Imagine Tim Tebow didn’t have an ego that kept him from playing anything but quarterback. And imagine Tebow didn’t have a delusional fanbase convinced he deserved to be a starting quarterback in the NFL despite completing fewer than half his passes.
Behold, Taysom Hill.
The New Orleans Saints claimed Hill off waivers before the 2017 season when he didn’t make the Green Bay Packers’ final roster. He was an undrafted quarterback who was 95th out of 100 quarterbacks in passer rating during his senior year at BYU. It wasn’t his shaky abilities as a passer that landed him in the NFL — it was everything else he could bring to the table.
He had 32 rushing touchdowns during his collegiate career and the Saints are putting those unique skills to good use:
Hill’s just a flat out good running back
If the Saints’ third-string quarterback made a full-time transition to running back, he’d probably be a perfect fit. Hill is 6’2, 221 pounds and reportedly ran a 4.46 in the 40-yard dash at his pro day with a 38.5-inch vertical. For comparison, Adrian Peterson is 6’1, 220 pounds and ran a 4.41 at the 2007 NFL Combine with a 38.5-inch vertical.
That doesn’t mean Hill’s the second coming of Peterson, but it does give some perspective that explains why he’s been so hard for defenses to tackle. He has the speed to beat teams to the edge:
He has the power to run through arm tackles:
When Taysom Hill is in the game, you should know the zone read is coming and that he will likely keep it no matter what. And that he can run over defenders like Landon Collins.— Ted Nguyen (@FB_FilmAnalysis) October 12, 2018
Like the arc block by the TE here. pic.twitter.com/f3kW4zxBHi
And when you combine that size and speed, he eats up yardage in a hurry:
Six games into the Saints’ 5-1 season, Hill has 125 rushing yards on only 18 carries. His 6.9 yards per carry is one of the best marks in the NFL, but it’s his throwing ability that makes it all work.
Hill throws just well enough to be a nightmare
What if one of the NFL’s many dangerous running backs was a threat to throw every time he had the ball in his hands? It’s partly why Ronnie Brown’s Wildcat offense was unstoppable for about a month early in the Dolphins’ 2008 season.
In the case of Hill, it makes him a rusher that the defense has to be careful about fully committing to stop. It’s the biggest reason he’s been so efficient on the ground, even if he’s only attempted two passes so far in 2018. His only completion was on a fake punt:
He showed what he can do as a passer in preseason with 36 completions on 49 attempts for 365 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. But it makes sense why the Saints traded for Teddy Bridgewater to be the backup and possible starter of the future in New Orleans. There just isn’t much faith in running an offense with Hill at quarterback full time.
But he can throw well enough to scare teams and when that is coupled with his rushing ability, it makes him difficult to deal with.
Just putting him on the field makes an impact now
He can run, he can throw, and he can even block.
Ravens will get a taste of their medicine in terms of facing an athletic back-up QB when the Saints bring in Taysom Hill (7) into the game. He's returned 7 kicks & in their RZ packages he's a threat to run it or throw it. They'll even use him as a blocker. pic.twitter.com/G1ztF80Kbj— michael crawford (@abukari) October 18, 2018
With Hill bringing so many different skills to the table, he has to be accounted for by the defense. The Saints only put him on the field for about 10 percent of their offensive snaps and it draws the attention of defenders, even if he’s just a decoy.
Just faking a jet sweep to Hill in a Week 5 game sucked up a Washington cornerback and left Tre’Quan Smith open for a 35-yard touchdown.
Saints running the 2017 copycat NFL Play-of-the-Year— Josh Cohen (@jco3215) October 9, 2018
Fake jet sweep, RB vertical - w/ utility knife Taysom Hill involved for good measure
Complete with more WASH coverage breakdowns#WASvsNO pic.twitter.com/PmsJ9ciFDV
What are the limits for Hill? Pretty much anything except kicking the ball:
Taysom Hill was asked what's the most fun position to play for the #Saints. Kick returner, quarterback, running back, blocker, upback on punts.— Garland Gillen (@garlandgillen) October 1, 2018
"I can't single out one thing. Just being on the field with these guys is a unique bond, and I love that." @FOX8NOLA #BYU pic.twitter.com/vE8UnhTB5E
There are many reasons the Saints are 5-1. Drew Brees is still cooking defenses, the defense shook off a slow start, and the offense is loaded with weapons like Alvin Kamara, Michael Thomas, and Mark Ingram. But the team’s most unique piece is its third-string quarterback and he’s being used to perfection.