It’s the offseason, which is one of my absolute favorite times of the year. It is around this time of year when the casual NFL fan is saddened and silent (if your team did not win the Super Bowl), but true football fanatics are filled with an incredible sense of hope and optimism. Just around the bend is the NFL Combine, free agency, pro days, and the draft. Many speculate that Sean Payton and the New Orleans Saints will use at least one of their draft picks this year on an eventual replacement for their 39-year-old superstar quarterback Drew Brees.
While some eagerly wait for a contract extension to be reached between Brees and the Saints, most would be utterly shocked and dumbfounded if the Saints concluded this draft, with such a deep class of signal-callers, without adding a new arm to the fold. During the offseason, so far the Saints have been heavily tied to Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield and quarterback Mason Rudolph as potential late first round targets.
In late December, Timothy Rapp of Bleacher Report had the Saints selecting Rudolph with the 30th overall pick in the 1st Round. However, as we move closer to the draft, many quarterback prospects linked to the Saints are seeing an improvement in their draft stock and some feel that as many as five quarterbacks can be taken prior to the Saints selection in Round 1. That fact along with the Saints “Best Player Available” mindset leaves the possibility that the Saints could perceivably leave this draft without a Drew Brees replacement. So then the question has to be asked, how much do the Saints believe in their backup quarterbacks? More specifically, do the Saints really see a future with quarterback Taysom Hill?
Last season, after Hill was released from the Green Bay Packers, the Saints claimed the 27-year-old quarterback out of BYU. Hill had just completed an incredible preseason with the Green Bay Packers. According to Michael Cohen of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Taysom thoroughly outplayed both Brett Hundley and Joe Callahan. He believed that if given enough time in Green Bay’s offensive system, Hill would have eventually replaced Hundley as the backup quarterback.
It’s funny to think that had that been the case, the Saints would have actually faced Hill last season instead of Hundley after an unexpected blow to their quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Instead, Hill became a Saint after Sean Payton noticed him on film while studying another potential practice squad target. The Saints “trusted their instincts” according to Payton, and claimed the undrafted rookie quarterback off waivers.
Most third-string quarterbacks can go through an entire season completely unnoticed. Even in cases where they become the holder on field goal kicks unless they completely botch a very important hold or are involved in an incredible trick play, they are generally invisible. Hill, however, burst onto the scene in the Saints home game against the Panthers late in the season as a special teams player making his very first tackle as a pro. After he made the tackle you could visibly see Sean Payton’s ear to ear smile, and immediately you could tell Payton absolutely loved the kid.
While watching the game it was remarkably clear Joe Buck and Troy Aikman loved Hill as well, as they made it a point to add his story to the broadcast. They made sure to mention how long they spent talking to Sean Payton about Hill. They added, “We’ve had two production meetings with Sean Payton … and he has spent more time talking about Taysom Hill than any other player on the roster.”
When asked about the future at quarterback for the Saints, Payton said, “He’s in the building.” If some Saints fans were not watching and you told them Payton said that, they would probably believe he was talking about Chase Daniel, but after seeing Payton’s heart gush over Hill, I’m more than sure he was referring to Hill.
Although a recent miss on 3rd Round quarterback Garrett Grayson may cause some to doubt Sean Payton’s quarterback scouting ability, he has a very remarkable eye for quarterback talent. Prior to coming to the Saints, it was Sean Payton who was mainly credited with finding former undrafted rookie free agent turned Pro Bowl starting quarterback Tony Romo. Former Dallas Cowboys scout Jim Hess said Sean Payton actually had a fifth-round grade on Romo and urged the Cowboys to select him during the draft. It was Payton’s influence after the draft that pulled Romo to the Cowboys roster.
Most who remember would attribute Payton’s inside knowledge and Romo’s eventual decision mainly to the fact that both he and Payton attended the same college. In some aspects that is true, but it was still a bold move, and it turned out to be a very smart one. All Saints fans are familiar with the Drew Brees to New Orleans story and how it was Sean Payton’s belief in Brees that led to the biggest free agent signing in franchise history.
