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Holton Hill has elite shutdown corner potential

Things change in the NFL. Ever since the Seattle Seahawks won Super Bowl XLVIII with the fearsome Legion of Boom, defensive backs 6 feet and above have become the norm. Nowadays, cornerbacks that don’t meet this standard are considered undersized; measuring in below the 6 foot threshold very well could be the difference in being selected in the first round and on day 2 of the NFL Draft.

Texas’s Holton Hill fits the bill of a modern corner. Standing at just under 6’2″ and 200 pounds, Hill possesses the key traits sought out in today’s CB prospects. He has a blend of length, athleticism, and physicality to square up against just about any receiver on the outside. Hill’s length makes him a very intriguing press-man corner:

Here he is against a very large man, Oklahoma State WR Marcell Ateman (6’4″, 220 lbs). Hill delivers a good jam to Ateman’s chest that disrupts his attempted break inside. A well-thrown ball is delivered and is put in a spot where only Ateman can get it… or maybe not.

Hill’s length makes him incredibly challenging for WRs to deal with at the catch point as well. He’s physical and is able to break passes up by extending his arms for the football:

 

The athleticism of the former Longhorn is also something to rave about. He has rare movement skills and hip fluidity for a player of his size. With his speed and lateral agility, Hill has no problem shadowing receivers in and out of their breaks.

For as good as he is in man coverage, Holton Hill is plenty comfortable and instinctive in zone/off coverage. He does a good job of reading the quarterback’s to locate and break on the ball:

He also showed tremendous click and close when playing off. Hill routinely displays the ability to sink his hips, fire out of his backpedal, and drive on the ball quickly. He has elite closing burst, and looks like a missile as he converges on the receiver. Delivers a nice “pop”:

More of the same. Hill has a knack for blowing up screens before they develop. He instantly recongizes it, plants his foot, attacks downhill, and makes the tackle. Mental processing is on point, and he diagnoses the play nearly as fast as he shuts it down.

His instincts and ability to recognize and break down plays paired with his physical profile is what makes him so unique. Good cornerbacks don’t grow on trees, especially ones with this combination of size, speed, and processing speed.

USC runs double crossing routes here to distort the cornerback’s path to their receiver. However, Hill is with it the whole way. He opens his hips to turn and run immediately and displays the spatial awareness to elude the oncoming tight end and the speed to stick with the route and make the key 4th down stop.

Later on in the game, the Trojans do it again. And once again, Hill is having none of it.

 

Cornerbacks add value if they can contribute in run support. They should be able to seal the edge to prevent ball carriers to get free on the outside and tackle well.

Holton Hill is more than willing to crash down and contribute against the run. He’s an excellent face up, wrap up tackler, capable of shedding blocks from receivers and delivering a big hit.

3rd and 13. Baylor sets up a screen out of the backfield on Hill’s side of the field with three blockers out in front. Hill drives, sidesteps a blocker on the second level, and makes the tackle.

This is perfect run defense by Holton Hill and Malik Jefferson. Hill sees and immediately bolts out of his stance to seal the edge, before James Washington is even able to get hands on him. Jefferson shoots the A gap and helps make the tackle along with Hill. Nowhere for the running back to go.

 

Holton Hill is easily a 1st round talent that could fall to late day 2 with his off the field concerns. But he has the elite traits and potential to be an all-around, shutdown cornerback in the NFL. He has a scheme-versatile skill set with the length, athleticism, and instincts to match up against any player on the field. As a bonus, he’s a reliable tackler as well. If he’s able to clean up his act, there’s a chance a team ends up with one of the NFL’s best cornerbacks with excellent value.

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