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Stephen Hill, Big-Play Receivers Looking To Impact Teams In Need

By ZAC BOYER | | @ZacBoyer

INDIANAPOLIS – Stephen Hill doesn’t mind being compared with Calvin Johnson. The similarities are many, given their abilities as big-bodied, big-play, former Georgia Tech receivers.

And if the links hold up in the future, that could be good news for Hill.

“He has the speed, he has the height, to jump up and go get it,” Hill said. “Yes, he’s bigger. He’s “Megatron,’ I know that. But that’s who I compare myself to.”

Johnson, Detroit’s dynamic playmaker for the past five seasons, led the NFL with 1,681 receiving yards and had 16 touchdown receptions this past year as the Lions’ top target.

Hill, meanwhile, had 820 yards on 28 catches with five touchdowns at Georgia Tech, which had just three players catch more than 10 passes in the triple option offense.

But it’s the potential to be a playmaker that has Hill amongst the most buzzworthy receivers at the NFL Combine, held this week at Lucas Oil Stadium. The 6-foot-4, 215-pounder, as he measured in this week, is not a polished specimen by any means; the offense is a hindrance and he left college after his junior season.

That will likely make him a mid-round prospect – and potentially set him right in the crosshairs of the Washington Redskins.

“[It’s] because of the offense and I haven’t shown a lot of route-running and things of that nature,” Hill said. “That’s why we have this chance at the combine – to show the things that you can do.”

Hill, who will be on the field for workouts Sunday, is targeting a 40-yard dash in the low-4.3 range and a vertical leap of at least 40 inches. Those numbers add up to a potential gamechanger, which the Redskins did not have last season.

There’s a chance Leonard Hankerson, drafted in the third round but a participant in only three games, could evolve into that role. He, too, is tall and fast, and his hands have long been considered his greatest asset.

Washington, though, needs a deep threat – a role someone like Hill or Oklahoma’s Ryan Broyles, each of whom have had informal meetings with the Redskins over the past few days, could fill.

Broyles, a 5-foot-10, 192-pounder, doesn’t fit the bill when it comes to height. But before tearing the ACL in his left knee late in the season, he became the all-time leader in receptions in the Football Bowl Subdivision, making 349 catches for 4,586 yards and 45 during four years with the Sooners.

“God gave me this body for a reason,” Broyles said. “Maybe if I was a few inches taller I couldn’t produce the way I did. There’s really no telling. I just work with what I have. The hands I have. The feet that I have. I’m just very blessed to be in the position to make it to the next step and be a professional athlete in the NFL.”

The Redskins relied upon Santana Moss and Jabar Gaffney last season, though their depth was underwhelming. They were exposed when Moss missed four games because of a broken left hand, and Gaffney caught 68 passes for 947 yards and five touchdowns – all team-highs – to snap Moss’s six-year streak as the team’s leading receiver.

Both will be back, but Moss will be 33 in the fall and entering his 12th season and Gaffney will be entering his 11th at age 31. There will also be plenty of elite receivers in the free agent market, including San Diego’s Vincent Jackson, New Orleans’ Marques Colston and Pittsburgh’s Mike Wallace, which will change the dynamic by the time the draft begins in late April.

Rookies, though, come cheaper, making them attractive options – especially those whose potential is yet to be reached.

Hill hopes that’s the case, and he also hopes to prove it.

“I always feel like I’m better than somebody,” Hill said. “That’s just the way I compete. I’m very confident in my game and I’m just ready to go out there and show it.”