill's tendency to bounce the ball to the outside even when he has some space up the middle. While some backs can get away with it, I don't think Hill has the speed and quick-twitch acceleration to be very successful trying to force the ball outside, and would be even more difficult to imagine at the pro level. Average lateral agility leads to long bounces to the outside.
Receiving: Hill wasn't used very much as a receiver at LSU, only notching 26 catches in 2 seasons at LSU. However, this may have been a product of LSU's offense. Hill was actually the team's third leading receiver on the season with 182 receiving yards, so it's possible that the back simply wasn't a part of the passing attack there. And on film, Hill does display soft hands. So this may be less "negative" and more "unknown".
Pass blocking: Has the ability be an asset in pass protection, but too often fails to keep his head up and whiffs on pass rushers. Still developing in this area.
Help: Hill played on an offense that was very talented. Zach Mettenberger is an NFL prospect; both LSU starting WRs will be pretty high draft picks; but above all, LSU had one of the best offensive lines in college football. Hill runs through pretty big holes- and though he hits them quickly, it is fair to call into question his ability to "create" yards. He doesn't really show a ton of wiggle or ability to change directions quickly if the hole is plugged... and generally bounces outside when he doesn't find anything. Likely, he won't be seeing the holes in the NFL that he saw at LSU as often.
Redundant?: Hill has good feet but he is still a power back above all else. And that makes you question if he presents anything new to the backfield behind starter Chris Ivory. Hill did run out of a pro set but does he fit the Jets plans of the WCO and the zone blocking scheme? A legitimate question to ask.
NFL Comparison: LeGarrett Blount, New England Patriots
Hill isn't quite as big as Blount, though not many are. But Hill and Blount share similar characteristics of being difficult to tackle one on one, running with determination, and having quick feet and good burst for big backs. Blount has had an up and down career but with a 1,000 yard season to his credit and some big time contributions to the Patriots, Blount has had a career that is far from a failure.
From a pure talent standpoint, Jeremy Hill may top this class. His production, size, feet, and ball security, with seemingly soft hands, projects him as one of the draft's few potential three down backs. He comes with several warts, certainly, not to start and end with his legal issues. But there's a chance that come 4 years down the road, we're talking about Jeremy Hill as the most successful back to emerge from the class.
Would I draft him for the Jets?
I would draft him for the Jets. I would not draft him as high as I think his talent level indicates, which IMO is the second round. I don't think anyone would take him that high, however. In the late 4th, however, I start to become very interested. The Jets certainly need to add to the backfield because Powell is about as JAG as it gets. Seriously, Powell may be the most mediocre player on the planet. He's not bad at anything... he's just not good at anything either. Hill does have an interesting skill set to add to the backfield. While he wouldn't be the pass receiving west coast back Jets fans are clamoring for, being able to throw a fresh power back at the D after having already worn them down with power... oooh baby.
As always, you can find game tape located here at Draft Breakdown. But to whet your appetite a bit, here's a highlight video of Hill doing a bit of beast mode.