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Stephen Hill: 2013 and Beyond

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Mitchell Leff

Stephen Hill's 2013 got off to a decent start. He had 6 catches in the opener against Tampa Bay. In the second game against New England, he failed to deliver on a few costly plays, including a killer fumble. He still had 4 catches for 86 yards. Then against Buffalo a week later, he looked a bit like the playmaker the Jets had always hoped he would become with 3 catches for 108 yards, including a long touchdown.

Then in the next nine games he had 11 catches for 109 yards. That was his total output. Then he was placed on injured reserve with a knee injury.

Everybody knew that even if Hill became an NFL force, it would take time. The issue with him is not his failure to dominate in his first two years. The issue is that he doesn't seem to be making any kind of progress or improvement as a player. He entered the league as a raw prospect who struggled with basic parts of the job. Two years later that description still fits.

When he was drafted out of Georgia Tech, people compared him with Demaryius Thomas. I understand why the comparisons were made. Thomas was also a raw receiver with freakish athleticism. Given the divergent paths of their respective careers, the comparison just doesn't work anymore. Thomas is a very physical receiver. Hill doesn't deal with contact well. Thomas is dynamic when he has the ball in his hands. Hill isn't. Thomas can win contested balls using his big frame. There aren't many examples of Hill doing that.

Hill had great measurables. Those don't make a great football player, though. I'm sure if you needed a guy to compete in a track and field event, Hill would be world class. His physical gifts just do not seem to translate to the football field. You frequently hear about players who play faster than they are timed. Hill plays slower than he was timed. It seems like it takes him a really long time to get up to his top speed, and he doesn't change direction well. He is slow coming out of his breaks. He is big, but he seldom utilizes that to his advantage.

When it comes to projects, it is always important to see progress. A guy might not be great today, but you can sell yourself on it if he keeps improving. I'm not really sure where Hill has gotten better. He dropped less balls this year, but he still catches too many against his body. That trait led to bobbles and will lead to more drops in the future.

I personally think the only reason Hill is on this team is the fact the Jets took him in the second round. Raw projects are a dime a dozen. The guys who show as little growth as Hill tend to not last two full years.

Hill will count $1.2 million against the cap next year. I think his spot is in more danger than people realize. He may be a project, but he is the project of a general manager who was fired. Jeremy Kerley and David Nelson are under contract. The Jets are in a position to add two wide receivers. This could leave Hill on the outside looking in. The fifth spot could just as easily go to another project who can at least help the Jets on special teams.

I think that's the way it should be with Hill. He should get one last chance to try and make good on his physical ability. If he cannot show any kind of improvement, the Jets should move on. I also would be open to the kind of bust for bust swap San Francisco and Kansas City made last year involving A.J. Jenkins and Jon Baldwin. I haven't seen much from Hill to make me believe he is going to get better.