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NAME: Daxton Hill
WEIGHT: 190 pounds
A native of Tulsa, Oklahoma, Daxton Hill attended Booker T. Washington High School. His brother, Justice Hill, was a running back at Oklahoma State. The Baltimore Ravens selected him in the fourth round in the 2019 NFL Draft. In high school football, Daxton was able to see playing time right away during his freshman year. He finished that season with 67 tackles, two tackles for loss, two interceptions and one touchdown. Over the next two years, Hill registered 116 tackles, 11 pass breakups, seven interceptions and six tackles for loss. His senior season was even more impactful. Hill finished with 93 tackles (67 solo), nine tackles for loss, nine pass breakups, three forced fumbles, two interceptions, one sack and one fumble recovery.
After his senior high school football season, the defender received many accolades. This included being named 2018-19 Gatorade Player of the Year in Oklahoma. He was a semifinalist for the 2018 Maxwell Football Club Defensive National Player of the Year, as well as being a finalist at 2018 Nike The Opening in Arlington, Texas. Overall, Hill was rated as a five-star recruit by 247Sports. He was ranked as the best safety prospect in the nation, the best prospect coming out of the state of Oklahoma and was ranked as the eighth best player in the nation for his class.
From the start of his college football career, Hill not only moved north from his hometown, but also moved north among the Michigan defensive depth chart. He appeared in 13 games and had three starts as a freshman in 2019. Mainly, he was on special teams. Hill was still able to make a difference in many areas. He finished his freshman year with 36 tackles, four pass breakups, three tackles for loss, two fumble recoveries and one interception. In the end, Hill was named Michigan’s Defensive Rookie of the Year.
The 2020 season was of course limited because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, Hill was still able to grow his role on the Wolverines defense. He started all six games at safety and remained a part of the special teams unit. All in all, Hill finished with 46 tackles (second most on team), five pass breakups and one interception.
Rising Up The Ranks
While always highly regarded at Michigan, Hill truly gained national accolades and recognition in 2021. His junior campaign saw him finish with a new single-season career high in tackles (69). To boot, Hill had eight pass breakups, 4.5 tackles for loss, two interceptions, one fumble recovery and 0.5 sack. For the first time, he received first-team All-Big Ten honors for his 2021 season.
The team reached new heights as well. They finally defeated their hated rival, Ohio State. Michigan won the Big Ten Championship Game against Iowa, limiting the Hawkeyes to three points. That allowed the Wolverines to reach the College Football Playoff. Unfortunately for them, they ran into the eventual national champions, and lost to the Georgia Bulldogs in the playoff semifinal.
Instead of listing positives and negatives for traits, this year we will be listing the best trait of each prospect and work our way down to the biggest area of improvement/absent trait(s), from top to bottom.
The best way to describe Hill’s movement skills would be that he shoots out of a cannon. He simply covers an ample amount of ground in the blink of an eye. And it is not just short burst, either. In fact, both the short area quickness and long speed of Hill are among the elite level of this year’s defensive back class. His click and close ability when working downhill can often overwhelm opposing pass catchers.
Elsewhere, Hill has change of direction skills that are quicker than most other defenders. This is largely due to his crisp, clean footwork. We should also mention that this player moves just as smoothly when moving laterally, as he does when working straight ahead. Finally, Hill possesses a rare ability to coil his hips and explode when flipping and turning to run down the field. He basically finds a second gear out of nowhere.
Hill has been used in a variety of roles at Michigan. More importantly, he feels rather comfortable and confident throughout each spot. This defender has been used as a free safety. During this, he is allowed to turn and shade while covering the deeper areas of the field. Hill has experience working in split-zones. On the other hand, his experience as a nickel cornerback lining up in the slot is quite extensive. This could be where the team that drafts him looks to implement Hill early on during his NFL career. As a result, you may receive more early production from him by going that route. No task is too difficult for him. And, Hill can provide sticky coverage in all three areas of the field.
