In the midst of the NFL offseason, cover32 will debut a series of new segments to hype up NFL fans for the start of the 2017 season.
The NFL Doppelgänger series is where each cover32 writer breaks down an NFL player’s closest comparison outside the world of football.
When I first started writing this, I was going to compare the Cincinnati Bengals’ new wide receiver John Ross to what I believed was his baseball twin from the same city, the Reds’ Billy Hamilton. Even though John Ross is fast, he’s no match for Tyreek Hill of the Kansas City Chiefs.
Ross edged Chris Johnson’s 4.24 40 yard time by .02 seconds, leading people to proclaim him “football’s fastest man in the draft.” The only problem is, his actual top end speed was likely around 20 to 21 miles per hour (MPH). In the league though, Hill is the guy to beat.
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Hamilton runs 22 MPH plus just taking the field, and Hill clocked a jaw-dropping 23.24 MPH on a nullified kick return touchdown in week 2. While most people wouldn’t count Hill’s first top speed (which is the fastest in the NFL by anyone), he also went out and got the second fastest (22.77 MPH) on an 86 yard kick return touchdown in week 12 (that one did count).
When Billy Hamilton was coming up through the minors, everyone knew how fast he was. In 2011, he was Baseball America‘s fiftieth best prospect due mostly to his speed. As SBNation’s John Sickels joked, “on the traditional 20-80 scouting scale, his speed rates as 90.”
Because of his small frame (only 160 lbs on his 6-foot frame), the Reds allowed him to play to his strength (which ironically wasn’t strength). In his first minor league season, he stole 103 bases. He followed that up by smashing fellow speedster Vince Coleman’s minor league record with 146.
Since getting called up in late 2013, Hamilton has been able to swipe over 200 bases, but the majority of his value is as a defensive centerfielder.
According to the chart by Baseball-Reference above, he is worth seven wins above replacement (WAR). But if you compare his offensive WAR (oWAR) to his defensive WAR (dWAR), you’ll see that those stolen bases prop up below average hitting, while the defensive value is anywhere from half to a full win better.
Why is his defense so good? Because he’s super fast. Just check out this catch and see what I mean:
Hill’s speed has always been elite. As a die-hard Florida State Seminole fan, I remember holding my breath every time he touched the ball for Oklahoma State in the 2014 season opener.
Like Hamilton, there was much debate about Hill before his major league career, but Hill’s problems were less about his skill and more about his character. Luckily for him, NFL teams would literally (in the figurative sense of the word) kill for speed, and the Chiefs took a gamble on him in the fifth round of the 2016 NFL Draft.
So far, he’s been able to stay out of trouble, and the Chiefs made the playoffs in part due to his big play threat. He had the season’s longest punt return and fifth longest kick return. Opponents must account for him whenever he’s on the field, and this return is a great example of why:
Need For Speed
Hamilton and Hill have been able to make a living off of their speed. Without it, they most definitely wouldn’t be in their respective leagues. They are both one-dimensional players who excel at that one dimension.
They are both still fairly young, so don’t expect them to lose a step yet, but when they do, they better start looking for follow-up careers. Maybe Tony Romo will need a color guy.
- Tom Brady – Michael Jordan
- David Johnson -Mike Trout
- LeBron James – Bill Belichick
- Big Ben – Kris Bryant
- J.J. Watt – Brock Lesnar