Michael Hill and My Unfounded Optimism
Sports media in general spends a lot of time being unashamedly negative. As an industry it seems to devote an inordinate amount of energy to explaining why things are bad or how a particular team is going to screw up. So for a change of pace, I present to you an unreasonably optimistic look at the newest member of the Packers' backfield: running back Michael Hill. Hill is clearly the most talented undrafted free agent rookie running back from Missouri Western the Packers have ever acquired. First signed to the practice squad on September 2, Hill ascended to the active roster on Monday. His presence on the active roster gives the Packers a triumvirate of rookie runners the likes of which the league has seen several times before, but never in this particular configuration.
The 5'10", 210 pound Hill is a middle ground of sorts between Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin. He clearly doesn't have Lacy's punishing size, nor does he have Franklin's lightning quick feet. But, as his highlight video below shows, he has one thing in spades: balance.
Though he lacks great size, Hill repeatedly sheds arm tackles and gains extra yardage after contact. He had ridiculous success with that single special skill in college, rushing for more than 4,900 yards during his amateur career.
HIll's ultimate place on the roster will depend on his production during a short window in the next couple weeks. Clearly the Packers feel that one of their dinged up running backs may not be at full strength in the near future, otherwise HIll would still be on the practice squad. My money is on James Starks, as his injury seemed the most significant.
That development alone is an interesting one. Let's not forget that Starks was at or very near the bottom of the depth chart for much of training camp. If his injury proves significant, Starks may end up on the street by way of a trip to injured reserve and an injury settlement, thanks in part to a great relief performance by Franklin last week, and possibly due to Hill's performance over the next few games.
Of course, Hill has to get on the field first, and to do that he's going to have to do the little things right, specifically pass protection. Hill claims his protection skills are more than adequate, and if he's right, the Packers may have just added to their surprisingly deep stable of running backs.
Or he may have gone undrafted for a reason. But let's hope for the former, because a little optimism never hurt anybody.