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Sanjay Lal's Track Record Provides Hope for Stephen Hill

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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)
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)
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Stephen Hill's career can go in any direction. Wide receiver is one of the most difficult positions to project in the NFL. There is wild variation in success among early picks, even those with excellent physical tools. Some make it. Some do not. Hill could be a bigger version of Ted Ginn. He could be another Randy Moss. He will probably fall somewhere in between It all depends on his work ethic and ability to learn.

Something that gives me hope is the track record of new wide receivers coach Sanjay Lal. While in Oakland, Lal was charged with developing a player who profiled similarly to Hill coming out of school, Darrius Heyward-Bey. Coming out of school, DHB had breathtaking raw athleticism but had no skills wide receivers have. The Raiders picking him in the top ten was widely viewed as a joke.

Three years later, Heyward-Bey is a legitimate NFL receiver. Under Lal's watch, he posted 64 catches for 975 yards in 2011. He made big strides with his hands and route running. DHB was essentially a sprinter coming out of Maryland. He had few receiver skils, but he has improved.

It is always difficult to tell how good a position coach is. When a player fails, sometimes it is not the coach's fault. The player might not have the work ethic or the ability. Conversely, some players are so good that they will be successful no matter the coach they get. Raw athletes like DHB, however, who develop into quality players are the product of good coaching. I am not sure how crazy I am about the Hill pick, but having Lal on the staff gives me optimism.