|Stephen Hill didn't put up gaudy numbers in a run-heavy Georgia Tech offense. (AP)|
NEW YORK -- I'm not sure whom the New York Jets can thank for Stephen Hill, but I'd start with the Rams. When they passed on the Georgia Tech wide receiver at the top of the second round of the 2012 NFL Draft it opened the door for someone, anyone, interested in a burner who can stretch the field.
And that someone was ... altogether now ... the J-E-T-S, Jets! Jets! Jets!
Don't ask me why he lasted. I know a regional scout who had a first-round grade on the guy, who loved his speed, his hands and his ability to block. What I love is that he's not Santonio Holmes or Plaxico Burress. I don't care if it's Mark Sanchez or Tim Tebow throwing passes for the Jets this season, he must have someone who's a deep threat.
And Stephen Hill is that guy.
So he caught just 28 passes last year. Big deal. First of all, Georgia Tech is a run-heavy offense, throwing with the regularity of sellouts in Tampa Bay. Second, he was the second-fastest guy at the February scouting combine, someone who averaged 29.3 yards per catch and had five touchdowns -- or one every six catches. Third, he comes from a program that gave us Calvin Johnson and Demaryius Thomas.
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I'll take that, especially 11 picks into the second round -- which is where the Jets found him after trading up.
It was an unlikely spot for Hill, projected in most mock drafts to go in the first round, and while he said it didn't matter I guarantee that long wait in the Green Room -- with Hill one of the last three left of 26 players invited to the draft -- won't be forgotten. I remember what draft prospect Aaron Rodgers said after he slipped to the 24th pick in the 2005 draft, and it was something along the lines of he wouldn't forget who passed on him.
"I definitely feel the same way," said Hill. "Once I get that chance to go on the field and play I'll give them something to remember."
That sounds like a warning to me, and good. It should. It's about time the Jets had a wide receiver who backed off defenders, and maybe Hill is the answer. All I know is that they needed someone to pair with Holmes, and I'm not talking about Jeremy Kerley, Patrick Turner or Chaz Schilens. I'm talking about someone who can back off defenses, make big catches and have an impact.
Oh, yeah, and someone who can get along with the quarterback.
"I'm ready to go out there and play and turn some heads," said Hill.
To prove that, he led fans at Radio City Music Hall in impromptu Jets cheers and, shortly after he was chosen, talked on stage about Super Bowls -- something that has become verboten in coach Rex Ryan's approach to a new season. But Stephen Hill is remarkably different than some of the divas that inhabited last year's locker room, and forget about what he does for the locker room. Look what he does on the field.
He produces more than 11.4 yards per catch, which was the average of all New York's receivers last season. Honest. No one with more than two receptions averaged more than 13.6 yards per catch, and that was Burress ... and Burress is gone. So the Jets had to find a vertical threat for their quarterbacks, and they just did ... thank you, St. Louis.
"I'm just ready to come in here and give the fans something to cheer about," said Hill.
Speaking on behalf of Mark Sanchez, let me say: It's about time.