Josh Hill: Excitement continues to build around New Orleans Saints’ tight end

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For good reason, New Orleans Saints tight end Josh Hill is currently the front-runner to take over the starting role after the club traded away Jimmy Graham to the Seattle Seahawks in exchange for center Max Unger and the No. 31 overall pick (aka Stephone Anthony) in this year’s draft.

Hill showed flashes during his second year as a Saint in 2014, impressing players, fans, and coaches, especially head coach Sean Payton, who does nothing but talk the big man up.  If you don’t remember what Payton told the media back in March during the annual NFL owner meeting, let me refresh your memory.

“Josh Hill is another player I love,” Sean Payton said. “When you look at his runs, jumps, height, weight, speed, you look at his measurables, and he didn’t go to the combine. Thank God.

“We were doing this study last year with the draft class and they were talking about some of the top picks at tight end.  The scout would see the free agent tight end and kind of say ‘well he’ll come in year one and probably beat out Josh Hill.’

“I said well let’s throw the numbers up on the board with their measurables. You look at a 38-inch vertical jump, he’s an 11 broad (jump), three-cone, whatever. And he’s going against the comparable of one of the top tight ends in the draft a year ago. I said, ‘In every category this guy (Hill) is better.’

“There’s this perception, and we’re the same way as coaches, if we acquire someone as a free agent after the draft, but if you really look at the film and watch him, you’re like ‘hey, if I told you this was our third-round draft pick you’d be excited right now.’ We just gotta get that little jersey off his back right now that says I came here as a free agent. I think we feel he has a bright future.”

With Sean Payton’s encouraging words and training camp just around the corner, excitement is building around Josh Hill.  And it continues after NFL.com ranked the tight end at No. 10 on their “Making the Leap” list for 2015.  This goes for players like Hill who the Around the NFL crew believes will be “emerging from no-name status to a quality starter”, or even great players making the jump to superstar status.

From NFL.com:

"The New Orleans Saints rocked the NFL in March with the trade of All-Pro tight end Jimmy Graham to the Seattle Seahawks.Shipping away the most talented player on the offense next to Drew Brees irritated the team’s quarterback and left fans wondering if the franchise was ready to shred the roster into pieces.As free agency and the draft played out, though, it became clear that coach Sean Payton was turning his attack into a ground-heavy, clock-chewing outfit that would better fit — and better protect — Brees. The Saints re-signed hard-running Mark Ingram and added C.J. Spiller to a backfield that could finish top five in carries in 2015.Still, that doesn’t mean the Saints are done throwing to the tight end, as made clear by Payton’s consistent offseason praise for young target Josh Hill. Entering his third season, the 6-foot-5, 250-pounder “certainly” will see “more snaps” because of Graham’s departure, per Payton, who clarified that Hill is set up to play off the line as the team’s “F” target."

Again, Josh Hill showed flashes of a promising young star in just very limited time on the field a season ago.  His athletic abilities, hands, and willingness to block are everything you want from a tight end, specifically one who will be looking to fill Graham’s big shoes.

The 6-foot-5 Hill saw 293 snaps in 2014, lining up as a blocker the majority of the time.  In 83 total snaps as a potential target for Drew Brees, Josh Hill reeled in almost 17 percent of those pass plays.  He had 14 receptions to be exact with five going for touchdowns, taking away scores from Graham.

The Idaho State product looks to be the starter in front of Benjamin Watson for now, but the battle hos not yet been won.  The Saints kick off their first day of training camp July 30 at The Greenbrier in West Virginia.

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