The former All-Dade County high school selection in football and basketball did not take long to show why his athleticism was coveted by programs of many sizes and statures.
Hilton was named Sun Belt Freshman of the Year, first-team all-conference as a returner and all-purpose player, and Freshman All-American as a return specialist by multiple organizations after a strong first season at FIU (41-1,013-7 receiving, 14-43-2 rushing, 36-843-1 kick returns, 18-266-1 punt returns).
He was bothered by nagging injuries as a sophomore but still led the team in receiving (57-632-5) and kickoff returns (22-633-1), then returned to form strong enough to be named Sun Belt Player of the Year for his play in 2010 (59-848-5 rec, 30-282-4 rush, 29-833-2 KR, 20-126 PR), helping FIU win its first Sun Belt title.
The electric Hilton scored on his first touch of the season in both 2008 and 2009, and his play in 2010 only cemented his status as one of the best slot receiver/return specialist prospects in the draft.
In fact, he could be the highest-drafted player in FIU's short program history. But even if his lack of size doesn't allow him to beat former FIU DE/OLB Antwan Barnes' fourth-round selection (#134, 2007, Baltimore), his speed, hands, toughness make him quite likely to hear his name called well before the 222nd pick, where Tampa Bay selected his former teammate and son of his godparents, defensive back Anthony Gaitor, in the 2011 draft.
Release: Good quickness off the line, eats up cushion against overmatched safeties and slower corners from the slot and can throttle down when necessary. Rarely gets challenged in press, will need to prove he can shake and make the crisp cut to free himself from the jam.
Hands: Very good hands, accepts the ball fluidly on most throws and is ready to make a play afterwards. Extends for throws, looks the ball all the way in. Makes catches in traffic, even going up over taller defenders with vertical and toughness. Tracks the ball over his shoulder. Competitive player who takes the occasional drop very hard.
Route Running: Flashes the foot quickness and toughness to handle slot duties at the next level. Lines up all over the field, in the slot, outside, put into motion. Agile enough to avoid linebackers to find soft spots in zones, understands spacing to make himself available. Makes strong cuts but also extends his arm to create separation when heading downfield. Stems his routes, only drifting inside to set up defender on out cut. Can threaten the seam with speed on verticals. Will take an extra step before making the right-angle cut over the middle. NFL defenders may be able to knock him off his route because of his slight frame.
After the Catch: Dangerous with the ball in his hands. Combines speed, balance, quickness, vision and crisp cuts to leave defensive backs and linebackers in the dust. Spins off or jumps through arm tackles, maintains downfield vision to set up next defender. Runs the Wildcat formation, usually in the red zone, as the team's biggest offensive weapon. Elite quickness and elusiveness in the open field as a returner; flies through creases and runs through arm tackles. Does not transfer ball to outside hand consistently. Stronger defenders can rip the ball from his hands.
Blocking: Willing to take larger defenders head on despite his wiry frame. Gives great effort downfield to allow teammates running lanes, punching his man or grabbing the numbers to sustain. Hits multiple targets. Effective cut blocker in space, slows or stops his man from going forward to enter the play. Stronger defenders can push him to the ground when ready to be physical.
Intangibles: Strong family connections, work ethic and character. Parents were exceptional athletes. Stayed in school for senior season to graduate. Nicknamed "Good-Bye" for his speed. Has son, Eugene, Jr., with long-time girlfriend/fiance."
He exhibits a good feel slow-playing routes off the line and being sudden out of his breaks before accelerating quickly away from his defender. He also shows a good burst to his game both off the line and out of his breaks and has a legit second gear as well.
He can routinely outrun defenders both down the field and with the ball in his hands and he plays really fast in all avenues of the game. He's shifty, balanced and can be tough to bring down in the open field.
Hilton accelerates well toward daylight, displays the second gear to outpace angles and does a nice job being sudden enough to make a defender miss, stay on his feet and create through contact. He is still developing as a route runner, he will roll into his routes at times and is a bit limited running the route tree.
However, the natural burst, balance and footwork makes it evident that he should develop as a route runner with more time. He needs to do a better job plucking the football underneath, and too often lets throws get into his frame and he also likes to cradle balls against his chest.
Hilton isn't a guy who I would trust beating press coverage at the next level. He's thin framed, lacks power in the lower half and is going to have a tough time fending off contact.
However, he doubles as a dynamic kick/punt return option as well, and he looks patient setting up blocks, picking his way through traffic, hitting the gas and running away from defenders.
He isn't a guy who's going to hold his own blocking on the edge at the next level, but is a threat you can run reverses to as he gets up to speed quickly and maintains balance well when accelerating around the bend.
Impression: He is limited where he can play in the NFL, however, he has the vertical skill set, play speed and ability to after the catch to make his fair share of plays from the slot at the next level."
Weaknesses: Hilton’s hands are disappointing as he has a tendency to catch the ball with his body. Too many passes hit the grass with Hilton. His route running is in need of some work as he too often relies on his speed to run past defenders. For someone as quick as Hilton you would expect him to get off the line without problem. He doesn’t and looks lethargic at times off the line. He struggles against press man coverage as he frequently has to re-route.
Bottom Line: Hilton needs some work but could offer value as an inside receiver in the NFL/punt-kick returner. He is a dynamic receiver but his hands and route running leave a bit to be desired.
Draft Projection: Hilton is viewed as a 2nd-3rd round prospect but I don’t see it. He’s a late 3rd, early 4th for me."
Also has vision, burst and long speed to factor in the return game.
Durability could be an issue given his small build and lack of bulk but is tough and has a professional makeup that increases his chances for success."
As a junior, he had 59 receptions for 848 yards and five touchdowns. He also ran for 282 yards and four touchdowns. Add two more touchdowns on returns and it shows how much of an all-purpose threat Hilton is on the field. As such, he'll likely garner favorable comparisons to Green Bay Packers rookie Randall Cobb.
Following a standout junior season, Hilton strongly considered joining Cobb in the 2011 NFL Draft. Instead he chose to return to Florida International and continue helping the school's turnaround.
• Almost exclusively a slot receiver, although FIU has used him some lined up outside.
• Possesses legit next-level speed to break away from defenders in the open field. Has reportedly ran in the 40-yard dash in just under 4.3 seconds.
• Really not much of a factor when his team is near the goal line. Has to be used mostly on slants where he can rely on his quickness to get open.
• Size will always be a concern in how a team uses him.
• Shows good hands, but isn't asked to make a lot of difficult catches.
• On crossing routes, Hilton can really abuses safeties who are playing too deep.
• Used on punt and kick returns. Displays nice vision to find holes and his uses his burst to get through."
Not all that big or thick and can be jammed at the line of scrimmage, but can turn on a dime and has great acceleration in space; also has strong hands and runs nice routes; dangerous runner with the ball after the catch or working as a wildcat QB;
Was dinged up most of the year in 2009 with assorted minor injuries; good athlete who was also recruited as a basketball player; is engaged with a three-year old son."
He's able to take bubble screens and other short passes and make the most of them. Given his size, it is tough to connect with him downfield on big throws. Think of Hilton as a player like Ted Ginn, Jr.
His impact as a receiver is limited, but he can be a difference maker on kick and punt returns. Injuries are going to be a concern given Hilton's slight frame.
Hilton in open space can be dangerous, but NFL offenses will need to create plays specifically for him in mind. He does well to catch the ball away from his body. His route running isn't crisp, but that can come in time.
He isn't strong enough against press coverage, but given his multiple gears of speed, he can use his agility to get around defenders rather than taking them on straight on."