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In my weekly column, we take a long look at impact fantasy football rookies.  I compare their performance to date against my original expectations of them.  Let’s continue this 2014 version of the series by looking at one of the most biggest, jhillathletic backs in the last five years in Jeremy Hill.  I will look at some of his college production against his performance versus the Browns to dissect his dynasty value.

These are my thoughts after watching him in college:   This powerful, downhill runner is an explosive athlete with good burst and acceleration.   His clear weakness is while he can read blockers near the line of scrimmage, the runner cannot see more than five to ten yards down the field.  This impedes the back from getting to the second level if his offensive line doesn’t get a hat on a hat.

Hill has decent balance, but still runs a little too tall.  To become a better inside runner, the back must use his pads to deliver punishment, not the other way around.  He has a tendency to let defenders into his body this causes him to slow down which gets him tackled too soon.  This is an issue for most backs 6′ 2″ or taller.  Hill runs like a battering ram keeping his feet churning until the play is over, constantly falling forward for extra yardage.  He enjoys punishing defenders with a nice stiff-arms and high knees making sure they are carrying his weight.   There isn’t much dancing to him as he will take what yardage is available.

There is some  Marcus Allen in the open spaces to his game, but unlike Allen, Hill has some ugly-looking runs too.  For a big back, he has great breakaway speed looking amazing in space.  The back puts his foot down and streaks down the field. It’s the combination of his quick feet and lateral quickness that helps set up the runs in the open space.  Hill starts and stops his body quite well, but does not create his own space in tight spots because of his poorer than average vision.

This man can hurdle over a defender, use a jump cut or a spin move to avoid the tackle, but will simply get caught up in the trash at the line of scrimmage.  The back is a better outside runner, but he can mix it up running between the tackles if he has a good o-line in front of him.  When he needs to, the runner gets small in the hole, only to squirt out for a huge gain. Hill shows rare hustle as he is always looking for the run to the house and sometimes ignores the first whistle after being brought down, gets up, and streaks towards the end zone.

The back has long arms with decent hands making difficult receptions with defenders draped all over him.  Hill impresses on passes to the flat and wheel routes with his suddenness combined with body control to adjust to the ball in the air.  It’s concerning when he body catches as this limits his ability to break passes wide open, because he has to concentrate on making the catch before running with the ball.

Hill is a very inconsistent pass blocker, sometimes he gets in a blitzer’s face cutting them off from the quarterback, and at other times he simply whiffs making no contact with the pass rusher.  This will limit his use in an offense if he cannot be trusted to help pass block.  Ball security is another concern as Hill seems to carry the ball away from his body.  He can look like a  young Tiki Barber out there holding the ball like a loaf of bread. The young back also has a tendency to leave his feet for less than ideal situations.  If it’s the difference between scoring a touchdown or gaining the first down, it should be commended.  However, Hill seems to leave his feet just to gain extra yardage and take more punishment than is necessary.  Every back only has some many carries in them.

Against the Browns: the rookie back did not have another 150+ yards plus game like he did the previous week.  Many dynasty owners might look at his pedestrian night of 12 carries for 55 yards, one catch for six yards, and a nasty fumble with disappointment for his second NFL career start.  I understand if you are as I started him in multiple leagues myself.  Those statistics alone won’t tell the story. His quarterback, Andy Dalton, completed close to 30% of his passes, threw for 86 yards, and had three interceptions so that let the entire Browns defense concentrate on Hill.

The former LSU back runs strong and low to the ground between the tackles, using good leg drive while always falling forward.  One of his most impressive traits is his quick feet that he uses for lateral agility making runners miss.  His vision in close quarters is good as he follows his blockers well in the trenches.  Despite weighing almost 240 lbs., Hill is explosive and can run outside as well as he does inside.  There were several plays that the runner didn’t give up showing off a spin move, great balance, and sheer determination despite his team trailing the entire game. He leapt over a pile of humanity to get a much-needed first down, but struggled some during pass protection.  The back gets in front of a blitzer, but got knocked back a bit too much on a few plays.  The young runner has soft hands and got targeted more than the stats show due to a few penalties. The nasty fumble Hill had been the result of a helmet right to the ball as the back had the ball tucked away.

I don’t believe there are many questions about Hill’s talent.  It is more about the role in the offense that he plays.  When Gio Bernard is healthy, the rookie back is a great complement player.  Bernard is quicker, has better hands and vision with more explosion. Of course Hill is bigger, more powerful, and a better goal line back.  Unless the Bengals improve their defense quickly, they will be forced into more shootouts which favor Bernard’s skill set over Hill.  I like the rookie back as a dynasty RB3 with a chance for more, but is unfortunately more dependent on game script like Alfred Morris or a healthy Steven Ridley.

 

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