NAME: Daxton Hill
HEIGHT: 6’0 1/4″
WEIGHT: 192 lbs
HOMETOWN: Tulsa, OK
HIGH SCHOOL: Booker T. Washington
The list of recruits ranked ahead of Hill at 14th overall in the 2019 recruiting class is a murderer’s row. Possible #1 overall pick Evan Neal, likely top 5 pick Kayvon Thibodeaux, and top CB Derek Stingley Jr. all inhabit spots above him. Despite this, the Tulsa native was 2019’s #1 safety recruit (yes, above Kyle Hamilton) with at least 26 major offers to his name and was named Oklahoma’s Player of the Year. After whittling the list down to two, Hill chose the Wolverines over the Crimson Tide, then flipped to Bama, then flipped back to Michigan.
The brother of current Ravens RB Justice Hill, Daxton hit the ground running in Ann Arbor. In 13 games as a true freshman, he logged 3 starts, 36 tackles, and an interception. In seven fewer games in 2020, Hill upped those numbers to 46 tackles and an interception. With a full season as a starter in 2021, he blew up the Big Ten with 69 tackles, 4.5 for loss, and 2 interceptions while aiding Michigan to their first College Football Playoff appearance.
GAMES WATCHED: 2021 – Wisconsin, Nebraska, Indiana
For an explanation of Alex’s grading scale, refer to this article.
Range – 70/80 (Star)
Instincts – 65/80 (Star)
Tackling – 65/80 (Star)
Run Support – 60/80 (Above Average)
Change of Direction – 60/80 (Above Average)
Man Coverage – 70/80 (Star)
Zone Coverage – 65/80 (Star)
Versatility – 75/80 (Elite)
Frame – 50/80 (Average)
Physicality – 60/80 (Above Average)
Ceiling – 75/80 (Elite)
Red Flags – 10/10
Final Grade (w/o RAS): 8.22
Round Grade: 1st
Summary: Hill is this year’s first Round 1 grade for me, due in large part to his proficiency in just about every secondary role there is. Just in the three games I watched, he lined up as a single-high safety, in two-deep, as both a slot and outside corner, and a dime backer. He never looks out of place filling any of these responsibilities, which NFL teams with multiple fronts and disguised coverages will love. If he really wanted to, I could see him being a L’Jarius Sneed type player: a college safety turned NFL corner who excels in year one.
A more likely scenario, in my opinion, is that Hill starts at nickel from the jump. He’s absurdly sticky in man coverage, even against the quickest receivers, and absolutely erases tight ends over the middle of the field. He’s a bit late to open his hips at times, but when you have legit 4.3 speed, you can cover for being a tick tardy. Same story in zone, where his instincts are sometimes a touch slow without it mattering too much.
In order for Hill to become an impact run support player in the NFL, I’d like to see him improve his tackling technique. It’s undeniable that he’s a big hitter, but there are occasions where he fails to wrap up and misses tackles going for a highlight. That aggressiveness is pervasive in his game overall: in coverage, he’s eager to click and close on passes to deliver the boom right as the ball arrives. I do worry a bit about NFL players exploiting that early on, as Hill sometimes takes ambitious angles when pursuing ballcarriers and can get caught with his eyes too far into the backfield.
I expect Hill to easily be my S2 behind Kyle Hamilton when the dust settles. Few players bring the versatility and corner-level coverage skills the former Wolverine does at the position. In a league increasingly open to running base nickel to stop the high-flying offenses of our era, Hill profiles as an extremely valuable piece for any NFL defense. Week to week, he’s capable of eliminating opponents’ best middle of the field threat, whether that’s a speedy slot receiver or a star tight end.
Follow Alex on Twitter @alexkatson.