Taysom Hill doesn’t want to be known simply as a gadget player. The 29-year-old quarterback of the New Orleans Saints is set to become a restricted free agent after spending the first three seasons of his career as a utility weapon on a prolific offense. But Hill is making it known he feels he can be the franchise pivot that all young signal-callers dream of when they enter the NFL. But can a player with a grand total of 13 pass attempts and six completions elevate himself among the ranks of NFL starting quarterbacks?
To do that, he must first convince those outside of the Saints’ facility that he is in fact a quarterback. In three seasons, Hill has shown his talent for chasing down would-be returners on punt and kick coverage. Never one to shy away from initiating contact, Hill has rushed with the ball for 109 snaps, according to Pro Football Focus. In his career, Hill has 64 rushing attempts, 352 rushing yards and three touchdowns. Those are modest numbers for a backup runner, but for a quarterback not named Lamar Jackson, they’re impressive. A rock-solid 221 pounds, Hill has become known for his do-it-all attitude, production on third downs and penchant for awe-inspiring plays.
It’s a far cry from the quarterback who went undrafted following the 2017 NFL Draft. Starting 33 of his 37 career games at Brigham Young University, he led the Cougars to 23 wins as a starter. Over the course of his collegiate career, Hill would rush for 2,815 yards and set the record for career rushing yards by a BYU quarterback. Hill’s 75 career touchdowns (32 rushing, 43 passing) proved the pivot was the heart, lungs and overall will of the Cougars.
Now Hill is banking on his high upside as an athlete to pay off big as a future franchise quarterback. You don’t need to have a cannon for an arm like Brett Farve to be a quality QB, as Hill exemplified by relying on his legs to carry the offense. Entering the NFL, evaluators began to ponder comparisons ahead of the 2017 NFL Draft. One name that comes up is former Broncos’ first-round selection, Tim Tebow. A fellow do-it-all that lined up behind center, Tebow was critiqued for not fitting the mold of a prototypical drop-back quarterback that the NFL covets. During his rookie season, Tebow completed half of his pass attempts. What Tebow lacked in passing accuracy, he made up for in spirit and determination when the lights were on. Similarly, Taysom Hill’s determination on any given play tends to win out more often than not.
That same will to win on every play is what will convince a team that Taysom Hill can be a functional starting quarterback. More goes into a QB change than just putting someone new under center. The offensive line needs to adjust to a new cadence. Wide receivers need to develop timing and rapport with their new gunslinger, not to mention the likelihood that they’ll need to brush up on their downfield blocking. Of course, there are more ways than one to call a skinny post.
The heart of the Saints is undoubtedly starting quarterback Drew Brees, who has broken virtually every passing record in league history. As a third-string QB, Hill is the defibrillator. Coming off the sideline to invoragate the offense with drive-saving conversions or a big block to spring a teammate down field, Hill does it all. Well, everything but play the role of a traditional quarterback. Even when Brees missed a group of games with a thumb injury, backup QB Teddy Bridgewater went in. It’ll take a sizable investment from an organization — Saints or elsewhere — to allow Hill to realize his true potential.