Justice Hill Is A Potential Draft Prospect For The Detroit Lions In The Upcoming 2019 NFL Draft.
The Detroit Lions will likely be in the market for a running back in this upcoming offseason. There are some decent options in free agency, highlighted by Mark Ingram, Jay Ajayi, and Tevin Coleman, but the cheapest, and often most effective way to add talent to an NFL backfield is through the NFL Draft.
The Detroit Lions spent a second round pick on rookie standout Kerryon Johnson out of Auburn last year, so I wouldn’t expect the Lions to invest significant draft capital in the position, but they will definitely be a candidate to select a mid-to-late round player.
Justice Hill’s draft stock may be a little rich for the Detroit Lions, but with a 2019 running back class that is lacking in elite talent and complete running backs, it’s tough to say exactly where these backs will be coming off the board.
Justice Hill is an undersized back who is not an ideal candidate to shoulder a full NFL workload. He dealt with some injuries in his final collegiate career, and his frame simply doesn’t seem like it is built the take on much more than a complementary role in the NFL. There are occasionally exceptions to the small running back needing a light workload, but the injuries in his final season indicate that he probably isn’t one of them.
Justice Hill Has A Role To Play
The Detroit Lions don’t need a full time back. They have Kerryon Johnson to shoulder the bulk of the work. The Detroit Lions need a back that can bring something else to the tale, keep Kerryon Johnson fresh, step in in the case of injury, and generally provide relief. Justice Hill is an ideal candidate for all of those things.
Hill’s game is built primarily around his ability to change direction in a hurry. He is incredibly quick out of his cuts, he can stop on a dime, and has explosive burst in all aspects of his game. Justice Hill is elusive in the open field, can make defenders flat out miss, and has all the makings of a player that could be electric in space at the NFL level.
Hill has good vision, understands where the defense is headed, how to manipulate them with his devastating cuts, and can make big plays when there it seems that the defense has given him nothing. His main downfall at the line of scrimmage is that he lacks patience, and can get too aggressive, trying to get to and through the line of scrimmage too quickly. This can be a desirable trait for some running backs, but for someone who bases their game on their ability to work in space, you’d like to see him be a little more patient and allow things to develop in front of him.
Justice Hill is never going to be a “powerful” runner. He isn’t someone that you want to rely on in short yardage situations, or count on to break tackles, that’s just not his game. He is, however, a slippery runner. He can slip out of tackles, does a good job of maintaining balance through contact and runs with tenacity, fighting for every yard. He picks up more yards after contact than you would expect for a player of his stature.
Similarly, he is a better pass protector than you would expect. I don’t know that this is something I would count on him to be able to do consistently at the NFL level, against bigger, faster, stronger defenders, but he showed that he is willing and more capable than you would expect at the college level.
Justice Hill has good-if-inconsistent hands. He isn’t an elite pass catcher, but has shown the ability to make some really nice catches away from his frame and adjust to poorly thrown balls. He didn’t see much work in the passing game in his final season, but he had some nice production earlier in his college career, and he has shown the ability to be a play maker in this area of the game.
He has all of the traits to be a really good route runner and a mismatch against linebackers at the next level if he can refine his technique a little bit.
The Detroit Lions will probably need a replacement for Theo Riddick at some point. He may remain on the roster this year, but I would be surprised if he sees another contract. Justice Hill is not Theo Riddick, but Riddick’s role has become increasingly vague in an offense that needs versatility from their backs. Justice Hill is not the pass catching freak that Theo Riddick has proven to be in the NFL, but I believe that he can be a better runner than Riddick has ever been. Having a back like Hill gives the Lions more pass catching ability without taking away the threat of running the football.
Predictability has been a problem with Theo Riddick in the game in the past. That doesn’t have to be a problem with Justice Hill.
Right now, I think most people are expecting Hill to fall somewhere in the middle rounds of the draft. If injury or size concerns cause him to fall, he could be a really nice target for the Detroit Lions who are looking to add young talent to a backfield that is likely looking at an overhaul in the next year or two.