It has been said that Running Back is a position of depreciating value in the NFL. While this may be true to an extent, even the staunchest of talent evaluators can not shy away from appreciating a true star at said depreciating position. One of the top runners in this year's crop of pro prospects, LSU's Jeremy Hill has star potential and should be one of, if not the first back off the board in next month's draft.
Jeremy Hill's on-field talent and production speaks for itself. His checkered off-field past may raise some red flags. All in all, Hill cuts the figure of a young, talented athlete who's off the field growth simply didn't match his on-field development. Nevertheless, while it would be a mild surprise to see any Running Back taken in the first round on May 8 in New York, Hill should still find himself firmly in the mix to be the top back selected. Jeremy Hill should be one of the first backs selected next month.
Hill was a decorated recruit coming out of Baton Rouge's Redemptorist High School. A 2011 graduate, Hill shattered many of his school's records, en route to a stellar Senior campaign where he rushed for well over 2,000 yards with 36 touchdowns. He was named a Parade All-American, and chose to stay at home by signing for LSU.
Unfortunately, an incident off the field delayed Hill's arrival on campus and left him out of Football for what would have been his Freshman season in 2011. He would go on to miss out on one of the greatest regular season runs in College Football history, as LSU stormed it's way to an SEC Championship. After the legal process ran it's course, Hill was essentially re-recruited by LSU, and at long last, found himself in position to begin his collegiate career.
After a quiet start to his career, Jeremy Hill exploded onto the national stage in a crucial Saturday night matchup against Jadeveon Clowney and the South Carolina Gamecocks. With LSU looking to take some of the load off of Zach Mettenberger and it's struggling passing game, Hill took advantage of his opportunity to help carry the ground game, bursting onto the scene with a 17 carry, 124 yard 2 touchdown performace against the Gamecocks, as the Tigers held on to win 23-21. Hill picked up where he left off the following week, gouging Texas A&M's defense for 127 yards and a score in College Station.
Hill wasn't done yet, rushing for 107 yards and a touchdown in his first career start against top-ranked Alabama. He wound up concluding his Freshman year with a respectable 755 yards on 142 attempts with 12 touchdowns. He caught 8 passes for 73 yards, mostly coming on designed screen plays. Hill set himself up to garner much more hype and attention from local and national media heading into his Sophomore season.
Unfortunately for Jeremy Hill and the LSU Tigers, another off-field incident marred the 2013 offseason for the Bayou Bengal's rising star. Hill's part in an after-hours skirmish outside of a local bar left him in trouble with the law once again. Les Miles suspended Hill indefinitely, leaving his status for the beginning of the 2013 season in doubt. Hill had violated his probation from his previous run-in, and was administered a curfew. Once this legal matter was settled, Hill was allowed back onto the team, but had to re-earn a good standing with his teammates and coaches.
Hill was essentially suspended for the Tigers' opener against TCU. He dressed out but did not enter the game in any fashion. From there, Hill was slowly re-inetgrated into the team's rushing attack. He returned to the starting lineup week 3 in a win over Kent State and responded with a 117 yard, 2 touchdown performance against the Golden Flashes. The following week, Hill ran roughshod over Auburn, tallying 184 yards and 3 scores as LSU handed the BCS runners-up their lone defeat of the regular season. He was named the SEC Offensive player of the week for that performance.
A gritty effort against a good Georgia team followed, as did another 100-plus yard effort against the Florida Gators. In between, Hill ran for 157 yards and a pair of scores as LSU defeated Mississippi State on the road. Hill struggled against Alabama, mustering only 89 all-purpose yards, but did finish strong in wins over Arkansas and Iowa. His involvement in the passing game took a step forward, as new Offensive Coordinator Cam Cameron's impact was felt across the board. Under Cameron's watch, Hill caught 18 passes for 181 yards, and finished the year with a total of 1,401 yards on 203 attempts with 16 scores. His 6.9 YPC average was the most ever by an SEC back with a minimum of 200 carries. Following some deliberation over his future plans, Hill declared for the NFL Draft in early January, choosing to forego his final 2 years of eligibility.
Hill capped his career at LSU ranked 7th in rushing touchdowns and 11th in rushing yards. His 1,401 yards as a Sophomore ranked 2nd in school history for a single season. Due to the fact that he was three years removed from high school, Hill was able to enter the draft unlike most true Sophomores.
Jeremy Hill is a powerful runner who will never shy away from contact at the point of attack. He rarely goes down on first contact, running hard downhill with a penchant for bouncing off of the initial tackler. He sees the holes, attacks them, and gets downhill quickly. Runs with great fluidity and is faster than he looks in the open field. While not overly-used in the passing game, Hill proved to be very effective in the screen game and was able to make plays in space in the flats or on short circle routes. Has upside in the passing game and should fit most styles of offense, and has a lengthy background of operating in pro-style systems. Still just 21 years old.
He is still developing from a pass-protection standpoint. Was at times eager to bail on his protection and look for an opening in the flats. His body control is still a work in progress, and must learn to run at a lower pad level. His conditioning was not great at the start of the 2013 season, part of the hangover of his suspension from the team over the summer, but he should be in the best shape of his life after weeks of training and preparation. There may be a learning curve in certain schemes that ask their backs to do more in the passing game, but Hill's natural talent and skill as a pure runner comes with plenty of developmental upside. Has some past character issues as stated above, which may force some teams to shy away from selecting him in the late first or second rounds.
Arm Length: 32 5/8"
Hand size: 10 3/8"
40 yard dash: 4.66*
Vertical jump: 29" *
Broad jump- 113"
Bench press reps: 20
* Hill ran times of 4.52 and 4.54 at LSU's pro day. He improved his vertical by 2 inches (31").
Jeremy Hill ticks most of the boxes that teams are looking for when in search of top-notch, young talent, particularly at the Running Back position. Nowadays, with teams unearthing diamonds in the rough in the later rounds or even in the undrafted free agent pool, the days of multiple backs being taken early in the first round seems like a distant memory.
However, that does not mean a team in search of a talented, powerful runner to add to its stable of backs won't consider taking a Jeremy Hill or Carlos Hyde if they are available in the 2nd round and beyond. Hill will be the first to admit that his off-field troubles require careful examination, but he has positioned himself to start his professional career with a clean slate and a chance to let his on-field performance be the ultimate talking point.
Jeremy Hill hopes to hear his name called as early as possible. He is still developing as a young man, but his game is NFL ready. All he needs is a team and a coaching staff to appreciate his value as a Football player.
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