INDIANAPOLIS — Rookie receivers traditionally have struggled to grasp the New England Patriots’ complex offense.
That transition likely would be smoother for K.J. Hill.
The Ohio State product met with the Patriots on Monday at the NFL Scouting Combine and discovered his Buckeyes playbook shared many similarities with New England’s.
“I definitely met with the Patriots,” Hill said Tuesday during prospect media availability. “… It went well. Mainly, we were talking about plays. I did a lot of similar things (to) their offense, and they were just trying to pick my brain about what we did. And come to find out, it was mostly the same plays. … (We talked about) motioning, seeing if it was man or zone, using option routes — definitely what (Julian) Edelman was doing. I was talking to the receivers coach (Troy Brown*) about that.”
The Patriots have a need for receiver depth this offseason and eventually must find a successor to Edelman, who turns 34 in May. Hill was a dependable and highly productive slot receiver at Ohio State, breaking David Boston’s school record for career receptions while dropping just nine passes on 210 catchable targets, according to Pro Football Focus. PFF’s NFL comp for Hill is Cooper Kupp, the Los Angeles Rams’ star slot man.
Hill caught 57 passes for 636 yards and 10 touchdowns as a senior in 2019, then starred at the Senior Bowl, wowing observers with his route-running ability and earning Practice Player of the Week honors. He played almost exclusively in the slot in college (just 49 snaps out wide over the last three seasons, per PFF) but said he’s comfortable lining up in multiple spots.
“I’m very versatile,” Hill said. “I played mainly in the slot at school, but I had some packages and some plays where I was on the outside. So I feel like I can do it all.”
Given the loaded nature of this year’s wideout class, Hill is unlikely to hear his name called in Round 1. The 6-foot, 196-pounder should be available on Day 2 and could fall to Day 3.
The Patriots are likely to enter the draft with just one pick in the first two rounds (No. 23 overall) but four in the third and fourth, including two projected third-round compensatory selections. If New England were to draft Hill, he believes he could be an immediate contributor.
“I definitely can, just off the fact that we were doing the same things,” Hill said. “I feel like I could step right in. Whatever they wanted me to do — special teams and at receiver.”
The Patriots, who struggled to get consistent production out of any receiver other than Edelman in 2019, have met with at least a dozen wideout prospects during the pre-draft process.
*Hill referring to Brown as the Patriots’ receivers coach was interesting. The Patriots have yet to officially name a successor to Joe Judge, who coached wideouts and special teams last season before leaving to become head coach of the New York Giants. Perhaps Brown, a former Patriots star who worked under Judge as the team’s unofficial assistant receivers coach in 2019, has earned a promotion. Recently hired assistant Jedd Fisch also has coached receivers in the past.