If you still doubt Payton’s eye for quarterback talent, listen to the rave reviews coming out of Kansas City in reference to Patrick Mahomes. I thoroughly believe that if the Chiefs had not selected him prior to the team’s pick in the first round of last year’s draft, even with Marshon Lattimore on the board, Payton would have had a very difficult decision. He loved Mahomes, and apparently, he was right. The Chiefs and their fan base are in a frenzy over Mahomes. The Chiefs trusted his ability enough to trade away Pro Bowl quarterback Alex Smith to hand the keys of the franchise over to Mahomes.
While I believe that Sean Payton has an eye for quarterback talent, the question remains, do they truly believe in Taysom Hill? The 6-foot-2 product out of BYU is a gritty, tough, and elusive player with rare athleticism at the quarterback position. He reportedly ran a 4.44 in the 40-yard dash at his Pro Day and apparently captured the heart of everybody he worked alongside. His trainer, Dave Stroshine, when asked about how Hill dealt with his Lisfranc injury suffered in 2015, spoke about Hill glowingly mentioning how he could tell how he was wired day one of their training.
Stroshine praised the quarterback for his incredible work ethic, and called him a beast as it relates to his approach to training. He admired Hill’s mental make-up and said, “…Taysom is a perfectionist. He just doesn’t want to be good, but be the best at what he does…” It shows in his body type, as Hill has a strongly built body rarely seen in quarterbacks.
His body even drew the ire of former BYU legend Steve Young, who said: “As a quarterback, you want to appear as more of a Muhammad Ali than a Ken Norton” referring to the sleek athletic look of former boxing great Muhammad Ali versus the chiseled frame of a young Ken Norton. Even with the backhanded compliment, Young spoke glowingly about Hill on several occasions, and has been quoted as calling Hill, “a better version of myself.”
When comparing the first few years of Hill’s college career to Young’s, outside of completion percentage, which entirely favors Young (62.8 to 53.9), Hill had comparable passing yards and rushing touchdowns, while having astronomically more rushing yards. According to Young, “This kid…, he can run you over, jackhammer one play, and play the violin the next play” in reference to his tough running style and his ability to lead his team from the pocket. I am not suggesting that he is the next Steve Young. In fact, along with injury concerns, his low completion percentage may have been the reason he went undrafted. Scouts love to use the magic number of 58.5% as an elimination point for quarterback prospects. In his total 37 games at BYU, Hill falls just below that mark (58.3%).
I’m sure I’m like most Saints fans, when I hear about a player the Saints signed, I immediately go to YouTube and look up highlights. You can tell by the comments on Hill’s highlights that Who Dat Nation has done their fair share of investigating. In the videos, you will see highlight runs from Taysom Hill, A LOT of runs from Taysom Hill. You rarely see him throw the ball, and even when he does, he was running before he threw it.
What I can say is that I can see his 4.44 speed on the field, and it is evident. While running the option, running through defenders, and on RPO (run-pass option) plays. Hill is an absolute burner, and when he throws on the runs, he is fairly accurate. You must also acknowledge the fact that you don’t expect to see a lot of bad throws on a highlight reel. Chris Dunnells did an excellent job of breaking down Hill and his remarkable attributes in his Year in Review piece featuring the young signal caller.
Nevertheless, the question remains, do the Saints and Sean Payton truly trust the 27-year-old with the keys to the franchise? Is the future quarterback for the Saints really in the building? Well, in the next few months, if we see the Saints brass making sacrificially bold moves to acquire a young quarterback after Drew Brees is re-signed, then we can assume Taysom Hill is more of backup in their eyes. This means Hill will make his mark mainly through special teams or as eventual trade bait. If they either add a quarterback late in the upcoming draft or leave the draft without a quarterback it will be safe to assume the Saints believe they have something special waiting in the wings.
Do you believe that Taysom Hill is the Saints quarterback of the future?
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