By Matt Vensel
7:00 AM PDT, April 24, 2012
Each day this week leading up to Thursday’s NFL draft, we will highlight one prospect whom the Ravens could draft with the 29th overall pick. Today’s player is Georgia Tech wide receiver Stephen Hill, who will likely parlay an eye-popping performance at the NFL scouting combine into being a late first-round draft pick.
Background: Hill was a three-sport star in high school and opted to attend Georgia Tech so he could play close to home. In three seasons in Georgia Tech's triple-option attack, Hill caught 49 passes for 1,248 yards and nine touchdowns. But his game tape and upside could get him selected before the Ravens are on the clock.
Measurables: The 6-4, 215-pound receiver turned heads at the combine when he ran a 4.36 in the 40-yard dash and led all receivers in the broad jump, too. He did, however, post a combine-worst in the 20-yard shuttle.
Deserves praise: A tremendous athlete for someone his size, Hill has been (fair or not) compared to a pair of former Georgia Tech wide receivers: Calvin Johnson and Demaryius Thomas. He has excellent straight-line speed along with leaping ability, competitiveness and a flair for making spectacular catches. All that should make him a legitimate deep threat in this league, but can Hill be more than just a guy who runs go routes?
Needs work: He needs to prove he’s more than just a track guy and that he can run a variety of routes, not just vertical ones. It’s similar to the criticism that Thomas, a first-round pick by Denver, faced when he was drafted two years ago. He also needs to be more consistent catching the ball as he dropped some passes.
Fun factoid: As a senior in high school, Hill broke the Georgia state long jump record of 25 feet and 8 3/4 inches. That would have been good enough to finish tied for ninth place at the Beijing Olympics.
Quotable: “Those guys get a little bit of everything,” Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson told The Atlanta Journal Constitution, referring to his wideouts. “Certainly, they have to block, and they are running routes and reading coverages. That’s what we’ve told those guys all along. A lot of people want to be negative and say it hurts them and they don’t get developed. But the feedback that I’ve gotten is that they [are ready for the NFL]. The offense kind of turns them into a complete player, and they can see all of that on tape.”
Why he makes sense: Team officials have said throughout the offseason that wide receiver is a high priority. Torrey Smith had an excellent rookie season, but Anquan Boldin only has two years left on his deal and doesn’t consistently get separation. The Ravens must add more speed to make things easier for quarterback Joe Flacco, who, like most quarterbacks, is better when he can quickly identify when a receiver is getting open. Hill would be able to help right away in that regard, and hopefully they would eventually be able to develop him into a complete receiver, something they have struggled to do with high draft picks in the past.
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