Sean Payton thinks he'll be just fine at tight end.
In the wake of the Jimmy Graham trade, which has left a bad taste in plenty of Saints fans' mouths, Payton has been talking up Josh Hill nonstop. Hill is an undrafted free agent out of Idaho State who joined the roster in 2013.
Hill had 14 receptions for 176 yards and five touchdowns last year.
"We were doing this study last year with the draft class, and they were talking about some of the top picks at tight end," Payton said at the NFC coaches breakfast, via ESPN.com. "So the scouts had the board, and this is human nature, but the scout would see (Hill as a) free-agent tight end, and kinda say, 'Well, he'll come in Year 1 and probably beat out Josh Hill.'
"And I'm like, 'He will? I said, 'Well, let's throw the numbers up on the board with their measurables.' And all of a sudden, Josh Hill, you look at a 38-inch vertical jump, he's an 11 broad (jump), three-cone, whatever. And the comparables to the top tight ends in the draft a year ago, I said, 'In every category this guy's better.' There's this perception -- we're the same way as coaches -- if we (acquire) someone as a free agent after the draft. But when you really look at the film and watch him, if I told you this guy was our third-round draft pick, you'd be excited now.
"We've just got to get that little jersey off his back that says, 'I came here as a free agent.' I think we feel like he's got a bright future."
Payton does make a fine point. There are some coaches who believe that tight end, like linebacker and running back, are positions that often have the deepest value. Players can be had late in the draft.
Giants general manager Jerry Reese, for one, has had glowing success with the likes of Kevin Boss, Jake Ballard and now Larry Donnell. Some executives know how to find tight ends.
And while Hill is still a bit of a wild card, he should get the benefit of the doubt for now. What if Payton is right and a lot of Graham's success was system-based? (Of course, we're not taking away from his tremendous athletic talent.)
If Payton could save New Orleans that much money, he deserves the benefit of the doubt.
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