One of the steals of the draft day may have come after the seventh round was over.
The Minnesota Vikings signed former Texas Longhorn Holton Hill to a deal worth $75,000 in guaranteed money – an extremely high amount for an undrafted free agent – with hopes that he could compete for a spot on the 53-man roster right away.
Hill went undrafted in large part because he was suspended by his college team and then reportedly tested positive for marijuana at the NFL Combine. NFL Network’s Tom Pelissaro reported that Hill sought treatment to get help with his marijuana usage.
As the Vikings approach mandatory minicamp, it appears Hill has left a positive first impression on head coach Mike Zimmer.
“Number one, he’s got good size,” Zimmer said. “He’s got good speed. He’s’ tough. He’ll hit. I thought a lot of the things that we look for in corners he has. The stop and start, the breaks, and things like that. Out here he’s done a really good job with the things he’s been doing.”
At Texas, Hill had two pick-sixes, six pass breakups and 51 tackles. At the Combine, he ran a 4.49 40-yard dash at 6-foot-2. The website Relative Athletic Scores, which rates players on a 0-10 scale based on how their Combine scores relate to success, scored Hill’s results a strong 7.49 of 10.
NFL.com draft analyst Lance Zierlein wrote that Hill could have a chance to play multiple positions in the NFL because of his tackling ability.
“Hill made tremendous strides as a cover man this year and has the potential to take yet another big step forward once he trusts his footwork and becomes less grabby,” Zierlein wrote. “His instincts and physicality in run support could allow teams to consider moving him to safety.”
Zimmer said that it’s plausible to see him play multiple spots, but the Vikings are focused on him as a corner.
“Right now, it’s just really corner, he is still learning that spot,” Zimmer said. “He has the size and speed and athletic ability to probably play more positions. At this point in time, I think it is just going to be corner.”
On the cornerback depth chart, there appears to be an opportunity for Hill. Clearly Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes, Terence Newman, Mackensie Alexander and first-round pick Mike Hughes are locked in, but there’s a sixth spot open.
The Vikings could choose to keep Marcus Sherels — who we have counted out many times before and he’s always won a job — or go with only five corners. But it would seem after making a hefty investment in Hill they would make space for him if he catches on quickly in camp. The only other players fighting for a spot are Horace Richardson, who was on the Vikings’ practice squad last year, and UDFA from Toledo Tavon Mathis.
But Hill will have to adapt quickly like any other corner. On Tuesday, Rhodes talked about the difficult transition for physical corners like Hill.
“When I was at Florida State, I was a real aggressive corner,” Rhodes said. “I used to jam them down the field rather than within the five yards. When you come to the NFL, you have to jam within five yards and let the receiver run his route. You have to work with your technique and your footwork. In college, you can just have your hands on the receiver all the way down the field. ”
First impressions aside, we will still have to wait until pads come on to know whether Hill can take advantage of his opportunity.
“Obviously he’s still learning a lot about technique and that,” Zimmer said. “We obviously can’t press right now, so that’ll be another see where he’s at once we get to training camp.”