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‘Preview’ scouting reports are when I take a look at a small amount of tape and overall output data we have on a non-QB prospect before the NFL Combine and complete a preview report on what I’m seeing before I do a larger scouting study after the NFL Combine or Pro Days. Our computer scouting models cannot function properly without the NFL Combine and/or Pro Day data, so I’m not committing to these scouting reports being my definitive word on the prospect. Using what we have, I wanted to take a glimpse at some of the bigger names to share what I see initially.
Wyoming’s Brian Hill burst onto the scene in 2015 with 1,631 yards rushing in 12 games and then followed up that breakout season with 1,860 yards rushing in 2016 along with 22 touchdowns. He felt strong enough with his college resume to bolt for the NFL early (junior), which makes sense — not much more to prove for Hill to make up for all the risk of getting hurt.
Scouts and analysts are left to debate whether Hill is just another one of those Mountain West (MWC) or WAC conference runners who had a couple of huge seasons because they’re ‘college good’ but questionable talents for the NFL…or is he a legit NFL starter hiding behind the small conference bias?
My first thought was negative — that I’ve seen this a million times recently with these MWC or WAC runners. Kapri Bibbs. Donnel Pumphrey. Seeing how Hill is listed at an NFL size – 6’1″/219, I figured I’d take a look to see if there was any ‘there’ there.
Actually, after watching some tape, I think Hill is a pretty decent RB prospect for the NFL. After my short study for a preview, I’d say he’s better than your average WAC conference RB star. I’ll be interested to see what the NFL Combine numbers are, but my eyeballs tell me that Hill is around a 4.50 40-time runner. He has a little bit of Tevin Coleman in him…maybe, a lot of Tevin Coleman in him.
Coleman had NFL speed coming out of Indiana, but the thing that would always strike me on tape about him was his breakaway speed in the open field. It’s weird. Some running backs are fast, shifty from step number one but are caught from behind in the open field. Then there are guys like Coleman who don’t grab your attention with the ball near the line of scrimmage, but once they get past the first level they’re constantly finding lanes and leaving close-by/close pursuit defenders in the dust. I remember watching Coleman’s college tape and wondering how he could keep outrunning defenders in the secondary when he didn’t look all that impressive when he first got his hands on the ball. It’s like a great horse in horse racing – once they get an opening something kicks in and they just start extending their lead and breaking the will of the defenders chasing them. Hill has a little bit of that in him as well. He doesn’t look like a speed burner at first, but then you watch his tape and he’s constantly getting away from and pulling away from pursuing tacklers.
What really stood out to me, and it’s another characteristic of Tevin Coleman, is that Hill is very hard to bring down. Hill being superior to Coleman in that aspect. He has terrific balance in an instant. What he might lack in elite speed-agility measurables, he makes up for with NFL vision and exquisite balance. You watch a highlight reel or just a chopped up game tape of Hill working in any particular game – and you’ll see him hit into contact, whether it be at the line of scrimmage or at the second level, and he’ll either break through a solo tackle or if multiple guys have him in their clutches — Hill never goes down. He often stays on his feet regardless of the count of people hitting him. Many plays involving Hill end with him either dragged out of bounds still on his feet or stuck in a pile and the referee blows the whistle while Hill stands tall among 3-5 D-Linemen trying to bring him down. It’s very unusual but noticeable and laudable when trying to scout him for the next level.
Some analysts and scouts are dinging Hill because he only caught eight passes last season. I’m going to say that’s more because of the offense Wyoming chose to run. When Hill did get a little swing pass or bubble screen, he looked like he could catch the ball fine. There weren’t enough throws to make a sweeping scouting statement for or against — but from what I see his hands are not an obvious issue right off the bat. When I dive deeper maybe I’ll see something, but on my preview everything looked OK.
Brian Hill is an intriguing, mid-major RB prospect. I can’t label him a future star, but he kind of strikes me as an NFL running back who comes into the NFL with a little fanfare and then you turn around and the next thing you know he’s rushed for back to back 1,000+ yard seasons and leaves everyone asking how did that happen? It probably happened because whatever starting running back the team pushed got hurt and then they were forced to go with Hill. That’s probably Hill’s initial lot in life in the NFL – brought in as a worker, and then one thing leads to another and he’s either splitting time as a starter or forced to carry the main workload — and grabs everybody’s attention with his ‘shocking’ talent.
Tevin Coleman had more draft momentum at this same stage. If Hill runs in the 4.4s at the NFL Combine then he might start to mirror Coleman’s draft path – a middle round draft pick that winds up mattering in the NFL. The further Hill gets away from running 4.50 40-time, the further he’s going to fall in the draft.
I’m not ready to put a gold stamp on Brian Hill, but after this preview, I’m more intrigued that I was before. I’m very interested to see what he does at the NFL Combine.