Value is the main thing an NFL team should look for in the NFL draft. It's almost accepted universally that best player available trumps positional need unless a quarterback is involved. With this in mind, I'm going to take a look at a couple of players that I see as very comparable case studies.
Most of us here, myself definitely included, have really become aware of Georgia Tech's Stephen Hill and his massive upside. He's big, fast, got great hands and leaping ability to go along with it. Physically, he's the total package. Sure, he's a little raw and had almost no production at the college level, but playing the the triple-option has that effect on receivers, there's little doubt that in an offense like Baylor's, Hill would be a household name and even more highly regarded than he is currently, which is already pretty darn high. Point being, we have become enamored with the considerable physical talent of one player and have locked on to him as a guy we want on the team. However, what if I told you that there was essentially a carbon copy of Hill that would be available in the third, maybe even the fourth round, freeing up the Titans to use a top twenty pick on a defensive end like Whitney Mercilus? Intriguing stuff.
I lied a little bit. Tommy Streeter is not a carbon copy of Stephen Hill, but he's pretty freakin' close. Cut in the same mold, Streeter is a guy who can just fly down the sidelines and use his considerable height advantage and leaping ability to go up and over smaller defensive backs to make outstanding grabs for big yardage. Their size and speed have them almost identically matched, Streeter is an inch taller, five pounds heavier, and has a max 40 time that's .4 seconds slower than that of Hill. I can live with that in my third round pick.
Now there are definitely reasons that Hill is being hyped as a first round pick and Streeter as a mid-round guy, so let's take a look at that before we make any snap decisions about Streeter being as good as Hill right off the bat. Some of the main concerns that many people have about Hill are his route running and hands. Despite making some really incredible catches during his time as a Yellow Jacket, Hill has been criticized for dropping too many easy ones. Mike Mayock, a guy I really trust on this stuff, had this to say:
After studying all of Stephen Hill's film, NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock is "less concerned" about the Georgia Tech wide receiver's drops and route running.
"He's a hands snatcher," said Mayock. "He had five or six drops [at Georgia Tech] ... but when you watch him catch the football, it's so natural." For a bigger receiver, Mayock determined that Hill was "really good" getting in and out of his breaks at the Yellow Jacket's Pro Day. Mayock suspects Hill will be a late first-round pick, and an "early two" in a "worst case" scenario
That's what I like to hear. Despite lack of any empirical evidence or numbers, stuff like this is reassuring when it comes from someone who actually knows what they're talking about. Still, it's far from just saying "problem solved, take him in the top ten", there are legitimate ways to argue against Mayock and I think both of you would be right at this point, we can't really know how good his hands are just based on the number of drops or what one guy sees when he watches him play. Something that I think people undervalue in Hill's game is his willingness to block. If you're a wide receiver at Georgia Tech, you either block or you don't play. Simple as that.
Something that is a little more evident is Streeter's tendency to catch the ball with his body. As a wide receiver, I never see the harm in taking one in the chest every once in awhile as long as it doesn't become a habit, especially in cold weather games, but Streeter played D1 football in warm weather, he should probably know better at this point. I feel like this is something that can be coached out of him. Just a feeling, but still, anyone can learn muscle memory, it's not terribly difficult to transition from body catches to hands catches and back again. What I think teams are undervaluing in Streeter is his ability and willingness to go across the middle. His primary strength may be working the sideline against slower, smaller opponents, but it's always nice to see a guy who will run a seam route or a deep post and do it just as well as a fade. This is the recipe for a big time play-maker.
When you think about it, this is almost like a poor-man's Julio Jones v.s. A.J. Green argument. Jones was better at going across the middle and catching the ball in traffic, Green was the more gifted athlete and made impossible catches look effortless, both had a large arsenal of physical tools they could use to destroy their opponents.
Consider also that the addition of either of these guys will create a red-zone matchup nightmare for teams who already had a very hard time stopping the Titans' from scoring inside the 20 last year. There could be serious mismatches on nearly every play with Britt, Cook, and either Hill or Streeter. What's also great about these guys is that they both have basically the same ceiling and floor. Hill's is going to be higher ceiling, lower floor just because of his draft status, but either way I think you're looking at A.J. Green type production or total bust.
So now comes the question of the day: would you take Stephen Hill in the first round knowing that there is a player with similar physical gifts waiting in the third, maybe even the fourth round if you're lucky? I think that in this case, it's worth waiting. There is a talent gap between Hill and Streeter, no doubt about it, but is it considerable enough to make Hill the better value in the first round? I think it isn't. Chances are, one of these guys is going to be really good while the other one struggles. I wouldn't bet any considerable amount of cash on either one at this point, it's all up in the air with these mega-athlete receivers. They certainly both fit the physical description perfectly, it'll be interesting to see how accurate the pre-draft buzz is on these two moving down the road.