Our NFL rookie profile series continues with this analysis of 2019 NFL Draft Prospect Justice Hill, RB from Oklahoma State. You can also check out all of our NFL Draft Prospect articles here. We will continue to provide you with these in-depth rookie profiles and a ton of other fantasy football rookie analysis right up through the NFL Draft. Stay tuned, and stay ahead of your league!
Dynasty owners are spoiled after experiencing one of the best running back classes in the history of fantasy football last year. It’s safe to say another Saquon Barkley type talent is not going to walk across the stage in this year’s draft. Instead, we have a rag-tag group of running backs to pick from. Most of these players have potential but at least one glaring red flag on their profile. Some of them were very productive in college but lack the athleticism to be a dominant force at the NFL level.
Justice Hill is another name on our draft boards this spring. There’s a lot to like about Hill. He was productive during his three-year tenure at Oklahoma State. On top of that, he is one of the most athletic running backs in the draft. Before I say too much, let’s take a look at his rookie profile.
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Hill immediately produced, rushing for 1,142 yards and six touchdowns in his first season. He had the most rushing yards for a freshman in Oklahoma State history and it was fifth most by a freshman in Big-12 history. With six 100-yard performances, he owned an 18.43 percent market share of the team’s offensive production. Even though he led the team with 206 rushing attempts, Chris Carson still led the team with nine rushing touchdowns. Nonetheless, he still had a very productive season for a true freshman.
The following year, Hill took things up a notch by posting a 22.26 percent market share of Oklahoma State’s offensive production. He also caught 31 passes for 190 yards after seeing nine percent of the team’s passing targets. With solid performances against TCU, Texas, Oklahoma, Iowa State and Virginia Tech in the Camping World Bowl, Hill added a nice boost to Oklahoma State’s rushing attack during their toughest games of the year.
A rib injury caused Hill to miss a few games last season. Even with the time missed, he still managed to own a 16.63 percent market share of the team’s offensive production. He had five games with over 100-yards rushing, but just one multi-touchdown performance. Oklahoma State’s quarterback, Taylor Cornelius, targeted Hill on four percent of the passing targets, dropping Hill’s ownership of the team’s target share by five percentage points from the previous year.
Overall, Hill’s production was solid. He surpassed the 1,000 yards barrier as a freshman and continued to be productive over the course of his career. If you want to nitpick, his yards per carry leaves dynasty owners wanting more. His 5.6 yards per carry ranks in the 58th percentile among running prospects.
For a smaller running back who is being pegged as a satellite back at the next level, it would have been more comforting if he could have posted better numbers in the passing game. He only had one season with more than 20 receptions and there wasn’t a year where he received more than 10 percent of the team’s passing targets. This doesn’t mean that he’s not a functional option in the passing game, but it would have been more reassuring if he provided more of an impact in the passing game considering how he’s going to be utilized in the NFL.
Against Oklahoma in 2017, Hill had one of the best performances of his career, rushing for 228 yards and two touchdowns. It was a good showing against one of the top teams in the nation. He received 30 carries in this game which provides a decent sized sample of what he can do as a runner. This was the only game of his career where he rushed for more than 200 yards.
There’s a lot of electricity in his legs. He can quickly accelerate to get to top speed. Even if he has to make a quick stop and change directions, he has the ability to regain speed at a drop of a hat. Once he’s in the open field, he won’t hesitate to drop the trailer and kick it to sixth gear. He has decent long speed and short area quickness, making him very dangerous when he gets the ball in space.
One trait very apparent when watching Hill is his nimble feet. He has good footwork and he can move laterally very well. With one of the best jump-cuts in the class, Hill is a magician when moving east-to-west to slip past a defender. This is due to him being able to cover a lot of ground with his jump-cut and then rapidly regaining speed, making him very dangerous if he finds daylight after he makes his move.
He has good contact balance which allows him to absorb hits and redirect his momentum away from traffic. This trait makes him very slippery when operating through trash, because not only does the defense have to deal with his short area quickness and speed, but they have to be aware of him potentially bouncing off a defender and changing the direction of his run.
There are mixed reviews concerning his vision. The main reason for this is that he’s inconsistent when it comes to reading the defense to find the hole. Most of the time he does a good job of getting to where he needs to be, but there are times you will catch him running into blockers or lacking the patience to allow the hole to develop. Also, due to Oklahoma State’s spread offense, he has limited experience dealing with loaded boxes which will be something he will need to adapt to at the next level.
There’s no in-between with Hill, he’s either decisive and finds the hole or he’s indecisive and can’t make up his mind on how he wants to attack the running lane. For the most part, he’s solid and can get the job done, but there are times where there are mental lapses.
On a positive note, Hill can quickly process the flow of the defense to find the cutback lanes. While in the open field, in one-on-one situations, he has a natural instinct when it comes to reading a defender’s momentum and using the defender’s impetus to dictate his next move.
He can be utilized as a receiver out of the backfield. NFL teams will want to utilize his short-area quickness and burst by targeting him on short passes in the flat to get him in space. His size will limit his blocking upside, but he’s more than willing to lower a shoulder and chip defenders in the backfield. Nonetheless, with his size and quickness, NFL teams are going to ask him to run more route than stay in and pass protect.
Hill was one of the few running backs who didn’t fail the combine. First, he measured in at 5-foot-9 and 198 pounds. Even though we had a good idea from watching the tape, his measurements at the combine suggest that he’s not a good candidate to be a three-down back at the NFL level. His frame renders the notion that he would be best suited as a satellite back. Although his size doesn’t mean he can’t handle a full workload, it does tells us that he would be an outlier if an NFL team confidently leaned on him to handle 25 or more touches a game.
He definitely stood out amongst the field at the combine, running a 4.4-second 40-yard dash which ranks in the 93rd percentile among running back prospects. His 40-inch vertical and 130-inch broad jump proved that he has elite level burst. He posted 21 bench press reps at 198 pounds which is very good for his size.
With everything said and done, Hill is one of the most athletic running backs in this class. He has more than enough speed and burst to get the job done against NFL level competition. His athleticism shouldn’t hold him back from developing his game.
Like the majority of running backs, his dynasty value is dependent on where he goes in the draft. His landing spot could catapult his value. Right now, he’s currently holding a 20.80 rookie ADP, making him the ninth running back off the board in rookie drafts. He’s almost a lock to go in the second round of rookie drafts. With the strength of the tight end and wide receiver positions, I could see him getting pushed down to the early third round if he gets drafted into a less than desirable situation.
In startup drafts, he has a 147.33 ADP and is generally being drafted around the 12th-13th rounds in startup drafts. It’s a fair price point considering his age and potential. However, we don’t know who is going to draft him and if he will get an ideal shot at receiving a large enough workload to be fantasy relevant. It’s best to consider all options before making your final decision on your draft selection.
Hill has the potential to be one of the few standout prospects in a very underwhelming running back class. Opportunity and usage will dictate his overall impact in fantasy. He was a very productive player and has all the athleticism in the world. His price point in rookie drafts makes him a very affordable asset that could develop into a dependable starter for your team. We just have to wait until April to see where he goes in the draft.