As the NFL draft wound down Saturday afternoon, Ryan Day admitted feeling confused and a little frustrated.
K.J. Hill, who left Ohio State as its all-time receptions leader and was viewed as a possible mid-round selection, had slipped into the seventh round before he was picked by the Los Angeles Chargers with the 220th overall pick.
"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," said Day, the Buckeyes’ coach. "The Chargers got a complete steal. I think a lot of guys missed on him."
Speaking with reporters on a teleconference Sunday, Day offered thoughts on a draft that saw 10 players out of Ohio State taken, tied for the second-most from any school behind LSU, which had 14 of its former players taken.
Out of all the selections over the three-day draft, Day considered Hill’s fall to be one of the biggest mysteries.
Hill does not offer a ton of size. He measured 6 feet and 196 pounds at the NFL’s scouting combine in February. That means he might be limited to a role as a slot receiver.
And he wasn’t particularly fast in individual drills. He clocked 4.6 seconds in the 40-yard dash in Indianapolis, a time eclipsed by more than a dozen other wide receiver prospects.
But Day, a former quarterbacks coach in the NFL, found other traits from Hill to be desirable, especially his sure-handedness and route-running precision.
"I’m not sitting here telling anybody how to do their business," Day said. "But I just know that some great coaches have said the best receivers get open and they catch the ball. 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? If you’re not fast enough to get open, or you can’t catch the ball, that’s a problem. But I’ve never seen anybody cover K.J. Hill on a consistent basis. I think it’ll be the same way once he gets to the NFL."
Hill moved atop Ohio State’s all-time receptions list late last season and finished with 201 career receptions. The previous mark had been held for two decades by David Boston.
Though he contended Hill had been overlooked by teams, Day thought Hill’s chances to make an impact in the league would not be affected by his draft slot.
"There’s a lot of guys who have been in the same boat and have gone on to have great careers," Day said. "All these guys need are opportunities. They all kind of have the same opportunity. Guys who were drafted in the first round probably have a little more than the undrafted free agents. Still, all you need is a chance to get on the field and prove what you have."
At least five former Ohio State players are to sign with teams as undrafted free agents after they were not selected during the final rounds of the draft Saturday.
That included tight end Rashod Berry with the New England Patriots, offensive lineman Branden Bowen with the Carolina Panthers, long snapper Liam McCullough with the Las Vegas Raiders and receivers Austin Mack and Binjimen Victor with the New York Giants.
The prospects will face additional hurdles this offseason as they look to make either a team’s roster or practice squad.
Rookie minicamps and other programs will be held only virtually next month due to the coronavirus pandemic.
That leaves them without opportunities to work out in front of coaches.
Day said that’s an obstacle that can be overcome. The most valuable window for players to try out for teams comes in August when they can participate in the preseason.
"Because you’re really not practicing in full pads very often," Day said. "Once you get going with the games, that’s when you get a feeling for who guys are. The guys who make plays are the ones who typically make rosters or at least practice squads."