Stephen Hill’s name is on the lips of draftniks after a blistering performance at the NFL draft combine Sunday. I spoke with the former Georgia Tech receiver Monday and have notes from the interview.
1. I’d say he was proud and excited for his strong showing in Indianapolis, but not at all surprised. He had said last week he wanted to run a 4.3 in the 40, and I suppose you don’t go around saying that if you don’t know you can already do it, which was the case.
“I actually ran a 4.3 two weeks ago,” Hill said.
Hill just needed to bring it out of himself again. (Interesting nfl.com story about Hill’s training.)
“Of course, I’m not a guy that’s going to brag and be about it, but I was just confident in what I was going to do,” he said.
2. The combine is often described as a strange, grueling process – a battery of job interviews with some of the biggest names in the NFL, hours’ worth of physical exams and then the strength and speed testing. Hill sound like he handled himself fine, just doing what he was asked.
“Other than that, it was about being mentally tough,” he said. “I have matured very much coming from Tech. They have taught me well to handle certain things.”
3. He said he was interviewed by 30 of the 32 teams, the exceptions being the Buffalo Bills and the Philadelphia Eagles. (I don’t know exactly what, if anything, to read into that. A lot of stuff like that around draft time is a poker game. It could be that Chan Gailey feels like he can find out whatever he needs to know about Hill through his contacts at Tech, or that the Eagles don’t like to tip off their hand to players they really want. Or neither has interest, or had other players they wanted to talk to. Hard to tell.)
He got a lot of questions about how he’ll make the adjustment from the spread option to a pro-style offense. His response was that receivers in the offense read coverages and make adjustments like in any other offense.
4. The reaction from Hill’s performance was considerable. He was officially timed at 4.36, tied for the fastest among all participants, and his broad jump of 11′1″ was also the best. His 39.5-inch vertical was fifth. Further, he performed well in the pass-catching drills and, according to Sports Illustrated’s Peter King, made the catch of the combine, “a diving catch in which he laid out and caught the ball at the end of his fingertips.” King went so far as to call him “The Man” from the workouts.
Sports Illustrated’s Tony Pauline put him at the top of the list of risers, saying that his performance lifted Hill into the “early part of Round 2.” I went back and did a little bit of homework on Pauline’s projections. He wasn’t 100 percent accurate, but he was in the ballpark more often than not. I am among those who wonder why so much value is placed on a 40 time – if that’s indeed the case – but more power to Hill if it helps him.
NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said Hill “killed it” in Indianapolis, which will force teams to do more research on him.
5. Hill’s next step is Tech’s pro day March 6. Hill will undoubtedly attract plenty of scouts, which will help get looks for guys like Roddy Jones, Steven Sylvester and Jason Peters, who were not invited to the combine and, if I had to guess, will likely be undrafted free agent types. Hill said that until then, he’ll be working out with former Falcons great Terance Mathis, working on his pass catching and route running. He acknowledged that he has dropped easy passes, and he has been devoting himself to looking passes in, catching the ball with his hands away from his body and developing the strength to bring the ball into his body.
He said he wasn’t sure who he’ll have throwing to him. I’m not sure what the rules are, but I remember that Calvin Johnson ran routes for Taylor Bennett at Tech’s 2009 pro day (Bennett had already transferred to Louisiana Tech, but I would surmise he was permitted to participate at Tech’s pro day since he had been at school there.)
“I feel like I turned some heads, but I’m just trying to keep it humble and get ready for the pro day,” he said.
Thanks for reading.
Ken Sugiura, Georgia Tech blog