Aaahhh, springtime is right around the corner and before you know it, the polar vortex will be done unleashing it’s frozen hell upon the U.S. The transition from snow to sunshine can only mean one thing is next– spring cleaning. We all know the routine, go through all the old things you don’t use, wear, or need any longer and toss it in the trash. You may be thinking, “What does this have to do with fantasy football?” Well, much like my wife throwing stuff out to justify buying more things, fantasy owners are also preparing to toss out players they now consider garbage so they can jump into the nice warm caress of a new batch of incoming rookies. This can be a perfect situation to dive right in and scoop up another man’s trash and turn it into your treasure. The first player we will look at as we dive into the dynasty dumpster: Stephen Hill.
How We Got Here
After being taken in the 2nd round of the 2012 draft by the New York Jets, Hill came into the league as a somewhat unknown commodity. He was seen as a raw prospect that had a high ceiling, but also an extremely low floor. The Jets also afforded Hill the opportunity to jump into the starting lineup relatively quick due to their lack of pass catchers. After 2 years with the Jets, Hill has posted a measly 45 catches for a total of 594 yards and 4 touchdowns. These numbers have been less than satisfactory for owners who were taking Hill in the 1st/early-2nd rounds of their rookie drafts for the 2012 season.
The frustration with Hill has been building and now it seems many owners are willing to move him for much cheaper prices than he was going for a year ago. Ryan McDowell’s January ADP data had Hill coming off the board at roughly the 169th overall pick, around players like Shonn Greene, Jacquizz Rodgers, and Marquise Goodwin. Again, a relatively cheap price to pay for a guy who was coming off the board early in rookie drafts just a couple short years ago.
Turning Trash Into Treasure
While Hill’s numbers up to this point in the pro’s have been underwhelming, let us look at why he could potentially be one of the best ‘buy lows’ this off-season.
First off, you cannot teach speed, and Hill’s 4.36 second 40-time at the NFL Combine shows his ability to run like a gazelle. While there have been plenty of players who have posted fast 40-time’s and done nothing in the NFL, these players also possess the potential to take every touch to the endzone by simply outrunning everyone. His senior season at Georgia Tech, where he posted nearly a 30-yard per catch average, shows his ability to be a deep threat for an offense. Hill also provides the length to be a sizable target for Geno Smith. At 6’ 4” and a nearly 40” vertical, the numbers show he can be a guy that can go up on jump balls and potentially come down with catches that would be out of the catch radius of other receivers. While Hill does have a slight frame, 215 lbs, he is also young enough to add some size to his body to better handle contested contact from cornerbacks on catches (which in my opinion, would be worth sacrificing some of his speed).
This all leads to my next argument; Geno Smith is not Mark Sanchez. Smith showed in both college and his rookie season the willingness to throw the ball to all areas of the field (and yes, I know, he also showed the ability to throw the ball to the other team as well with 21 interceptions this past season). Only 60 of Smith’s 443 pass attempts were over 20+ yards, and Hill was only targeted 15 times at depths of 20+ yards on the season. This goes completely against Hill’s ability to get downfield quickly and be the main deep option for Smith. In 2013, Smith was not afforded the greatest opportunities with his receiving core being relatively unhealthy for the majority of the season. The obvious solution to this issue would be for the Jets to add more talented options to the offense, which would not only benefit Smith, but also Hill. Adding a viable option opposite Hill at the WR position, along with the addition of one of the very talented TE’s in the 2014 class, would open up the field for Smith and allow Hill the opportunity to increase his production by properly utilizing his skill set.
While there are plenty of arguments one could make about rostering Stephen Hill and the frustration he has caused to his owners to date, I believe that at this point his asking price and cost in a start-up is worth the gamble. I am not recommending Hill as your WR4/5, or heck, even as a WR6, but he is a player that could see a jump in production in what will be just his 3rd NFL season, and that is worth the risk to me.