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Why am I writing about Shaun Hill, a 34-year-old backup quarterback who has attempted a grand total of 16 passes since 2011?
That’s a valid question, and one that might call into question my mental stability, but I think it’s important to know a little bit about a quarterback’s potential impact well before he gets his chance.
This was proven time and again by XNSport’s 2-quarterback league savant, Salvatore Stefanile, who profiled guys like Brian Hoyer, Josh McCown, Matt McGloin, and Mike Glennon before they had a shred of fantasy football relevance. Several of those one-time backups posted fantasy season-changing stat lines once under center.
Hill, for those who missed it, signed with the St. Louis Rams on March 26.
Sam Bradford, the Rams’ presumed starter, is coming off a torn ACL he suffered on a seemingly routine jog out of bounds last October. His recovery seems to be on track, according to beat writer reports and updates from the team, though there’s still no timetable for his return.
One Rams beat writer suggested Hill would temporarily take the starter’s role if Bradford isn’t ready to resume action this spring.
Hill’s last significant NFL action was after Matthew Stafford went down early in the season and left his backup to start 11 games for the Lions. Hill posted top-12 fantasy numbers seven times in those 11 contests, helped by a few massive deficits on a bad Detroit team.
Hill has thrown 954 NFL passes, connecting for 41 touchdowns and 23 interceptions. His career passer rating of 85.9 is a significant improvement over Bradford’s career 79.3 passer rating, if you’re into that sort of thing. Bradford posted a career-high 90.9 rating in 2013.
Hill threw and threw and threw some more, and targeted Calvin Johnson heavily. Megatron saw 88 targets during Hill’s 11 games as starter — a hefty number by any standard. The guy knows where his proverbial bread is buttered.
There is, of course, only one Megatron, and no one in the Rams’ receiving stable is anything close to dominant. Stedman Bailey, a draftnik favorite who flashed in (very) limited opportunity last season, could see more burn in 2014. Probably that’s the best hope for viable quarterback production from Hill and Bradford.
If, by chance, Hill were to seize the starting gig from Bradford this season, it wouldn’t be the first time the wily veteran has taken the reigns from a franchise signal caller. Hill won the job from Alex Smith after the 49ers invested the first overall pick of the 2005 NFL Draft in him.
I see Hill as a wise pickup in all 2-QB formats, where startable options are a commodity beyond measure. He’ll also be something to a no-brainer streaming quarterback play for those who work the waiver wire for their signal callers. Hill certainly isn’t the worst pickup for those who own Bradford in dynasty.
Hill might not want for opportunity either, as St. Louis was among the pass happiest offenses before Bradford’s knee injury. Bradford dropped back an average of 40.5 times per contest while the Rams’ running game stalled — only six quarterbacks had more.
A look at both quarterbacks’ adjusted net yards per attempt (ANY/A), a good measure of per-throw efficiency, shows that Hill had a 5.43 ANY/A on 257 attempts in 2010, while Bradford finished 2013 with a 5.74 ANY/A on 197 throws.
And for those who would ask why Hill has been a professional clipboard holder for three years in Detroit, it might be helpful to remember that Stafford — thanks to Megatron — has occasionally lit the world aflame, while Bradford hasn’t had more than a few decent stretches of play during his four years as a pro.
No one could have argued that Hill was an upgrade to Stafford. That simply doesn’t hold true in St. Louis.
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