A wide receiver’s job is to get open and catch the ball.
No receiver did that more at Ohio State than KJ Hill. Hill leaves OSU as the school’s all-time receptions leader with 201 catches and finishes sixth in yards with 2,332. His 48 consecutive games at Ohio State tie Gary Williams for most in school history.
Hill’s very first catch as a Buckeye was a 47-yard touchdown in his first game. His second-to-last game featured a pair of touchdowns in the Buckeyes’ come-from-behind win in the 2019 Big Ten Championship Game.
Despite the production over the last four years, people weren’t necessarily expecting Hill to be a first-round pick this past weekend, or even a second round selection. His 4.60 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine was not a surprise, and he didn’t have the kind of big-play track record that the guys at the top of the draft had. Still, he was expected by most to be one of the first Buckeyes off the board on day three with the start of round four.
Instead, he lasted nearly six hours into day three and was selected by the Los Angeles Chargers in the seventh – and final – round.
Speaking with reporters on Sunday, Ohio State head coach Ryan Day was asked if any of the Buckeye draft picks surprised him. He immediately went to Hill.
“KJ Hill, that one I don’t understand,” he said. “To go into the seventh round, to see so many guys drafted before him. I mean, all he does is get open, catch the ball, make great plays. The most productive receiver in Ohio State history.
“I don’t get that one at all. I mean, certainly there’s a lot of guys that I can comment on, but that is the one that sticks out to me. The Chargers got a complete steal and I think a lot of guys missed out on him.”
As Buckeye fans and Ohio State media watched each pick go by in the fourth round thinking, “This would be a good spot for KJ Hill,” Day was doing the same thing. Then the fifth round passed by and there was a collective shaking of the head at what everyone was witnessing.
Then the sixth round went by with Hill still on the board and the frustration mounted.
“Probably the same way everybody else was, just a little confused,” Day said of what he was thinking during Hill’s slide. “And yeah, I would say a little frustrated. But hey, listen, there’s a lot of guys who have been in the same boat, they go on to have great careers. So, all these guys need are opportunities, and they all kind of have the same opportunity.
“Certainly guys who were drafted in the first round probably have a little bit more than the undrafted free agents, but still, all you really need is that chance to get on the field and prove what you have. And it’ll come down to making the team and then hopefully making that second contract like so many of them have.”
Results matter, so now what Hill does in Los Angeles is all that will matter moving forward. But Day just isn’t quite sure why they didn’t matter before.
KJ Hill is the only receiver in Ohio State history with three 50-reception seasons. Not every team was in the market for a slot receiver, but many were, and Day believes the Chargers got a steal in a guy who simply gets open and catches the ball – which is the primary job description.
“Everybody’s different in how they go about their business. So I’m not sitting here telling anybody how to do their business, but I just know that some great coaches have said the best receivers, they get open and they catch the ball,” he said.
“So it doesn’t really matter at the end of the day what you run or anything like that. Do you get open? Do you catch the ball? However you do that. But if you’re not fast enough to get open, or you can’t catch the ball, then that’s a problem. But I’ve never seen anybody cover KJ Hill on a consistent basis. And so I think it’ll be the same way once he gets to the NFL.”