The Buccaneers’ safety room will experience its most turnover in years this season, as there will be a new starter and likely fresh depth pieces as well.
Gone are names like Mike Edwards, Keanu Neal and Logan Ryan. Former Seattle Seahawks defensive back Ryan Neal comes over to take the strong safety job opposite Antoine Winfield Jr., who will play more free safety again after spending a lot of 2022 in the slot.
The roster needs a new third safety, and it will need at least one other player to slot in as a backup and special teamer. Todd Bowles and Jason Licht could seek both in the draft, especially since they currently have six Day 3 picks.
Brandon Hill isn’t a hot name, but the former Pitt safety has traits that could appeal to the Bucs.
BRANDON HILL’S COLLEGIATE CAREER
Hill was a 3-star recruit coming out of Wekiva High School in Apopka, Fla. He fielded offers from several Power 5 programs like Boston College, Maryland, Minnesota, N.C. State, and Purdue, but he settled on Pitt.
After a freshman redshirt in 2019, he played 10 games in 2020 – starting two – and made his mark with a 50-yard pick-six to go along with two forced fumbles. He took over the starter reins the following year and made his mark as a redshirt sophomore and junior.
9 days until Pitt football... pumped to see how Brandon Hill (@brandonhill_6) builds off a strong RS freshman season. He was named ACC DB of the Week in his first career start. Next: All-ACC in his first year as a full-time starter? pic.twitter.com/eO2wGrXdU2— The Loyal Sons (@TheLoyalSons) August 26, 2021
In those 25 total starts, he totaled 148 tackles, 10 passes defensed, one interception, and another defensive score (30-yard fumble recovery). He garnered second-team and honorable mention All-ACC honors.
PRO DAY AND SCOUTING COMBINE
Hill participated in the full set of athletic testing between the Scouting Combine and the Pitt Pro Day.
By every standard, he is an undersized NFL prospect. He checked in only at 5-foot-10, 193 pounds, and he has sub-31” arms. That will work against him some, but he plays with an aggressive mentality and is in excellent shape, so he maximizes every inch and pound.
But size isn’t what will earn him fans in NFL war rooms. Hill is a certified speed demon, running a 4.43 40-yard dash with a blazing 10-yard split (1.46 seconds, 90th percentile historically) – both tops at the combine for safeties. That shows on film too, as he can cover ground fast and erase route separation pretty easily.
He’s agile and twitchy, which he exhibited with elite numbers in the 3-cone (6.88 seconds) and short shuttle (4.12 seconds). Between his range and smooth transitional ability, teams will be excited to move him around the field with the peace of mind that he’s rarely going to be overwhelmed from a speed perspective.
Have heard some buzz around Pitt S Brandon Hill here at the NFL Combine, especially after yesterday's good testing day for him.— Nick Farabaugh (@Nick_Farabaugh) March 4, 2023
Hill is getting lots of mid-round buzz in this class, and has plenty of fans in the NFL.
He posted strong jumps as well with a 35.5” vertical and 10’3” broad jump. All of that considered, he graded out with a great Relative Athletic Score (RAS).
WHAT HILL CAN DO FOR THE BUCS IN 2023
As tantalizing as Hill’s agility tools and enforcer mentality are, he has some work to do on the mental side of the game. His so-so instincts and inconsistent play recognition lead to lack of ball production and some freelancing, which simply isn’t going to cut it at the next level. He also must improve his tackling technique (less shoulder, more wrapup) and approach angles.
With that in mind, Hill will clearly be seen as a useful special teams gunner during his rookie season. Unless he makes large strides in the offseason program, Bowles will not let him on the field much defensively given his current deficiencies.
Hill would be taken with the intent of being a project. He will not have a starter outlook to begin with, and that’s fine. When you consider where Hill will likely be drafted, the expectation of becoming a solid special teamer and backup is totally respectable.
Any time you invest lower-end capital in a prospect, just having him on the roster by Year 3 with a decent role that’s not the practice squad should be considered a success. Luckily for Hill, this staff has a history of taking toolsy prospects and developing them.
You needn’t look much further than another former Pitt safety, Jordan Whitehead. A fourth round pick in 2019, Whitehead was also an undersized underdog who flourished once Bowles took over. Hill and Whitehead aren’t the exact same player, but there’s reason for optimism that Hill could follow a similar path.
Hill is universally regarded as a Day 3 pick by analysts, with most commonly pegging him as a late fifth or sixth rounder.
The Athletic’s Dane Brugler ranks Hill as his 15th overall safety and a fifth-round value. NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein has Hill as his 10th safety, pegging him as an average backup or special teamer.
The NFL Mock Draft Database shows that Hill is generally flying under the radar right now with a composite ranking of 282nd overall, an UDFA value. That would be fairly shocking, however, as Hill has excellent physical tools that will get some team to at least throw a 7th rounder at him.
ON THE CLOCK...
You’ve got the information on Brandon Hill now, Bucs Nation. What do you all think? Does he seem worthy of a mid-to-late-round flier with the hope of becoming a role player and special teams staple? Let us know by voting the poll and discussing in the comments below.
The Buccaneers Should Target Brandon Hill in the NFL Draft...
This poll is closed
With one of their fifth round picks
With one of their sixth round picks
See if he falls into the seventh round
He shouldn’t be on their board/draft someone else higher