Brian Hill was selected in the fifth round of the 2017 draft and is headed into his third season. Last year he was active for 10 games, with no starts. Hill ended up with 20 carries for 157 yards and one reception. So far he hasn’t scored a touchdown as a pro.
With Tevin Coleman gone to the 49ers and Devonta Freeman resuming his starting role, Hill has a great opportunity to put in his bid for the top backup spot at running back. After watching his film, I believe Hill has an enormous amount of potential, and I can see the Falcons using him quite a bit this season before it is all said and done.
The one thing that jumped out to me from watching Hill play was how patient he was in setting up his blockers. He was never in too much of a hurry until, that is, a crease opened up in front of him. As soon as Hill saw so much as a sliver, he stuck his foot in the ground, mashed the gas, and hit the hole like it owed him money.
He has a great sense of timing, and his vision appears to be superb as well.
Some of that is just natural ability, but I suspect Hill is a guy who pays attention to details. He always seemed to have a pretty good read on how the blocking was going to play out in front of him and a strong idea of where the cracks in the defense would show up.
That shows me Hill is serious about maximizing his opportunities.
I also loved Hill’s physicality in the open field last season. Mind you, he was pretty good at making people miss, too, but at 6’1 and almost 220 pounds he also didn’t mind lowering the boom on a cat, either.
In the first preseason game he showed a nice amount of burst to go along with his physicality. He was able to bounce outside for good yardage, and put his head down and pound out some tough yards inside the tackle as well.
Hill may not be flashy, but he has the kind of running style that minimizes lost yardage. If he gets past the front line, he looks like a guy who can be a home run hitter with his speed. He makes it tough on a defense because if even one guy gets out of their gap up front, Hill has the vision and ability to find the hole where that guy was supposed to be and exploit it.
Of course, the top backup job won’t be handed to Hill.
He is going to be battling Ito Smith, Kenjon Barner, and this year’s fifth-round pick, Qadree Ollison, for playing time. In fact, Smith has started ahead of Hill this preseason. However, Hill appears to me to be the most talented of that group. So long as he stays healthy, I feel comfortable he will get plenty of opportunities in the offense this season.
Hell, even if he is the third-string back, I still think he will end up with a lot more than the 20 carries he had last season.
I also believe Hill can be a weapon in the passing game. He is a decent route runner, and he catches the football naturally out of the backfield. If he can show himself to be a reliable blocker, Hill may even carve out a third-down back role for himself. Or maybe he could end up being a short yardage and goal-line back. He certainly has put on a strong showing so far this preseason.
What I’m trying to say is the guy is quite talented and he has a very well-rounded skillset. Freeman is likely firmly entrenched as the starter, but that doesn’t mean Hill can’t have a major role on offense this year, too.
In fact, like Coleman before him, Hill could provide a very potent one-two punch with Freeman over the course of this season. And should Freeman end up banged up, I don’t think there would be much dropoff if Hill had to step in as the starter for a few games. Their running styles are a little different, but they both get the job done in a similar fashion with their physicality.
I just can’t see a guy who has already flashed as much talent as Hill has not getting plenty of burn this year. If you put the ball in his hand, he is going to make something positive happen.
If Hill can just nail down that top backup spot to start the season, I think he will have an incredible year. Even if it doesn’t start off with him being the No. 2 guy, I think he will earn that spot before the season is over. Above and beyond him breaking out this season, I can see a bright future ahead for Brian Hill in the NFL.
Confidence level: High