The New York Jets made a splash in the second round of the 2012 NFL Draft, trading up to pick Georgia Tech wide receiver Stephen Hill. Just as with the Quinton Coples selection, some were very critical of the pick, especially giving up more picks (the Jets traded their second, fifth and seventh rounder choices to move up four spots in the second round) in the process to take a wide receiver that wasn't very polished and came from a triple-option offense in college. The size and speed combination offered by Stephen Hill was too much for the Jets to pass up. How did he do as a rookie in 2012?
Throughout the 2012 season, New York Jets rookie wide receiver Stephen Hill showed tantalizing flashes of the supreme talent he can bring to the table, mixed in with some frustrating bouts with injuries and a case of the drops. It's not unprecedented, as many rookie wide receivers go through an adjustment period in their first season in the NFL. Professional cornerbacks and creative defensive coordinators have a way of making that happen, coupled with momentary lapses in concentration.
For Stephen Hill, the absence of Santonio Holmes for almost all of the season didn't help. With Dustin Keller in and out of the lineup, there were games when he was the focal point for opposing secondaries, That's not what the Jets had in mind: thy hoped to use his size and speed as a matchup problem while teams were focused on shutting down Santonio Holmes and Dustin Keller.
In many ways, Stephen Hill brings to mind a young Braylon Edwards. They are very similar in size, both have rare speed, and have a history of making big plays. Both are also more-than-willing blockers on the outside. Like Stephen Hill, Braylon Edwards struggled with drops early on in his career, but eventually became a Pro Bowl wide receiver and helped spark the Jets offense after coming over in a trade with the Cleveland Browns.
Their rookie seasons are actually eerily similar. After being drafted third overall, Braylon Edwards played in 10 games in the 2005 season, catching 32 passes for 512 yards and three touchdowns. After the Jets took him in the second round of the 2012 NFL Draft, Stephen Hill played in 11 games, starting eight, and catching 21 passes for 252 yards and three touchdowns. Braylon Edwards really took off over the next three years, with his best season being in 2007 with 80 catches for 1,289 yards and 16 touchdowns.
That's not to say that Stephen Hill is going to be there by 2014, but that's a huge jump that has been mirrored in the past by other big-time wide receivers in their first few seasons. It's not surprising that a wide receiver from a college offense rooted in the triple option needs some work on his route running and needs to be more consistent catching the football, but there are flashes and signs of greatness for Stephen Hill.