Two Thoughts on the Jalen Ramsey-Tyreek Hill Exchange

FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 21: Jalen Ramsey #20 of the Jacksonville Jaguars reacts during the second half of the AFC Championship Game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on January 21, 2018 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
FOXBOROUGH, MA - JANUARY 21: Jalen Ramsey #20 of the Jacksonville Jaguars reacts during the second half of the AFC Championship Game against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on January 21, 2018 in Foxborough, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images) /

Jalen Ramsey and Tyreek Hill jump-started Sunday’s match-up with some trash-talk, and it sparked some thoughts on the perception of Hill’s role and Ramsey.

As if we weren’t already anxiously awaiting Sunday’s match-up between the NFL’s top scoring offense and scoring defense, two of the stars involved in the Kansas City Chiefs vs. Jacksonville Jaguars game have spoken out.

In case you’ve been away from social media, here is a full recap on the words exchanged between Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill and Jags cornerback Jalen Ramsey. There are a lot of takes to be had on this exchange, and it sparked a few random thoughts for me.

Jalen Ramsey, Great for the NFL

Jalen Ramsey is a dominant defender and trash talker. He has all the attributes of a star, a player any fan would love to have on their team. The All Pro cornerback has called out anyone he deems to be inferior opposition, and in my opinion. it’s been great fun. On Thursday it took a little prodding by reporters to get Ramsey rolling, and he seemed a bit reluctant to go all-in, but he delivered some good soundbites in response to Hill’s earlier comments.

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What caught most people’s attention was his view of the match-up. Ramsey made clear that he did not think Hill, who has not been voted to the Pro Bowl as a wide receiver (rather as a return specialist, twice), was on his level. He touted his own All-Pro selection as a corner, again as a contrast to Hill’s selection as only a return specialist.

Ramsey also trashed-talked Hill’s trash talk. He took up that Hill’s initial comments wavered- that Hill characterized Ramsey as both “alright” and “top dog” within moments of each other. Later in response to a follow up question regarding pressing Hill, Ramsey responded, “If he wants smoke, it’ll get there.”

Even as a Kansas City Chiefs fan, I love it. Nothing wrong with a good-natured back and forth, especially from two star players. It provides great midweek content for fans and heightens the anticipation for Sunday’s match-up. Hill has also embraced such activities as of late, most recently when San Francisco 49ers running back Matt Breida encroached on Hill’s title of ‘Cheetah.’ Lets see if Hill has a retort for Ramsey, or saves it for Sunday. Please let at least one of them be mic’d up for the game. We deserve it.

Tyreek Hill, The All Pro Receiver & Return Man

Ramsey indirectly illuminated the oddities of Pro Bowl voting and how Hill’s league-wide perception has (or hasn’t) changed since his rookie year. Tyreek Hill made the Pro Bowl the last two seasons as a return specialist. He made the 2018 Pro Bowl despite only returning 25 punts and zero kickoffs. The low return numbers were due to a reduced special teams role as he emerged as the top wide-out for the Kansas City Chiefs, and a bona fide WR1.

But why did he make the Pro Bowl as a return specialist if he wasn’t a full time return man in 2017? Two reasons: perception and stellar production despite limited touches.

Pro Bowl voting is by fans, players, and coaches. The fan vote is by position, and ‘Return Specialist’ is where Hill’s name appeared on the ballot last year after a Pro Bowl campaign in 2016 in that role. Additionally, he was not perceived as a true wideout—league-wide or even by some fans in K.C.—again affecting his selection as wide receiver. So despite the great receiving numbers last season, he was sort of pigeonholed by voters as a returner. Ramsey’s comments exemplify that perception.

Secondly, his special teams production in 2017 was still Pro Bowl worthy.  A cursory look at the stats show that even with limited returns, Hill was still a deserving choice as return specialist. What’s even crazier is that he is only 70 punt return yards away from matching his 2017 return output, having already matched his 1 return TD in 2017.  While proving he was a capable WR1 (discussed below), he still created several splash plays on special teams, and continues to do so,  just like his rookie year. His role hasn’t change, its expanded.

Tyreek Hill made the Pro Bowl as a returner, but rest assured, despite Ramsey’s implications, Hill was Pro Bowl level wide receiver last year.

In 2017 Hill finished fourth in the AFC in receiving yards, behind only Deandre Hopkins, Antonio Brown, and Keenan Allen. Brown and Hopkins both withdrew from the game. He had seven receiving touchdowns, one less than A.J. Green and more than either T.Y. Hilton or Keenan Allen. Pro Bowl selections are always a crap shoot, but Hill’s numbers match up with the four initially voted in (Brown, Hopkins, Allen and Green), and certainly with the two alternates (Hilton and Jarivs Landry). As for this year, Hill is on pace for over 1,400 receiving yards and 12 receiving touchdowns at the quarter-pole, likely All Pro numbers if sustained.

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Many saw Hill as only a gadget player initially, and he continues to make highlight plays typical of such players that reinforce that view. But this obscures the tremendous production as a true WR1 highlighted above. So, thank you to Jalen Ramsey for indirectly calling attention to this. Hopefully fans around the league start to see Hill as a dominant return man and elite receiver, not one or the other, and Tyreek Hill gets his well-deserved Pro Bowl nod at wide-out.

Wrapping Up

Hill and Ramsey are two of the best young stars in the game right now, and will go toe-to-toe several times this Sunday. Hopefully Hill comes out the winner, and shows anyone late to the party that he is a top flight wide receiver, not just a return man. Ramsey will certainly makes play, and it will be an interesting storyline all day. As always, Go Chiefs!