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College coaches say NFL Draft was example of ‘Tyreek Hill effect’

In a new article, college coaches note a trend towards selecting smaller wideouts in the early rounds.

AFC Championship - Buffalo Bills v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

On Friday morning, ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg published an article summarizing the reactions of college coaches to the 2021 NFL Draft. A number of topics were addressed — but the first was how the success of Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill has influenced how NFL teams select wideouts.

Rittenberg noted that of the 10 receivers taken in the first two rounds, nine stand less than 6 feet tall — and half range from 5 feet 7 to 5 feet 10, weighing between 155 and 190 pounds. The Chiefs currently list Hill as 5-feet-10 and 185 pounds.

“For a while, everybody wanted big receivers, but here’s what you saw in this draft: Speed matters,” an SEC head coach said. “Tyreek Hill is a problem, and it may be a direct response to the Tyreek Hills of the world.”

A Big 12 coordinator added: “In space, what’s it matter if they’re 6-4?”

A Power 5 head coach said the New York Giants’ first-round pick of Florida’s Kadarius Toney (6-foot, 193 pounds) shows how the focus has shifted.

“Kadarius was a Wildcat guy. Kadarius was, ‘He’s in the game, get ready for fly sweep, or get ready for a trick play,’” the coach said. “He was an elite guy that way. But for a guy like that to go in the first round, I hadn’t seen that before. That’s the Tyreek Hill effect.”

Of course, good teams will want to have a variety of physical profiles among their wideouts. In recent seasons, the Chiefs offense has been demonstrably more successful when Sammy Watkins (6 feet 1 and 211 pounds) has been on the field with Hill as the “X” receiver in head coach Andy Reid’s scheme. The Chiefs are clearly hoping another of their receivers who comes closer to matching Watkins’ physical profile (like Byron Pringle, Demarcus Robinson or even Joe Fortson) can fill his role in 2021 — and appear to have drafted Clemson wideout Cornell Powell (6 feet and 204 pounds) with this in mind.

Still, Hill’s success (5,391 yards and 47 touchdowns, plus another 623 yards and six touchdowns as a rusher over just five seasons) has finally made teams realize that you don’t necessarily have to be big to become something more than a “gadget player” in the NFL.