The Patriots have a good, reliable group of wide receivers as they gear up for the 2012 season, but age is a factor. It might not negatively affect them this year, but at some point, the Pats should invest in a young wideout who can grow in the system.
That approach hasn't been successful lately, most recently with Taylor Price and Brandon Tate. Could Georgia Tech wide receiver Stephen Hill be the next guy on the Patriots' radar?
Hill is the focus of the 25th installment of a 26-day series that will highlight draft prospects who could land with the Patriots at the end of April. Maybe the prospect fits perfectly in the range of their 27th and 31st picks. Maybe he's intriguing enough for them to make a rare move up the board. Or maybe it's a player who could be available in the mid-30s, causing the Patriots to, gasp, trade down.
The 6-foot-5, 206-pounder had 28 receptions for 820 yards and five touchdowns as a junior in 2011. In three years at Georgia Tech, Hill had 49 catches for 1,248 yards and nine touchdowns.
Why the Patriots Would Want Him
Hill has great speed and size, and he fits the mold of a true downfield threat. He's also a hard-nosed blocker, and he's been compared to former Georgia Tech receiver Demaryius Thomas. The feeling is Hill was just starting to blossom, and while it would have been nice to see him stay in school for his senior season, the potential is evident.
Why the Patriots Might Stay Away
Hill is an unfinished product who showed no special teams value at Georgia Tech, so it's difficult to envision him getting a lot of playing time as a rookie. Therefore, the Patriots have to decide if Hill's long-term potential is worth the roster spot of a more proven veteran. Plus, the comparisons to Thomas are nice, but how much do they have to do with their collegiate laundry? And lastly, Hill will be drafted late in the first round or early in the second round, and that's a steep price for a player who only caught 49 passes in college.
Potential Impact in 2012
If the Patriots draft Hill, they'd have to identify him as a smart player who can pick up their complicated playbook. However, with the talent that would be in front of him on the depth chart, it's really difficult to predict a big impact during his rookie season.
Likelihood Hill Is Available at No. 27
Hill should be there unless a team over-drafts him based on his potential. Hill is clustered among a large group of receivers in the second tier after Justin Blackmon and Michael Floyd, so his availability will be based on each team's evaluation of that group. But even if Hill is there at No. 27, the Patriots probably wouldn't take him until the second round.
Each day in April, NESN.com will spotlight a player the Patriots could take with one of their first-round picks.
Tuesday: Marshall defensive end Vinny Curry
Thursday: Montana cornerback Trumaine Johnson