On Nov. 4, Taysom Hill was a former quarterback turned gadget player and tight end, and Kendall Hinton had just re-signed with the Broncos as a practice squad wide receiver.
But it’s 2020, so less than a month later, Hill starts at quarterback for the Saints (8-2) against the Broncos (4-6) and Hinton. A Drew Brees injury and Sean Payton decision made Hill the New Orleans starter a week ago for a Week 11 win, and that seemed like it’d be the quirky quarterback story of the season. But then all four of Denver’s rostered quarterbacks were placed on the COVID-19/reserve list by Saturday night, and Hinton was promoted from the practice squad Sunday morning for an even more unlikely start.
Hill’s future as an NFL quarterback appears to have some legs. Hinton might be looking at a true one-and-done opportunity. But both quarterbacks at Denver’s Empower Field at Mile High will be proof that sometimes, opportunity comes knocking.
Comparing Taysom Hill and Kendall Hinton
Hill and Hinton have traveled far from the same journey to this point. At BYU, Hill was strictly a quarterback — and an old one at that, after completing his two-year mission for the Mormon Church. Hinton converted to wide receiver as a senior at Wake Forest after playing quarterback the four years prior.
They both were (and are) dual threats, although Hill twice surpassed 2,000 yards passing and Hinton never got to even 1,000 in a season. As a freshman, Hinton rushed for a career-best seven touchdowns. As a sophomore, Hill rushed for his career-high of 10.
In addition to being the more prolific passer, Hill presents more size at 6-2 and 221 pounds, while Hinton is 6-0 and 195 pounds. Their running styles follow suit, with Hill being more of a bruiser with speed while Hinton’s game is making people miss.
Both Hill and Hinton went undrafted due to doubts about their professional role, with Hill not sticking with the Packers before Payton brought him in to New Orleans. Hinton was waived early in the 2020 season by the Broncos before they brought him back about two months later.
Hill has quickly gone from an unknown to someone players are compared to on draft day, with Jalen Hurts occasionally being slapped with the “Taysom Hill-like” label ahead of the 2020 NFL Draft. Hinton didn’t get that label, because he was already well into his commitment to playing receiver, but maybe a good start against Hill would bring on such a direct comparison for Hinton.
Taysom Hill’s future as an NFL quarterback
Before Hill’s first NFL start in Week 11, NFL Network reported that the reasoning behind the move was simple: “Sean just wants to know.” That’s referring to New Orleans coach Sean Payton just wanting to know whether Hill could be an NFL starter down the road.
With Drew Brees at 41 years old and having been injured two seasons in a row, Payton has to consider the future. It’s Hill that the Saints signed to a multi-year deal before the season, not Jameis Winston, who received just a one-year contract.
Winston very likely could move on after the year to a team in need of a starter, but New Orleans will still have Hill through 2021. There was speculation surrounding a Brees retirement before the 2020 season, and there surely will be again in the upcoming offseason.
Hill has proven himself useful to the Saints while not playing quarterback, but coming off a promising first start, he also might have a real future as an NFL quarterback. The Saints paid him big gadget-player money and have temporarily handed him to the keys to the offense in order to find out.
Kendall Hinton’s future as an NFL quarterback
The website FantasyFootballMetrics.com was especially excited about Hinton in the pre-draft process in 2020, writing “I thought I might be looking at the best non-Combine, maybe best not-even-drafted WR/offensive prospect of the 2020 class.” But that was all about Hinton’s ability as a receiver, with the author going on to compare Hinton to Steelers wideout Diontae Johnson.
Pre-draft references to Hinton mention his background as a quarterback, but more to suggest he’ll be a smart runner with the football as a pass-catcher, not as an option for him to return to the position at some point. It’s unlikely Denver would’ve been carrying four quarterbacks not named Hinton if the Broncos felt Hinton himself filled out their quarterback depth chart.
Reports have even indicated that Denver would’ve rather started an assistant coach over Hinton in Week 12. All of this is to say that Hinton hasn’t been regarded as an NFL quarterback until it was an absolute necessity, and unless he wows in a shell of an offense against the Saints, that’ll probably remain true.
That being said, Hinton will have made a start in the NFL at the position he played growing up. It might not mean he’ll get that chance again, but in the chaos that is 2020, Hinton finds himself in a situation no one would’ve predicted