Stephen Hill has been rising up draft boards ever since his epic performance at the combine, which included a 4.3 40-yard dash time. Everyone knew Hill was big and talented but the combine performance showed that he also has big-time speed. Comparisons between Hill and Lions stud Calvin Johnson started flying around. At this point, few project Hill to land outside the first round, and some have him going as high as 19 to the Chicago Bears. Those who do question his first round worthiness point to the triple-option system he played in at Georgia Tech and his consequent lack of polish as a receiver.
In other words, Hill is almost all upside. A team like the Vikings, who after failing to sign Pierre Garcon are still desperately looking for a #1 receiver, might prefer drafting a more finished player, hoping to plug him in immediately. Or, they might view Hill as such a monstrously talented prospect that, even with that big immediate need, they couldn’t pass on him. We do know the Vikings are at least intrigued by Hill’s talent. He and South Carolina wide out Alshon Jeffery were brought in for a visit earlier this week, according to Adam Caplan.
Hill’s raw ability makes him a fascinating prospect, but he might be too much of a gamble for a Vikings team that, all these years after trading away Randy Moss, is still searching for a man who can give them true #1 receiver production for an extended period of time. Then again, look at the other prospects who might be available early in the second round and tell me which of them has Hill’s potential. Alshon Jeffery? His attitude and conditioning are big question marks, and there are many who project him as a possession receiver only. Mohamed Sanu? His slowish 40 at the combine cast doubt on his ability to be a downfield threat. Of course raw speed isn’t necessarily the #1 trait needed to be an effective deep receiver, as Sidney Rice demonstrated during his one excellent season with the Vikings (Sanu, it must now be pointed out, is several inches shorter than Rice).
In summation: Jeffery seems like a risky pick thanks to some of his baggage – those Mike Williams comparisons should be enough to give anyone pause – and there are questions whether Sanu can fill the role the Vikings need filled. If you want the absolutely safe pick, I would still go with Sanu, who may have the hands and ball skills if not the pure speed required to become a #1. But if you want to hit a real home run? If you want to find a Calvin Johnson-like game changer? Hill seems like your best chance. Of course the Vikings would likely need to trade up into the late first to even have a shot at Hill, if the mock drafters are correct.
Draft intrigue, served up hot and steaming.