We’re reaching the part of the draft where I don’t believe future starters are lurking. Brian Hill and Eric Saubert will likely top out as platoon partners or useful reserves, but for fifth round picks, that’s still pretty great. Hill has a trickier path to playing time and relevance than Saubert does, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t a good player, and that doesn’t mean opportunities won’t be there.
Hill will will enter the year as the team’s obvious candidate as the guy behind Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman on the depth chart, likely bumping Terron Ward off the roster.
Games Played: 6
I don’t think you can count on Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman being perfectly healthy, so I fully expect Hill to get some time on the field. If he can carve out a role for himself on special teams, this number will go up, but there will be times he’s simply inactive in year one. Them’s the breaks.
Stat Line: 25 rushes, 110 yards, 1 touchdown; 2 receptions, 8 yards
This might be optimistic, given that Tevin Coleman and Devonta Freeman are so good and figure to absolutely dominate touches, but Hill will have his limited role just like Ward has in years past. The question is whether he’ll be able to get enough touches to really make noise, and the answer is not really.
The only way Hill’s going to start is if injury decimates the team’s corps of running backs, which would be less than an ideal situation. But he’ll get a year to learn from the players ahead of him, get a little involvement in the team’s offense, and prepare for bigger things down the line.
Long-term outlook: Fair
Hill, more than any other draft pick, is a victim of circumstance. He’s a talented back with a well-rounded skill set, giving you power, decent speed, and agility as a runner, plus some pretty solid pass blocking chops. On most teams, he’d be able to push for a backup role pretty early. Here, he’s buried behind Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman, likely until at least 2019, when Coleman’s contract is up.
So he’ll toil away as the team’s third back for now, hone his skills and adjust to the NFL game, and hope that he’ll be able to contribute as the team’s top backup in a couple of years. He’s unlikely to ever ascend higher than that in Atlanta, but no matter where he ends up, he should be a fine reserve and insurance policy for the Falcons. No shame in that.