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Stephen Hill: I Know What You Did Last Season
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Image via You Don’t Know Football.com

Compared to first-rounder A.J. Jenkins, 2012 second-rounder Stephen Hill was an All-Pro last season, but when one considers the outright Moss-esque performance Hill put up in his first NFL game—then his rookie year smells as rotten and rank as the State of Denmark.

In February, RotoViz’s Jon Moore discussed in this article Hill’s potential and considered how his collegiate performances at Georgia Tech compared to those of other WRs to enter the NFL recently from the school: Calvin Johnson and Demaryius Thomas. While I am a fan of Hill and agree with Moore’s description of Hill’s potential, I here want to place the relative horridness of Hill’s rookie campaign into perspective. Just how disappointingly bad was it?

Since 1978 (when the league initiated the 16-game season) only two other rookie WRs have had as dominant of a one-game performance while also having as lackluster of a season. Almost no one with as high of a brief high has had as low of a sustained low. If one cross-references between two screeners, the first for rookie WRs with at least one game as good as Hill’s 89-2 single-game effort and the second for rookie WRs with season totals no better than Hill’s 252-3, only two names are produced: Clint Sampson (1983) and Marty Booker (1999), both of whom were selected as third-round picks out of non-major FBS schools. The table is organized by year-one positional ranking.

Player Year 1G Rec 1G Yds 1G TDs Gms Y1 Rec Y1 Yds Y1 TDs Y1 Rank Y2 Rank Y3 Rank Y4 Rank
Marty Booker 1999 7 134 2 9 19 219 3 76 64 14 12
Clint Sampson 1983 3 101 2 16 10 200 3 80 95 54 85
Stephen Hill 2012 5 89 2 11 21 252 3 91
Avg sans Hill 5 117.5 2 12.5 14.5 209.5 3 78 79.5 34 97

Neither Booker nor Sampson had a top-30 season as a second-year WR. Booker eventually had two top-30 efforts, coming in his third and fourth years, while Sampson peaked at 54 in his third year and was out of the NFL after his fourth. What does Hill’s inclusion in this small group mean? I think that Booker and Sampson represent the reasonable limits of his potentialities. He could develop into a version of either guy, but if he becomes a top-30 WR Hill is unlikely to become Megatron or Demaryius. His upside is probably Marty Booker. Useful, but is that actually exciting? Similarly, even if he fails to achieve a top-30 season, Hill probably won’t be any worse than Sampson—that is, his best season probably won’t be any worse than—gasp—54. Does the “safety” of that minimized downside comfort you?

I know that Hill’s raw physical attributes and his week-one performance last year give fantasy players the hope that he will see year-two improvement, and he probably will be improved, but people should be utterly pessimistic about Hill putting up a top-30 performance in 2013. In other words, he will not be anything close to a consistently startable player.

If one looks at RotoViz’s (excellent) WR Similarity App (which compares any given WR to a historically analogous cohort), one will see that it projects year-over-year improvement for Hill—understandably so, since he cannot play much worse as long as he stays healthy.

Out of the 20 players in the comparable group, the player with the most improvement was Darrius Heyward-Bey, from 2010 to 2011, and his positional ranking was 28. And DHB is the only guy, out of the entire cohort, to put up a top-30 season. Unless you think that Hill is about to make a DHB-esque leap (and, in retrospect, what kind of leap was it really?), you shouldn’t think about rostering Hill in redraft leagues for 2013. He simply won’t do anything for your team.

And if he’s on your dynasty roster and you’re holding him for his long-term potential, just remember—he’s not likely to be the next great WR from Georgia Tech. At this point, you’re hoping he becomes Marty Booker.

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