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2021 NFL Draft profile: Mississippi State RB Kylin Hill

Should the Broncos draft a Bulldog to succeed Melvin Gordon?

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Mississippi State v Texas A&M
Is Hill the answer for the Broncos’ needs in the backfield?
Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

The Broncos backfield currently consists of a player who has played one 16 game season in his six years in the NFL, a special teamer with 71 carries, and Royce Freeman. So it should come as no surprise that George Paton may elect to pursue a ball carrier in the upcoming NFL draft.

Would Mississippi State’s Kylin Hill make sense for the Broncos?

At a glance

In December of 2019 Hill decided he would forego his final season of eligibility to declare for the 2020 NFL Draft. A month after the announcement, Hill tweeted that he’d return to Mississippi State. Another season in college football would give Hill a chance to work under Mike Leach and prove he had the chops to be a three down workhorse.

Before the 2020 season Hill made a stand on divisive issue when he tweeted he’d refuse to play unless the Mississippi State flag was changed. For his stand, Hill received the key to his hometown of Columbus, Mississippi. A week after Hill’s tweet, lawmakers voted to change the state flag to one that doesn’t feature a symbol of the Confederate States of America.

Hill’s return to school didn’t work out as planned, as he butted heads with the new coaching staff and received a one game suspension following a postgame outburst in October. After a junior season where he led the SEC in rushing yards per game, Hill finished 2020 with just 48 touches and opted out after three games played.

Why he fits the Broncos

  • Started 27 of 40 games at running back under three different coaching staffs.
  • Earned award for best back on American team at Senior Bowl.
  • Meet’s size thresholds Pat Shurmur historically favors in running backs at 5’10 and 214 lbs.
  • Solid athletic ability with solid agility, and good lateral quickness and explosiveness.
  • Solid competitive toughness, he’s someone who looks to bowl opponents over when he has the ball and tries to inflict punishment when he’s blocking.
  • Good play strength, he runs like a bigger back with his willingness to initiate contact and drive through opponents.
  • Good mental processing, he displays a good feel for space and understands how to leverage it to his advantage.
  • Good vision with a good feel for how blocking will open up around him, he trusts what he sees and doesn’t hesitate to press a crease.
  • Very good contact balance on 2019 tape that belies his size, defenders had to work overtime to bring him down.
  • Good with the ball in his hands thanks to his vision, burst, and contact balance, he has very good short area mobility and runs low to the ground with shoulders behind his pads.
  • Has a very good jump cut in his toolkit.
  • Displays a consistent willingness to hurdle defenders in the open field.
  • Had one fumble during his collegiate career and finished with 471 straight touches without coughing the ball up.
  • On limited reps he shows promise to become a good route runner with the short area agility to win on angle routes.
  • Solid hands with the hand eye coordination to pluck the ball out of the air away from his frame to secure the catch.
  • Good pass protector who has the willingness and physicality to become even better.

Reasons for concern

What I’ve seen / heard / read

“Hill projects as a top-tier early down starter in the NFL and with further development in the passing game has a high ceiling for all three downs. He has the versatility to play in multiple schemes but prefers to get downhill quickly rather tahn drift laterally in wide zones. His physical mentality and play style can be further supported with additional bulk to his frame, as long as he doesn’t lose his explosiveness.”

- Sports Info Solutions

“Kylin Hill is an elusive back with great instincts who can be a threat to defenses in both the pass and run games. He will fit best in a system with a zone blocking scheme that is pass-heavy and uses their running backs as receivers often.”

- Expand the Box Score

“Hill is a tough, angry runner with the foot quickness to dart through or away from trouble. While eager to attack the defense, he has a bad habit of relying more on his aggressive nature instead of trusting his vision. Overall, Hill’s run tempo and emotional maturity will be put under the microscope during the draft process, but he offers the agility, determination and pass-catching skills to be a productive piece of a running back rotation in the NFL.“

- Dane Brugler

2021 NFL Draft Scouting Report: RB Kylin Hill | The Draft Network

Throughout his playing career, Kylin Hill was often praised for the amount of maturity that he’s exemplified. Outside of his father, he credits his two biggest mentors as being Randal Montgomery, his coach at Columbus High School (Mississippi), and former Mississippi State running backs coach Charles Huff, who now holds the same position at Alabama. Montgomery saved his career in high school after Hill quit the team following his sophomore year. His football savior was hired following that moment and he went on to record 1,801 rushing yards during an eight-win season, which was the second-best win total in school history. His breakout season included a 382-yard, five-touchdown performance in a playoff game. Sticking to the guidance given, Hill continued to flourish and as a senior, he exploded onto the scene ranked as the second-best player in the state. As a senior, he collected 1,750 rushing yards and 27 touchdowns on his way to his first all-state nomination.

Electing to stay close to home, Hill signed with the Bulldogs. Hill is a maturely built rusher that can have a lasting impact as both a rusher and pass-catcher out of the backfield. His body structure comes into play on runs as he has well above-average contact balance. His ability to withstand would-be tacklers is one of the bigger assets to his game overall. Hill doesn’t contain many different speed levels, as he hardly ever will be a running back that produces explosive plays in bunches. Hill is a running back prospect that can be aligned at various spots in formations and be utilized in those certain spots. Best in a zone-blocking scheme, he’s a runner that can get upfield to take advantage of creases that are made available to him. His density enables him to churn out tough yardage and finish carries with lots of intensity.

2021 NFL Draft Comps: Mississippi State RB Kylin Hill has the requisite size to handle a larger workload if given the opportunity | NFL Draft | PFF

With the 2021 NFL Draft just over a month away, PFF’s Kevin Cole looks at Mississippi State RB Kylin Hill, using Hill’s pro-day data to compare him to past prospects and pick out the most similar comps.

Kylin Hill Draft and Combine Prospect Profile | NFL.com

One-note, downhill back who can leverage and unlock impressive power into opposing tacklers. Most of his evaluation requires 2019 tape as he never got going in Mike Leach’s offense in 2020. Hill has a ground gaining jump-cut with adequate ability to elude second-level tacklers, but his primary mode of operation is to run with force and create with power. He’s a grinder who lacks burst and vision to slash and create chunk runs, but could offer a change-of-pace banger and short-yardage option with some third-down value.

Kylin Hill’s Windy NFL Draft Journey About More Than Football | The Draft Network

“I’m an athlete. I’m branded very well. I feel like someone in my position had to speak up,” Hill said Wednesday following Mississippi State’s Pro Day. “What I did, I knew the backlash I was going to get. My family, my teammates, they stood behind me. Even the coaches, so it helped everything out and the support I was getting, it just felt good. Even other players from other schools—backing me up, DM me—motivated me and let me know they were all behind me. I knew what I was doing, it took a big risk and if I had to go back and do it over, I would.”

Final Thoughts

Watching Kylin Hill’s 2020 tape is a bit frustrating because he only received 15 carries and mostly served as a checkdown target in the passing game. Going back to 2019 reveals a different player, one who looks like an ideal scheme fit and eventual replacement for Melvin Gordon. He combines physicality with hands and the willingness to do the dirty work necessary to stick on the field on third downs in the NFL.

It’s hard to say with certainty where Hill will go in the NFL Draft because so many of the concerns around him stem from things you can’t find on tape, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he winds up one of the early steals from the 2021 running back class.