As our 40 Prospects in 40 Days rolls on, we take a look at a position that many Buccaneers fans are not exactly comfortable with - running back. The Bucs have been looking for a dynamic, game changing running back for the better part of the last ten years. Minus a few outlier seasons by Doug Martin, they just haven’t had that.
This isn’t the class of running backs that we’ve seen the last few years but that doesn’t mean there isn’t talent to be had. One of those players is Oklahoma State running back Justice Hill.
Justice Hill’s Career
Hill played three years at Oklahoma State, declaring for the draft following his Junior year. He finished with 3,539 yards on 632 carries (a 5.6 yards per carry average) and 30 touchdowns while catching 49 passes for 304 yards and one touchdown as a receiver out of the backfield. He finished with the most carries in the Big 12 in 2017, was top-ten in rushing yards all three years (including number one in 2017), and finished top eight in yards per carry all three years.
Hill had the fastest 40-yard time of any of the running backs at the Combine, running a 4.40. One of the Combine’s top performers, Hill will have a chance at his pro day to make the case for being one of the earliest backs taken.
Hill has speed, but he also has quickness. He’s elusive and patient. Ultimately, he will be a solid back for whatever team takes him. No, he isn’t the three-down back like Ezekiel Elliott or Saquon Barkley, but he can anchor a committee and be the feature guy. His route running out of the backfield is reliable and solid, making him a dual threat that defenses will be forced to respect. No issues running up the middle or getting to the edge and busting a run to the outside. His vision and patience are simply outstanding, allowing blocks to develop and burst through the holes created in front of him
Needs a lot of help in pass protection. Given his small frame, taking on defenders at the NFL level may prove a little to tall of a task. Despite his 4.40 speed, Hill finished the 2018 season with only five carries of 30+ yards, so his speed doesn’t always translate to breakaway runs. He doesn’t have the size or power to be an effective short yard guy or goal line back.
Why The Buccaneers Need Him
They may not. With the Bucs re-sgning Peyton Barber and having already signed Andre Ellington, the Bucs’ running backs room is looking pretty full. Arians believes that Ronald Jones can be an effective player who just didn’t get the opportunities he should have last season, while Shaun Wilson and Dare Ogunbowale were effective when on the field. That said, the Bucs aren’t going to pass on improving at a position if they have the opportunity. If Hill is their second or third rated running back and the top player on their board come round three, Bruce Arians and Jason Licht may not think twice about pulling the trigger on another offensive weapon.
Will It Happen?
Unlikely, but not out of the question. What it really boils down to is the value. If Hill is still sitting there at the top of the third, I think Hill is very much in play. A dual threat running back with the potential that Hill shows could be a dangerous player under Arians. It would mean losing Wilson or Ogunbowale via cut or practice squad, but Hill has game changing potential. Being in an offense where he isn’t the main focus of the defense will help him create plays. I do believe that Arians loves what Barber and Jones can bring to the offense, but it’s never out of the question for an offensive minded to coach to want to add more offensive firepower.