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Player Spotlight: Jeremy Hill

A detailed look at the fantasy prospects for Jeremy Hill in 2016

Setting the Stage

Jeremy Hill was a three sport athlete at Redemptorist High School in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He played football, baseball and ran track. He was selected to the 2010 Parade All-American team as a running back. As a senior, Hill ran for 2,203 yards (8.2 ypc) and scored 38 touchdowns. He was rated as a four-star athlete by both Rivals.com and 247Sports.com.

He did not immediately attend college, enrolling at LSU for the Spring Semester of 2012. As a true freshman, he started slowly with only 13 carries through the first six weeks of the season. He played in 11 games, but only started five. He came on strong down the stretch, with 136 carries over the final seven games. He became the first true freshman to lead the team in rushing since 2003, totaling 755 yards and scoring 12 touchdowns.

In his sophomore (second season), he started 11 of their 12 games and had 203 rushes for 1,401 yards (6.9 ypc) and scored 16 touchdowns. His 116.8 yards rushing per game ranked 2nd in LSU history to the record set by Charles Alexander in 1977. His 6.9 ypc average set the all-time SEC record for yards per carry with at least 200 attempts. He set another LSU season record by rushing for over 100 yards seven times.

Following his sophomore season, he declared for the 2014 NFL Draft. At the Combine, he measured 6’-1” and weighed 233 pounds. His size and college production were outstanding, but his athleticism was not highly valued. His pre-draft time in the 40-yard dash was 4.66 seconds and he had no outstanding measurements among the jumps or shuttles.

The 2014 draft eligible running backs were not highly regarded. Hill was the 2nd one selected at 55th overall in the second round, only one pick after Bishop Sankey was the first running back drafted. Carlos Hyde was next at 57th. Charles Sims at 69th and Devonta Freeman at 103rd are the only RBs of the 20 drafted that have been productive for their teams. Would it surprise you that Jeremy Hill has the most total yards and touchdowns of the 2014 backs? Even in ppr scoring, he has ranked the highest.

Hill started slowly in his rookie campaign with the Bengals. For the first seven games of the year, he averaged 7 carries and 154 yards (3.90 ypc), although he caught 13 passes on 15 targets for another 131 yards and scored 3 TDs. He really came on beginning week 9 and for the rest of the season. During those nine games, he averaged 19.1 carries per game and rushed for 929 yards with 14 more catches for 84 yards and scoring 6 TDs. He had five games with over 20 carries, including the final three games and in every one of those games, he topped 100 yards.
 
His second season was disappointing in almost every way. He only had one game with over 20 carries and failed to rush for 100 yards in any. He came close in the single heavy carry game, with 98 yards and a TD. He also was used less often as a receiver, with only 15 catches on 19 targets. His only solid stat on the season was that he scored 12 TDs.

Career Statistics:

Year Rushes Yards TDs Targets Catches Yards TDs
2015 223 794 11 19 15 79 1
2014 222 1,124 9 32 27 215 0
Total 445 1,918 20 51 42 294 1

Looking Forward to 2016

The Bengals offensive coordinator, Hue Jackson left to become the head coach of the Cleveland Browns. Ken Zampese, the only quarterback coach that Andy Dalton has known was named the Bengals new offensive coordinator. He is known as a lifelong disciple of the Air Coryell system. But, having spent the past 13 years as quarterback coach of the Bengals, he has seen the Bengals lean heavily on the running game, particularly in the past two seasons with Hill and Bernard. They have averaged 479 rushes per year the past three seasons. Will his in-house promotion provide consistency with a heavy dose of running the ball?

Year # Passes # Rushes Total Plays Pass % Rush %
2015 505 467 972 52.0% 48.0%
2014 501 491 992 50.5% 49.5%
2013 586 480 1,066 55.0% 45.0%

The Bengals offensive line are ranked 11th by Matt Bitonti of Footballguys.com and he rates their running game blocking better than their pass protection. The good news is that they return all their starters. The unit is led by All-Pro Andrew Whitworth at left tackle and has good depth behind their starters.

Andy Dalton returns as their quarterback, having recovered from a broken thumb which forced him to miss three games, the first missed games in his five years with the Bengals. He was having his best season, completing a career high 66.1% of his passes and averaging a career high 8.42 yards per attempt.
 
The Bengals lost both Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu in free agency. Those two had a combined 152 targets, 98 receptions, 1,210 yards and 4 TDs a year ago. They added Brandon LaFell and drafted Tyler Boyd in the second round of the draft. They could be missing Tyler Eifert for a few games in the early season as he is recovering from ankle surgery in May.

Positives

• Jeremy Hill has 2,212 yards from scrimmage in his two NFL seasons
• The Bengals have a good offensive line and have depth to absorb injuries
• The Bengals have leaned heavily on the running game during Hill’s time on the team

Negatives

• Zampese may prefer an Air Coryell system and increase their passing game focus
• Although Giovani Bernard not been used as often in the running game, he is a great fit as a receiver in a passing focused offensive game plan
• Hill’s rushing average dropped from 5.1 ypc as a rookie to 3.5 last year 

Final thoughts

Jeremy Hill had an excellent rookie season, but fell off significantly in his second year. He ran for a better average per carry toward the end of the season, but his lost fumble allowed the Steelers one last chance in the playoffs and they capitalized. Despite his drastic decrease in yards per carry, he finished in year two as RB14 after being RB10 as a rookie in non-ppr scoring. Even with Devonta Freeman’s RB1 ranking last year, Hill has more total yards and far more TDs than Freeman or any other running back from his class. There is a decent chance that the Bengals will remain heavily focused on the running attack and Hill should continue to get opportunities. His previous success should foster confidence in his chances to provide value at his current ADP of RB20 non-ppr and RB24 ppr scoring.

Projections

Name Games Rushes Yards TDs Rec Yards TDs
David Dodds 16 225 934 8 13 104 1
Bob Henry 16 225 870 10 18 130 1

Jason Wood

16 225 940 10 20 150 0
Maurile Tremblay 16 221 829 8 18 126 1
Stephen Holloway 16 230 1,012 10 25 200 1

Other’s Thoughts

Kevin Patra on NFL.com Jeremy Hill: There is no running from playoff fumble

In May……the 23-year-old running back faced the media for the first time since that day.

"There is no running from it," Hill said, via the Cincinnati Enquirer. "I embrace it. I embrace the challenge. I embrace the doubters, the negative, all that stuff. It's great. It's part of football. The great competitors, the great athletes all embrace it. I see myself as no different. I'm going to continue to embrace it every day, face it every day and wait for my opportunity to overcome that." Hill said he's gotten advice from many former players, including NFL Media's Marshall Faulk. Hill said the best advice he's gotten has been to not let the fumble define him and his career.

Matt Waldman in his Footballguys.com player comments – Having two starting-calibre runners seems like a good problem for an NFL team, but it’s a potential headache for fantasy owners. Hill is the best downhill, power runner but he doesn’t create as many pre-snap binds as Giovani Bernard combined with A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert. The change from Hue Jackson to Ken Zampese favors Bernard, who is more of a Marshall Faulk-like fit in the Mike Martz-influenced, Zampese scheme.