NFC North: Stephen Hill


My NFC South colleague Pat Yasinskas has posted the list of all 26 players who have confirmed plans to attend the NFL draft April 26-28. It includes most every imaginable pick the Minnesota Vikings could make if they stay at No. 3 and a number of possibilities if they move down.

USC left tackle Matt Kalil, Oklahoma State receiver Justin Blackmon and LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne will all be in attendance. So will a number of receivers we have discussed in connection with the Chicago Bears, from Notre Dame's Michael Floyd to Georgia Tech's Stephen Hill to Baylor's Kendall Wright and LSU's Rueben Randle. North Carolina defensive end Quinton Coples, who would be a pretty good value pick at the Bears' No 19 pick if he falls that far, will also be in New York.

ESPN analyst Todd McShay used his most recent mock draft to steer South Carolina cornerback Stephen Gilmore to the Bears, but many Detroit Lions fans are hoping he is still available at No. 23 overall. Gilmore will be in New York as well. (Here is a clip of Gilmore's recent appearance on "NFL Live.")

Barring a trade, my feeling remains that the Vikings will and should pick Kalil. In the NFL32 overtime video above, ESPN's Chris Mortensen said the Kalil pick is widely assumed in league circles and that if the Vikings look elsewhere, "we won't be talking nicely about them."
We've lumped two of our teams together in what is likely a motivated search for wide receivers in the April 26-28 draft. Both the Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings have needs at the position, even after the Bears acquired Brandon Marshall, and so it's worth taking a look at the always thought-provoking analysis of ESPN Insider KC Joyner on the topic.

Joyner ranked the best 10 receivers available Insider in the draft based on his proprietary system of metrics. An intriguing name rose to the top: Georgia Tech's Stephen Hill, a 6-foot-4 target whom ESPN draft analysts Mel Kiper Jr. Insider and Todd McShay Insider both have going to the San Francisco 49ers at No. 30 overall in their latest mock drafts. Kiper has Hill ranked as the draft's fourth-best receiver Insider.

You'll need an Insider subscription to read the entire file. It's true that Hill played in a run-based, triple-option offense at Georgia Tech. But according to Joyner, when the Yellow Jackets did throw, Hill provided the draft's best downfield bang for the buck. He led all receivers in overall average of yards per attempt. From a physical standpoint, Joyner noted Hill is the tallest receiver in the draft and has the best 40 time (4.36).

Bears coach Lovie Smith met with Hill last month, before the Marshall trade. It seems unlikely but not out of the question that the Bears could draft Hill with the No. 19 overall pick. The Vikings probably would need to maneuver in some way to draft him. He's likely to be gone by the time their No. 35 overall pick comes up in the second round.

It's worth noting that Joyner's second-best receiver is LSU's Rueben Randle, whom Kiper had the Vikings selecting in the second round.

Earlier: South Carolina receiver Alshon Jeffery was a topic of discussion at the February scouting combine.

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