SALT LAKE CITY — Former BYU quarterback Taysom Hill became known last season around the NFL for his ability to contribute in a variety of ways for the New Orleans Saints.
It took Hill almost his entire rookie season before seeing the field on special teams in December. In his second year, though, Saints coach Sean Payton kept drawing up ways to get Hill, his third quarterback behind starter Drew Brees and backup Teddy Bridgewater, on the field.
His numbers were unorthodox in 2018:
— 37 carries for 196 yards (5.3 per-carry average), 2 touchdowns
— 3 of 7 passes for 64 yards and an interception
— 3 receptions for 4 yards lining up as a tight end
— 1 punt return for 0 yards and 14 kickoff returns for a 24.9 per-return average, including a long of 47 yards
— 6 total tackles as a special-teamer
— He blocked a punt against Tampa Bay in Week 14 to help the Saints rally for a win, and Hill successfully converted several fourth-down fake punts, including one in a playoff win over the Philadelphia Eagles.
During the Saints’ playoff run, Hill also had a 2-yard touchdown reception from Brees in the NFC championship game. The touchdown gave the Saints a 20-10 third-quarter lead, though the Los Angeles Rams rallied to win 26-23 in overtime.
Hill's greatest on-field contribution came on special teams. Pro Football Focus charted his 661 snaps in 2018, and Saints Wire explained that 387 of them, or 58.5 percent, came on special teams.
Here's how his snap count numbers broke down, courtesy Saints Wire, as Hill played primarily seven different positions.
— Quarterback: 64 snaps
— Tight end: 62 snaps
— Wide receiver: 43 snaps
— Slot receiver: 28 snaps
— Halfback/fullback: 13 snaps
— Kickoff coverage/returns: 199 snaps
— Punt coverage/returns: 119 snaps
— Field goal block: 69 snaps
— Miscellaneous: 64 snaps
This year's rookie class provides some intriguing options for college-level quarterbacks who could potentially fit into the Hill mold.
Nick Fitzgerald, Mississippi State
— Free-agent signee by Tampa Bay Buccaneers, according to the school
— 6-foot-5, 226 pounds, 4.64-second 40 time and 29.5-inch vertical jump at NFL combine
Fitzgerald completed 54 percent of his passes for 6,207 yards, 55 touchdowns and 30 interceptions at Mississippi State, including three years as the starter after taking over for now-Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott. The SEC’s all-time leading rusher from the QB position also ran for 3,607 yards and 46 touchdowns while averaging 6.0 yards per carry, including two 1,000-plus yard rushing seasons. Both Hill and Fitzgerald had their best rushing seasons in college as sophomores: Hill rushed for 1,344 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2013, while Fitzgerald ran for 1,375 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2016, the same year both quarterbacks played each other in BYU's 28-21 win over Mississippi State at LaVell Edwards Stadium. During Mississippi State's Pro Day, Fitzgerald also worked out as a catcher and a blocker, according to Saturday Down South.
What they're saying: "I have no problem being a quarterback, but also going to run a route, take a jet sweep, go run down on special teams. I'd be ecstatic if they looked at me and said, 'You can return kicks like they let Taysom Hill.' I would be really excited to do that," Fitzgerald told The Athletic.
Trace McSorley, Penn State
— Sixth-round selection by Baltimore Ravens
— 6-foot, 202 pounds, 4.57-second 40 time and 33-inch vertical jump at NFL combine
McSorley set several Penn State career records, including passing yards (9,899), passing touchdowns (77), rushing yards by a quarterback (1,697), rushing touchdowns by a quarterback (30) and total offensive yards (11,596). He also had 22 career games with both a passing and rushing touchdown, including five last season. The three-year starter completed 59 percent of his passes and rushed for a career-best 798 yards (4.7 ypc) in 2018. McSorley was asked to work out at defensive back at the NFL combine but declined, according to ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter.
What they're saying: "You saw what the Saints have done down there with their third quarterback. That's something we'll have a chance to do, too, with Trace. He's going to be able to play special teams as well. The more you can do. You want players with roles, and he's a guy that has a chance to have a big role for us," Ravens coach John Harbaugh told ESPN.
Easton Stick, North Dakota State
— Fifth-round selection by Los Angeles Chargers
— 6-foot-1, 224 pounds, 4.62-second 40 time and 33.5-inch vertical jump at NFL combine
Stick was a four-year starter for the Bison and named an FCS All-American by several outlets following his senior season in 2018. He completed 64 percent of his passes at NDSU for 8,693 yards, 88 touchdowns and just 28 interceptions after taking over for now-Philadelphia Eagles starting quarterback Carson Wentz. He also rushed for 2,523 yards and 41 touchdowns for the Bison with a 5.9 ypc average. His 40-yard dash time at the NFL combine was third-fastest among quarterbacks, behind McSorley in first and just edging out Fitzgerald.
What they're saying: "He has those type of qualities. (Coach) Anthony Lynn and (offensive coordinator) Ken Whisenhunt, they have creative minds. But also with that, that would involve taking Philip Rivers off the field, so you kind of have to balance both of those and see where we are. But (Stick) has a lot of those qualities that Taysom Hill has as far as his toughness, being able to run with the football," Chargers general manager Tom Telesco told NFL Network’s “Up To the Minute Live," according to NFL.com.
John Lovett, Princeton
— Free-agent signee with Kansas City Chiefs, according to the school
— 6-foot-2, 234 pounds, 4.56-second 40 time and 32-inch vertical jump at Princeton’s Pro Day
Lovett had a standout senior season for Princeton after missing the 2017 season because of offseason shoulder surgery. In 2018, he led the Ivy League in total offense (303 yards per game) while passing for 1,883 yards, 18 touchdowns and just three interceptions with a 66 percent completion rate, and rushing for 894 yards and 13 touchdowns with a 6.3 ypc average. Before taking over full-time as the team's quarterback, he lined up at slot receiver and H-back and was used as a Wildcat quarterback in goal-line and short-yardage situations, according to the New York Post. Lovett told Draft Diamonds during the pre-draft process that Hill is the most underrated player in the NFL: "Having a player on your team that can play multiple positions with success is extremely valuable."
What they’re saying: “I’ll tell you the guy that I think is going to be really interesting, too, is this John Lovett from Princeton. … I think he’s interesting because he’s a former quarterback at Princeton, but I think he can take some snaps at fullback and kind of that H-back/tight end position, play some (special) teams,” Chiefs general manager Brett Veach told Chiefs Wire.
Here's how those numbers from the four rookie quarterbacks stack up against the former Cougar when he entered the NFL in 2017.
Taysom Hill, BYU
— Free-agent signee by the Green Bay Packers in 2017, now with the Saints
— 6-foot-2, 221 pounds, 4.44-second 40 time and 38.5-inch vertical leap at BYU’s Pro Day
The NFL allows teams to dress 46 players for each game, and Hill, with a coaching staff willing to find creative ways to get him on the field, has established himself as a valuable contributor who isn't just eating up a roster spot on game day.
“(Hill) is someone that’s developing and we feel like he’s going to be someone that competes to play in this league," Payton recently told WWL Radio in New Orleans.
Could one of these four rookies fit into the same mold?