Could Taysom Hill Be the Heir to Drew Brees' Throne?
Aaron S. Miller
The dual-threat quarterback, signal callers every bit as dangerous rushing as they are delivering passes from behind the line of scrimmage, has increasingly become the vanguard of the position over the last decade. Versatile dual-threat passers have indelibly dotted the history of the league, from the likes of Hall of Famers Fran Tarkenton and Steve Young, through to Donovan McNabb and Atlanta Falcons and Philadelphia Eagles QB Michael Vick. Never before the last ten years, however, has the NFL seen such heavy emphasis on deliberately identifying the athletic ‘do-all' QB and installing complementary systems around him.
Lamar Jackson, the electric second-year Baltimore Ravens' QB, the main man in a John Harbaugh and Greg Roman crafted offense, epitomizes the heights a single man can take a 53-man NFL roster. Taken with the final pick of the 1st round of the 2018 NFL Draft, Jackson has been nothing short of spectacular in just his sophomore campaign as a pro. The NFL MVP and first time First Team AP All Pro selection, Jackson compiled 36 passing TDs against just 6 interceptions for 3,100+ yards at a 66% clip. Alone, these numbers are impressive, but taking into consideration his NFL QB record 1,206 rushing yards on 176 yards (6.9 Y/A) and 7 TDs, it’s easy to realize the tremendous value a player with his specific skill set brings to the Ravens.
If you’re reading this on SI’s Saints News Network, chances are you good that you are wondering what literally any of the above-named QBs has to do with the New Orleans Saints. After all, despite just recently turning 41, Drew Brees looks solid at worst and, well, every bit the imminent Hall of Famer he is at his best. Behind him is a prodigious young reserve in Teddy Bridgewater who, incidentally, is also a Louisville alumnus like Jackson. Of what relevance does a player like Lamar Jackson have in any meaningful way to the long-term outlook of the Saints franchise?
Resisting the urge to continue to bury the lede any further, between a declining quadragenarian in Brees and an imminently handsomely compensated free agent in Bridgewater, the time is nigh the Saints strongly consider whether to look outside the organization for a replacement QB, or if that man might already report to training camp in Metairie every summer. Given the image above and the thrust of the piece, you have likely already surmised that I ‘proffer we offer’ our own No. 7, Taysom Hill, as the eventual successor to Brees. You would be right and let me get to that in a moment. First though, a couple of things to set aside.
Discussing replacing Drew Brees, as written here, is strictly an exercise in practically endorsing the unfortunate fact that, despite all of his wonderful, gaudy records, and the Lombardi he hoisted as a Saint, the man is merely mortal. His successor ought to be in the line of sight for the Saints and fans alike, and I suspect we will see him sooner rather than later. Secondly, Lamar Jackson is not some cookie cutter gadget QB who would thrive anywhere, nor should he ever be seen as fungible even among passer/rusher QBs similar to himself. I do not mean to imply that Taysom is the next Lamar Jackson. Rather that Taysom Hill, in Sean Payton’s innovative system, can at the very least approximate the kinds of successes being enjoyed in Baltimore, but at the very most optimal implement a whole new offensive dimension the likes of which this league has never seen.
Hill was signed as an UFA by the Green Bay Packers the fall of 2017 and cut soon thereafter, where the Saints were waiting in the wings. Used exclusively on special teams his rookie year in New Orleans, Hill’s elite athleticism and versatility both on offense and special teams saw him move into his role as a gadget player in 2018 and especially in 2019.
This past season, as a rostered QB3 mind you, Hill caught 19 passes for 234 yards and 6 scores (87% catch rate) and tacked on another 156 yards on the ground for a score on just 27 rushing attempts (5.8 Y/A). Of note, while Hill has done all of the above just in 2019, not to mention his intangible effect on any given game as a route runner in the secondary, gunner, or blocker, he has never thrown a TD as a professional. Despite this, when utilized as a passer, Hill is a deep ball threat where his attempts generally land well within the “long pass” domain. He has shown poise in the pocket, albeit with limited sample size, and he has garnered praise from his for his abilities as a read option passer who is truly multidimensional.
Taysom Hill is entering his last season as a contractually bound Saint, though it would not surprise to see some form of an extension being worked out this offseason heading into the fall of 2020. The length and value of such an extension might speak to the extent not just to which Hill is valued in black and gold, but what the rest of the league would value a player of his versatility in the type of RFA offer sheets we may see.
For a man who is every bit as dangerous rushing and receiving the ball as with throwing it deep downfield, it will be exciting to see the further evolution of his role not just with the Saints in 2020 as a player, but as a true and eminent difference maker around the entire NFL. In the mold of a Lamar Jackson or a Dak Prescott, but with demonstrable hands and a tried an true legendary QB1 in Drew Brees, Hill’s ascension to superstardom is hardly complete.
What the future holds for this No. 7 remains to be seen, but don’t be surprised for a second if the Saints don’t appear to be looking for their successor to No. 9, for they may well feel they’ve already found him.