Kyle Hamilton is the top safety in the 2022 NFL Draft, but the pecking order is still in flux after him. Can Michigan S Daxton Hill use the 2021 season to boost his NFL Draft scouting report and earn a spot in Round 1? It’ll take some more development, but Hill has the physical tools to get it done.
Daxton Hill NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Safety
- School: Michigan
- Current Year: Junior
- Height: 6’0″
- Weight: 192 pounds
Daxton Hill Scouting Report
The numbers don’t always adequately reflect a player’s pace on the field. Some players appear faster or slower than their athletic times. Nevertheless, athletic testing numbers often provide a solid baseline to base one’s expectations. And the expectations couldn’t be much higher for Hill.
In a league full of elite athletes, Hill might be as elite as it gets. The Michigan S had the highest SPARQ rating in the 2019 recruiting class. Among other things, he logged a 4.3 40-yard dash and a 43-inch vertical, as well as a 4.13 20-yard shuttle. Hill no doubt has rare athletic capabilities, but do they show up on the field, and does he use them effectively?
Daxton Hill’s athletic profile
Hill’s athletic numbers hint at otherworldly dynamism, and he lives up to that on tape. When Hill plays at full speed, he moves at a pace that few can match. Expectedly, the Michigan product has elite explosiveness and pursuit speed. These qualities combine into impressive range, both downfield and side to side.
Hill is an extremely twitchy athlete who possesses ample amounts of constant potential energy. He has the athleticism to quickly adjust his angles in tight spaces, and his speed and explosiveness allow him to make up ground when he reacts late. The Michigan S shows off intense closing burst at the tackle point, and his impressive proportional length allows him to handle one-on-one situations.
Beyond his speed and explosiveness, Hill is also exceptionally fluid. He’s extremely smooth and quick transitioning out of his backpedal. He can flip his hips and explode in an instant. This hip fluidity shows up downfield, where he’s shown he can flip and stick to receivers with ease. Hill can be an eraser in the deep third, but his combination of explosiveness and fluidity is also conducive to success in the box.
Execution beyond the physical traits
The operational part of Hill’s game is still a work in progress. However, the Michigan S has shown some promising flashes of awareness, steady mechanics, and other intangibles.
First and foremost, Hill doesn’t play slow. He utilizes the full extent of his athleticism more often than not, and he’s also fairly aggressive. He’s shown physicality at the route stem on more than one occasion, and he has a willingness to engage ball carriers. Hill possesses a containment mentality as a tackler and doesn’t throw himself around recklessly.
In space, Hill also has some appeal. He flashes quick recognition ability and strong instincts when scanning the gaps in run defense. Hill’s shown he can key in on a quarterback’s eyes and decode his next course of action in real-time. Additionally, Hill has smooth footwork at the line. He maintains steady leverage before turning his hips.
Finally, Hill has a great deal of versatility already. His athleticism affords him much of this flexibility. Nonetheless, Hill has shown he can handle roles in single-high, two-high, or the slot.
Areas for improvement
As exciting as Hill’s physical skill set is, the Michigan S has plenty to improve in 2021. Mentally, he’s shown promising flashes, but he’s still fairly inconsistent in that area. He can be more consistent following the quarterback’s eyes, and he doesn’t always act on the information his own eyes give him. Hill can sometimes be indecisive and late to react in zone coverage, and his diagnosing skills can improve on the back end.
In addition to his recognition, Hill can also find a better balance between patience and aggressiveness, which should come with further mental refinement. Hill can easily be baited and led astray by misdirection plays. He doesn’t always take the best angles in pursuit and sometimes plays himself off-balance. In that same vein, Hill can overshoot tackling angles coming downhill.
Moreover, Hill has trouble deconstructing blocks in run defense. His frame doesn’t carry much force into contact situations, and his inconsistency disengaging can render him inert on some plays. Furthermore, Hill can be more disruptive at the catch point. He can maintain better spacing in single-high coverage as well.
Daxton Hill’s NFL Draft scouting report overview
Hill will turn 21 years old in September, so he’s still incredibly young. Thus, it shouldn’t be a surprise that there’s room for refinement in his NFL Draft scouting report. Mental quickness is a combination of knowledge and confidence. At times, Hill has shown that he has the knowledge to recognize keys. However, he can sometimes be more confident in identifying and pursuing those keys.
Hill must continue to study his keys and refine his mental process. Once he does that, and once things click, the Michigan S can be a special player. He covers ground with inhuman burst and speed. In coverage, this burst warrants his impressive range, and he also has the fluidity and foot speed to stick to players in man.
At peak development, Hill can be a game-changing chess piece in the secondary. The question is, can he reach that peak?
Daxton Hill’s Player Profile
In case you forgot (you probably didn’t), I’ll share Hill’s high school testing numbers again. He recorded a 4.3 40-yard dash and a 43-inch vertical at 6’1″, 187 pounds. With these numbers in mind, it comes as no surprise that Hill was a five-star recruit and the 13th-overall player on ESPN’s recruiting board.
The non-surprises don’t stop there. Naturally, Hill — a product of Tulsa, Oklahoma — was coveted from the East Coast to the West Coast. Schools like Clemson, Oregon, Georgia, LSU, and Oklahoma all submitted offers for Hill. So too did Alabama. In fact, Nick Saban hosted Hill on a visit.
Even with the interest from some of the premier programs in college football, Hill’s eyes turned to Ann Arbor. He took a visit to Michigan in September 2018. In December, he officially committed to the Wolverines.
Daxton Hill’s career at Michigan and NFL Draft ascension
Hill arrived at Michigan in 2019 as one of the most anticipated recruits in recent memory. The coaches didn’t bother waiting to let Hill hit the field. And Hill, true to his five-star form, didn’t wait to start making plays. The Oklahoma native played in 13 games, accruing 36 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 1 interception, 3 pass deflections, and 2 fumble recoveries.
In 2020, Hill reprised his starting role and flourished despite a COVID-impacted season. Hill started all six games for the Wolverines and outproduced his 2019 campaign. He amassed 44 tackles, an interception, and 4 pass deflections. Hill was a standout for his team, and he took home Academic All-Big Ten honors as well.
Now, Hill heads into his junior season. He’s long flashed NFL-worthy promise, and he has the physical tools to be a Round 1 pick. He’s trending up, but there’s still work to do. If Hill can continue to build on his physical foundation, he can be a legitimate X-factor.