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Rookie Report Card: Week Eleven

In my weekly column, we take a long look at two rookies.  I compare their performance to date against my original expectations of them.  Let’s continue this series off by looking back at St. Louis Rams wide receiver Chris Givens and New York Jets wide receiver Stephen Hill after their week eleven games:

Chris Givens, WR STL

My original thoughts of him in college: Givens was once ranked in Mike Mayock’s top five wide receivers and is ready to play in the NFL from day one unlike fellow rookie wide receiver Brian Quick.  He dropped in the draft due to some character concerns and potential knee issues.  The Rams do not have much in established wide receivers so he may get the opportunity to play right away.

As far as skill sets go, Givens has special raw speed that gets him good separation from defenders.  He has the wiggle that works well with his great downfield vision so he can avoid his would-be tacklers before he is within their arm’s length.  The young receiver runs decent routes, doesn’t have issues hanging onto the ball and runs with adequate power and balance.

Givens needs to improve his hands and understand where he is on the football field.  He barely shows any effort blocking in the running game or when another receiver is running with the ball.  I’m concerned that he can get manhandled by stronger defenders.  This receiver needs to adapt to the physical nature of the NFL as he shows a tendency to shy away from contact.

Here is what I saw from Givens against the Jets: First, it was nice to see him back on the gridiron as he held out of last week’s game due to discipline issues.  He spent most of the day split out wide.  The Rams also put him in the slot so he could go in motion to get the ball to him in space.  Unfortunately for Sam Bradford and the rest of his teammates, he made all of his four catches close to the line which accounted for only 19 receiving yards.

Givens was more impressive with his kickoff returns.  Early in the contest, he had a 98 yard return that should have gone for a touchdown – a holding penalty wiped out this effort. While bringing the ball back on the negated attempt, the young wide receiver showed good juke moves, demonstrated great vision and did a fantastic job setting up and following his blocks.  He needs to use more patience as he tried to go for the home run once the Rams fell behind and became undisciplined by trying to not read his blockers.  Working as a kickoff specialist, he finished the day with 127 return yards.

He is truly the upside, big play receiver/returner as he tripped over his feet on a 41 yard kickoff that could have gone the distance.  Later, Givens was targeted on a 41 yard bomb that went out of the end zone.  It was a shame as he had two steps on his coverage.  There was also a fourth quarter 54 yard rainbow pass that was broken up by his coverage at the last second.

Givens is a raw athlete, but well worth the investment.  Outside of wide receiver Danny Amendola, there are no reliable pass catchers for Bradford to count on.  The problem is that I’m not sure how long it will take for the young receiver to be ready to contribute weekly. So far this season, he has 17 catches for 352 yards and two touchdowns on 38 targets .  Next year those numbers should double.  I consider him a WR5  with the upside to become a WR2-3.  He gets a boost in return yardage leagues, but I doubt he returns many kickoffs after this year.

Stephen Hill, WR NYJ

My original thoughts of him in college:  When you break the young, raw receiver down, he has a mixed skills set.  He can get good separation, shows good balance, has great downfield vision to set up running lanes and holds onto the ball once he makes the catch.  Hill does not have outstanding hands, has some issues finding and getting to the ball in the air, and does not have a great knack at making people miss.  He struggles at run blocking which is surprising since he came from a run-oriented offense.  Hopefully, he will get the chance to learn in the nuances of an NFL offense before getting thrown into one because he is so raw.

While I love his upside potential, his quarterback situation is scary (Mark Sánchez and Tim Tebow).  Hill is big and fast, but he isn’t an accomplished route runner.  I’m not sure he knows more than a few routes and he has dropped a few easy passes along the way.  With Rex Ryan going to a more run-focused offense, the rookie receiver might see less than five targets a game and like any young receiver he needs the reps.  I don’t see him being a good fit for the Jets with the lack of receiving weapons outside of Dustin Keller.

Here is what I saw from Hill against the Rams: The first thing that jumped out at me was his lack of effort.  Hill appeared to be standing around during running plays which is concerning.  On his first pass target, he let the ball bounce of his face mask.  This was troubling as he had good separation from his cornerback as the play could have gone for at least a 20 yard reception.

After that mistake, he was replaced by cornerback Antonio Cromartie for a few plays at wide receiver.  This speaks volumes as the Jets do not have many talented receivers outside of Jeremy Kerley.  On his second and final target of the game, he was thrown a 40 yard bomb that neither the young receiver nor his coverage could find the ball in the lights.  Hill’s lack of maturity was out for display as all-pro cornerback, Cortland Finnegan, got in his head.  The seasoned cornerback Jedi mind tricked the rookie into shoving him, causing an interference penalty, and this ended up stalling a drive.

Let’s add up his game totals: two targets, zero receptions.  For the year, Hill has 14 catches, 196 yards and three touchdowns on 36 targets.  I hope his owners have the ability to stick him on their taxi squad like I have as he is very raw.  Many people hoped he would make an impact like Demaryius Thomas, but keep in mind it took Thomas a bit to become fantasy relevant.  Hill is a WR5-6 who could become a WR3 with a better quarterback and offensive system.  Stash him and hope as he probably won’t help your dynasty team until 2014.

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