“One of the steals of the draft so far,” ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper, Jr. said after the Cincinnati Bengals drafted former Michigan safety Daxton Hill with the 31st pick in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft on Thursday night. “Should have gone 10 or 15 picks earlier.”
Kiper had Hill rated as the No. 13 prospect on his most recent draft rankings after an impressive NFL Combine in which Hill ran a 4.38 40, one of the fastest time for a safety in years. Hill played mostly as a slot cornerback for the Wolverines last year.
“I’ve always liked Daxton Hill,” Kiper said. “Here’s a guy who did everything at Michigan. He can be slot corner, he can play center field, he tackles so well, he can get after the quarterback, he intercepts passes. He was a five-star recruit coming out of high school, No. 1 safety, speed to the football, everything that shows you he’s going to be ready to go. He’s perfect for the way the game is played today.”
Kipe is far from alone in his praise. Hill made No. 18 on Todd McShay’s final list of top prospects, and received a grade of 91 (McShay’s highest-graded player, Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson, received a 94).
“He plays the safety position with a linebacker mentality and a cornerback’s body,” McShay said. “That’s the best way I can describe him. He’s got his cornerback cover skills, and he can play in this slot and cover you one on one, probably better than any other safety in this class. He has deep range if you want to play him over the top, and he’s got good ball skills. I think he’s a great player that for some reason just keeps getting overlooked.”
Hill, a 6-1, 191-pound junior, started all 14 games for Michigan in 2021 and recorded 69 tackles (4.5 for loss), two interceptions, eight passes broken up and .5 sacks. Although he allowed 48 receptions in 68 targets, he only gave up one touchdown and held opponents to an average of 4.5 yards per catch. He allowed one yard on one target against Iowa in the Big Ten Championship game.
“Let’s start with the instincts and the eyes, being able to get your eyes on the quarterback,” said NFL Network draft analyst Daniel Jeremiah. “He’s outstanding, too, being able to float underneath. The ball skills are outstanding—he can locate it and he can finish. And then as a blitzer, watch out. He is explosive.”
Hill wound up as the No. 23 prospect on Jeremiah’s list of top draft prospects, and finished at No. 18 on the 2022 NFL Draft Prospect Rankings of CBSSports.com.
And that sense of excitement does not stop with the experts.
“It’s a blessing,” Hill said in an interview with local12.com immediately after the selection. “It’s ironic how we could’ve won the Super Bowl last year, but my upside can be important to the team, and I feel like me coming in Day 1 can definitely show that I can do great things for the defense and for the team.”