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Tye Hill: post-mortem on a prospect

Anyone who saw the Rams week two preseason game against the Falcons knew that Tye Hill was done, done as a starting cornerback in the NFL. What happened to Hill? How did he go from first round pick to seventh round trade fodder?

We covered this a little bit the other night on Turf Show Radio, but Hill's biggest selling point has always been his speed. Low 40 times leave lots, too many, draft watchers with open jaws, and more than one front office has been fooled by a speedster. Tye Hill ran the fastest 40 at the Combine that year, 4.31 seconds. That's seductively fast, but by all accounts he had more than just speed in college.

Tye Hill looked damn good coming out of Clemson. In his senior season he was named to the first-team All ACC, an All American, and a finalist for the Thorpe Award which goes to the nation's top defensive back. The Sports Illustrated scouting report on Hill from 2006 went so far as to use the words "shutdown corner." Check it out:

POSITIVES: Terrific shutdown cornerback coming off an outstanding senior season. Quick-footed in reverse, fluid flipping his hips and loses nothing transitioning with opponents. Easily stays downfield with receivers, reading their eyes then getting his head back around to locate the ball. Quick planting to the throw and adjusts in midair to make the interception. Physical and supports the run.

The reality was much different. Hill never played particularly well against the run and was sometimes a liability. To me, his fatal undoing as a CB was an inability to read plays well, anticipate routes and make plays. For a guy who never had any problems staying with a receiver, Hill sure got burned a lot.

Confidence, specifically a loss of it, has been cited as a big reason for Hill's failure to build on a pretty successful rookie campaign in 2006 and develop into a starting quality CB. There's likely something to that theory. Remember the loss against Carolina to start the 2007 season, when he had 8 tackles and had a few moments against Steve Smith? If you go back and look at the play-by-play, Delhomme consistently threw on Hill, working his way to a 200 yard, 3 TD day, including a 68-yard strike to Steve Smith that featured Hill watching from his stomach as Smith crossed the goal line. It was a scene that would be repeated over and over again. The loss of confidence notion gained plenty of steam in 2008 when Hill repeatedly got burned and looked completely lost as far as his assignments and reads.

Confidence or not, bigger receivers consistently burned Hill, as the moment with Gonzo typified. Some players play bigger than their size, and some players don't. Hill didn't. Now, he's fighting for a spot on the depth chart somewhere else.With that, let's open it up. Was confidence to blame for Hill's struggles? Was he just not that good? Did the coaching switcheroos and turmoil with the Rams stunt his development?