There were many times where Hill impressed when working sideline to sideline. Whereas with working downhill, this defender appears to catch opposing pass catchers or ball carriers off guard. It is his burst that stuns them the most. When flipping his hips and turning to run down the field, Hill gains leverage and depth, while continuing to keep plays in front of him. His recovery ability is extremely rapid, in the case that a player was to get behind him.
Hill has an innate ability to read the quarterback’s eyes and shoulders. Before they are seemingly ready to pull the trigger, he has a great idea of where the football is being thrown. This is all based on what he sees with their movements and nuances within the pocket. Hill has a great understanding of body positioning and landmarks. For instance, he is rarely out of position and is ready to make a play.
In coverage, Hill rarely bites on fakes or double moves from opposing receivers. He stays locked in and square to the receiver. At the same time, Hill works to read their chest and hips, helping him decide which side or shoulder to attack. The defensive back could improve his urgency when it comes to attacking with his tackling. This largely shows up when Hill is working downhill, as his finish can be inconsistent.
There may be a bit more comfort in man coverage for Hill, as things currently stand. He is subdued when mirroring the opposing receiver. Giving them a bit of extra cushion early on in the route does not distract him. Because in the end, Hill gains leverage when you see him sink his hips and then he will extend his arms fully at the point of attack. He maintains solid eye discipline when matched up with the receiver one on one. For example, Hill does not get caught watching the football too early. That should not discount his ability to adjust and find the football. His processing speed is especially fluid.
In zone coverage, Hill has a click and close ability that is ultra-efficient. There are not much wasted movements from him in space. Furthermore, the Michigan product exudes sneaky good power when flying toward the catch point looking to break up the pass. Coaches will love how patient he is in zone coverage. Basically, Hill sits and waits until the receiver gives an indication on which path he is taking. His change of direction skills and lateral mobility truly shine in those moments.
I would not categorize Hill as an undersized defender. However, his aggression and tenacity against bigger bodied pass catchers popped on tape. His versatility factor is obviously nice for just being able to use him in different roles. Yet, it is the excitement and confidence that he shows in those areas that will make whichever defense drafts him very happy. That compete level really shines when he is getting a chance to rush the passer on a defensive back blitz. The same can be said when Hill gets an opportunity to press near the line of scrimmage from the slot. He is not necessarily loud or boisterous. Simply put, Hill displays a lead by example type of mentality when patrolling the field.
Hill is not horrible in this area. Working on little things within his technique and at the catch point is much needed, though. Hill must improve on getting his arms or hands extended away from his frame. There is still a lot to like from his game at the top of routes, nonetheless.
Hill’s feistiness will certainly turn heads early on in his career. He is also rather fine-tuned when it comes to timing up receivers at the end of their stems and with being able to track the football. Developing more tricks or shortcuts throughout his technique could result in even more ball production moving forward.
Going back to earlier, Hill will need to have more consistency when working downhill. He can stop his feet and lose his base. Or, Hill becomes a catcher, so to speak, and lets ball carriers or pass catchers lay into him a bit. He is actually much better when needing to make stops in space and when moving laterally. Of course, that will not always be the case for defensive backs coming into the NFL.
As of this moment, we still do not know if the Kansas City Chiefs will be able to retain Tyrann Mathieu in free agency. Daxton Hill would immediately become a fit as a possible replacement. He can actually fill a role similar to that of Mathieu, if the Honey Badger does decide to play elsewhere. The ability to play free safety, nickel corner and near the line of scrimmage allow Hill to use his top traits to his advantage. The more he works in space, the more we see that elite athleticism and significant awareness.
Say Mathieu does return to the Chiefs. It still would not be a bad idea to add someone with this kind of versatility. Kansas City simply needs to get faster and more athletic in all three levels of the defense. Adding a player of Hill’s caliber would allow the Chiefs to mask their defensive problems in more ways than one with just a few quick changes, to say the least.
Be on the lookout for more FPC Chiefs draft prospect profiles throughout the rest of the spring. For more great sports and NFL content, stay tuned to Full Press Coverage.
– Braden Holecek is the Kansas City Chiefs managing editor for Full Press Coverage. He covers the NFL. Like and follow on Follow @ebearcat9//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js Follow @FPC_Chiefs//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js and Facebook.
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