Tyreek Hill's 2023 season could cement his status as the best modern late-round receiver

The 2023 NFL MVP race is a close contest as the season enters the final five weeks. Per odds information provided by BetMGM, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott and San Francisco 49ers quarterback Brock Purdy are tied at the top of the MVP rankings at +300. More quarterbacks fill out the rest of the top six: Philadelphia's Jalen Hurts (+400), Kansas City's Patrick Mahomes (+650), Miami's Tua Tagovailoa (+800), and Baltimore's Lamar Jackson (+800).

The top-ranked non-quarterback? Dolphins wide receiver Tyreek Hill.

Miami boasts the top pass offense in the NFL ahead of Week 14 and is one of just two offenses averaging more than 400 yards per game. Hill's playing at a historic pace in 2023 and, if he keeps it up, could cement his status as the best late-round wide receiver pick in modern NFL history.

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Tyreek Hill's 2023 season by the numbers

Hill is by far the best wide receiver in the NFL this season. He leads the league in receiving yards (1,481) and receiving touchdowns (12) while sitting second in the league in receptions (93).

His per-game numbers are eye-popping. His 123.4 receiving yards per game is in another tier compared to the rest of the league. Dallas' CeeDee Lamb is second in receiving yards per game at 98.5. The distance from Hill to Lamb in second is roughly the same gap from Lamb to Seattle's D.K. Metcalf in 16th.

If he keeps this up, Hill will finish 2023 with one of the best seasons for a wide receiver in NFL history.

Only four players in league history have averaged more than 120 yards per game in a season: Wes Chandler in 1982 (129), Charley Hennigan in 1961 (124.7), Elroy Hirsch in 1951 (124.6), and Calvin Johnson in 2012 (122.8). Johnson's 2012 season set the record for receiving yards in a season 1,964. Even with 16 games, Hill would break that record. With 17 games at his disposal, he'll likely become the first receiver to clear 2,000 yards.

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Could Tyreek Hill win the MVP in 2023?

Hill is on pace for 132 catches, 2,098 receiving yards, and 17 receiving touchdowns in 2023. That would put him fifth in catches, first in receiving yards, and tied for sixth in receiving touchdowns all-time for a single season.

The last non-quarterback to win the NFL MVP award was running back Adrian Peterson in 2012. Peterson won that behind an incredible statistical season: 2,314 yards from scrimmage and 13 total touchdowns.

But Hill's 2023 season may fall in line with Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk's incredible 1999 season. Faulk became just the second player in NFL history to break 1,000 yards both rushing and receiving that year and, in doing so, set a new record for yards from scrimmage. Yet Faulk finished second in MVP voting to his teammate and then-St. Louis Rams quarterback Kurt Warner.

Hill's numbers are historic but considering how balanced the Dolphins' offense is - first in passing yards per game, second in rushing yards per game - he may not be "valuable" enough to become the first wide receiver to win the award.

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Why Tyreek Hill was a late-round draft pick

Hill wasn't projected to be selected in the 2016 NFL Draft due to character concerns surrounding his arrest in 2014 for domestic abuse. He pled guilty to domestic assault and battery by strangulation counts and was sentenced to three years of conditional probation. Oklahoma State dismissed the 2014 All-Big 12 all-purpose player right after the arrest.

He played for West Alabama in 2015 and had his worst college season but was drafted in the fifth round, 165th overall by the Kansas City Chiefs. This drew criticism for the Chiefs and the NFL in the wake of Ray Rice and Greg Hardy suspensions for domestic violence incidents.

“The fans have every right to be mad at me," Hill said during rookie minicamps in 2016. "I did something wrong. I let my emotions get the best of me, and I shouldn’t have did it. They have every right to be mad. But guess what? I’m fixing to come back, be a better man, be a better citizen, and everything takes care of itself, and let God do the rest.”

That history will follow him throughout his career and life. On the field, he's become one of the best modern NFL wide receivers, especially taken in the final three rounds of the NFL Draft.

Tyreek Hill's ranking among late-round draft picks

Of the trio of wide receivers who have a higher receiving yards per game total than Hill in 2023 - Chandler, Hennigan, and Hirsch - only one was drafted outside of the first five picks: Hennigan, who was an undrafted free agent in 1960.

Hill is sixth all-time in career receiving yards per game behind Justin Jefferson, Ja'Marr Chase, Johnson, Julio Jones, and Antonio Brown. Only Brown was drafted later than the first round; the Steelers selected him in the sixth round, 195th overall in the 2010 NFL Draft. The NFL top 20 all-time in receiving yards per game includes just three players drafted in the fifth round or later: Hill, Brown, and Stefon Diggs. Hill also has an all-decade team nod from the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a returner for the 2010s.

Hill's stellar 2023 season, should he maintain his pace, would vault him past Brown to solidify his status as the top late-round wide receiver pick in modern NFL history. Brown's best season - probably 2015, when he totaled 136 catches, 1,834 receiving yards, 10 touchdowns - can't match Hill's peak this season.

Longevity could be an argument, as Hill stated in April he may only play another few seasons in the NFL. But whether he retires at the end of his current contract or not, Hill's 2023 season will make him one of, if not the, best wide receiver taken in the last three rounds of the modern NFL Draft.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Tyreek Hill's 2023 season has him in historic NFL Draft company