Daxton Hill had to wait until late in the first round to hear his name called, but that doesn’t mean he’s any less special than those selected ahead of him.
The Cincinnati Bengals selected Hill, the former Michigan Wolverines safety, with the No. 31 overall pick in the recent NFL Draft. With Cincinnati coming off a Super Bowl appearance and sports betting platforms like FanDuel Sportsbook Ohio expected to launch soon, it’s an exciting time for Bengals fans, and the addition of Hill may raise that excitement even more.
So what are the Bengals getting out of Hill?
When scouting Hill, it’s possible the thing the Bengals liked most about him was his versatility.
Hill is a true do-it-all defensive back, able to play both safety and corner while guarding any receiver on the field, whether it’s a speedy quick-hitter, a down-the-field threat or a bigger tight end.
“He’s going to fit in perfectly there,” said Dax Hill’s brother and current Baltimore Ravens running back Justice Hill, according to the Bengals’ team website. “He’s on a good team. Whatever they need him to do, he can pretty much do everything. He’s versatile, he can play safety, he can play corner. He can guard the tight end, he can guard the No. 1 receiver.
“He went up against a lot of receivers in the Big 10 and pretty much clipped all of them.”
Dax Hill tallied four interceptions and 151 tackles during his Michigan career, proving his worth in both defending the pass and stopping ballcarriers. He had seven tackles against bitter rival Ohio State last season and even notched a half-sack against Nebraska earlier in the year.
Plus, it wasn’t like Hill was facing bottom-feeder teams while at Michigan. He often shined in big games against powerhouse teams, such as Ohio State, and there’s reason to believe he will do so at the NFL level, too.
“We’re really excited about Daxton Hill,” Bengals coach Zac Taylor said, according to Sports Illustrated’s Fan Nation. “He was a player that we thought very highly of and were surprised he was there for us. We’re really eager to add him to our team. We think he will be a great weapon for us on defense, and we can use him in a lot of different ways.”
The Bengals may not need Hill to start right away, but adding him to their safety room is still a huge positive for the team.
Jessie Bates III and Vonn Bell are currently Cincinnati’s starting safeties, and they’re not expected to lose those jobs just yet. Bates tallied 88 tackles and one interception across 15 games last season, while Bell notched 87 tackles and one pick in 16 games.
Hill’s versatility, though, could allow him to get on the field early. The Bengals could line him up as an additional safety or at corner in different packages, and he also may see additional playing time if another member of the secondary is injured.
While much has been made of quarterback Joe Burrow and the Bengals offense, their defense will be just as key, if not more so, if the team expects to field another strong postseason run. The addition of Hill, whether or not he starts off the bat or serves a more as-needed role, should only help matters there.
Can the Bengals make another Super Bowl run?
Hill joins a Bengals team looking to keep its recent success afloat.
After multiple consecutive losing seasons, Cincinnati fielded a marvelous 2021 campaign, making the playoffs and winning the AFC North for the first time since 2015. It was also the first time since that season that the Bengals had a winning record.
Cincinnati’s playoff run included wins over the Las Vegas Raiders, Tennessee Titans and the Kansas City Chiefs. The Bengals advanced to Super Bowl LVI, in which they lost to the Los Angeles Rams.
And Cincinnati’s work in the NFL Draft, with the team drafting defensive players, including Hill, in the first three rounds, may just help to further that goal.
“We are really happy with the three (defensive) guys we’ve walked away with,” Taylor said, according to The Associated Press. “We walked out of there feeling like, ‘OK, we accomplished not only value with the right players.’ They hit some spots that we knew we needed some depth. We weren’t going to reach for guys, so some guys that we felt good about were there and (we) took them.”