When former Georgia Tech receiver Stephen Hill decided to leave school early for the NFL draft, it was one of the more eyebrow-raising decisions in the ACC -- not because Hill was bad, but was he really that good? He obviously had big-play capabilities (29.3 yards per reception), but nothing about his 2011 season screamed first-round draft pick. He only caught 28 passes.
Even coach Paul Johnson was a bit surprised by Hill's decision.
"I was surprised, but in this day and age, that's what a lot of those guys do," Johnson said in a recent interview. "I wouldn't say it caught me totally off-guard. I was surprised, but nothing really surprises me anymore."
How about seeing Hill's name projected as the No. 30 overall pick in this year's NFL draft?
An excerpt from Todd McShay:
This is a big high for a raw prospect like Hill, but with the Patriots and so many other teams looking for size and the ability to stretch the field it won't surprise me to see him off the board this early. Hill (6-4, 215) showed flashes of his big-play ability in 2011 (28 catches, 820 yards), and he had one of the best combine workouts I've ever seen from a wide receiver.
Hill got a second vote of confidence from Mel Kiper Jr., who also has Hill going at No. 30 in his latest mock draft:
Hill set Indy ablaze, going sub-4.4 in the 40 while measuring 6-foot-4. San Francisco, meet the deep threat you've been looking for. It's no secret the 49ers need more out of their wide receivers, and Hill brings a new aspect to the table, with elite size and track speed to stretch defenses both for himself, and to open up things underneath. He'll need an adjustment period as he gets used to a more conventional offense, but some team is going to fall in love with the measurables.
Congrats to Hill for making a smart move that appears bound to pay off.