The offseason has opened up the discussion regarding the top safeties in the 2022 NFL Draft. Kyle Hamilton is still viewed as the favorite, but it isn’t a consensus opinion anymore. One scouting report that has merit in the top safety in the draft discussion is that of Michigan S Daxton Hill. Hill isn’t your traditional safety. But in a way, that makes his scouting report even more exciting — because he can do just about anything you ask him to do.
Daxton Hill NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Safety
- School: Michigan
- Current Year: Junior
- Height: 6’0 1/4″
- Weight: 191 pounds
- Wingspan: 79 1/4″
- Length: 32 1/4″
- Hand: 9 1/2″
Hill’s Combine/pro day results
- 40-Yard Dash: 4.38
- Broad Jump: 10′ 2″
- Vertical Jump: 37″
- Three-Cone: 6.57
- Short Shuttle: 4.06
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. Hill, however, plays exactly as fast as you would expect. After having the highest SPARQ rating in his 2019 recruiting class and logging extraordinary numbers out of high school, he backed up that reputation with his play on the field.
Athleticism, of course, isn’t everything for NFL Draft prospects. There has to be a combination of athletic and mental skill present. In Hill’s case, it’s absolutely there. Hill has a rare athletic foundation to build on, and he’s been consistently building on it over the past two seasons.
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 intense closing burst at the tackle point, and his impressive proportional length allows him to handle 1-on-1 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, as well as in the slot.
Execution beyond the physical traits
Earlier in his career, Hill was a work in progress on the operational side. However, the Michigan S has shown promising flashes of awareness, steady mechanics, and other intangibles, and he was much more consistent in 2021.
First and foremost, Hill doesn’t play slow. He utilizes the full extent of his athleticism more often than not, and he’s also very aggressive and physical. 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. He’s good in run support with his burst and tackling ability.
In space, Hill also has lots of appeal. The Michigan S 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. The Michigan S has shown he can handle roles in single-high, two-high, or the slot. And he has the fluidity to potentially do boundary work as well. He’s a chess piece through and through.
Areas for improvement
Heading into 2021, Hill showed flashes of good processing and recognition, but he was still a work in progress in that area. The Michigan S notably improved in 2021, however, honing his instincts on the back end. His processing was more consistent, and he was able to anticipate plays, keep his positioning, and close quickly. There’s still room for him to further perfect his craft, but his mental game is very much trending up.
All this being said, Hill can still find a better balance between patience and aggressiveness, which will continue to come with more experience. Hill can be baited and led astray by misdirection plays at times. He doesn’t always take the best angles in pursuit and sometimes plays himself off-balance. Releases upfield can also work him off-balance and force him off his man. In that same vein, Hill can overshoot tackling angles coming downhill.
Moreover, Hill can have trouble deconstructing blocks in run defense. He’s shown he can generate force at the contact point with his closing burst, but he doesn’t always leverage that burst effectively. Additionally, he can be indecisive in congestion.
Hill’s ball skills were a knock heading into 2021, but he improved there as well, showing off high-level playmaking ability at the catch point on multiple occasions.
Hill’s NFL Draft scouting report overview
Hill is just 21 years old, so he’s still incredibly young. That only makes his eventual projection more exciting because he’s already a very good player. 2021 was a crucial year of growth for the Michigan S, but he used it to his advantage. And now he’s a potential first-round pick.
In my eyes, Hill is easily worth a first-round selection and might be one of the top 15 or 20 prospects in the 2022 NFL Draft. The Michigan S has all the athletic tools. He’s supremely explosive, fluid, twitchy, and has great long speed. He’s also a longer defensive back with arms over 32″, and he’s shown he can lay out big hits with his frame.
Going further, Hill’s processing and mental work took a noticeable step up in 2021. Hill processed faster on the back end, read and recognized plays more consistently, and was able to better anticipate and position himself to make plays. He played faster and more confident — and it showed.
Seeing his sharp linear growth, combined with his elite athletic foundation, it’s clear that Hill is a wise investment to make. He has the versatility to play legitimately everywhere in the secondary and be a game-changing presence. That kind of chess piece is extremely valuable in the modern NFL.
Hill’s Player Profile
Hill tested with slightly lower numbers at his Combine and pro day, but he’s always been an elite athlete. He recorded a 4.3 40-yard dash and a 43-inch vertical at 6’1″, 187 pounds out of high school. 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 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.
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.
2021 was the long-anticipated breakout for Hill. The Michigan S amassed 69 total tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, a half-sack, 2 interceptions, 8 pass deflections, and a fumble recovery. He earned first-team All-Big Ten honors for his performance. And now, he’s largely viewed as a first-round talent with a chance to go within the first 32 picks.
Tony Pauline’s Scouting Report on Daxton Hill
Positives: Athletic safety prospect with a complete game. Quick and fluid pedaling in reverse, smooth flipping his hips and tracks the pass in the air. Possesses a burst to the ball and has a nice move to the throw. Quick to read and diagnose plays, shows speed laterally, and keeps the action in front of him. Breaks down well and uses his hands to protect himself. Squares into tackles and wraps up ball handlers. Takes good angles to the action and works hard to get involved.
Negatives: Doesn’t play to his 40 time and lacks a second gear, despite his Combine forty time. Possesses a long, wiry build.
Analysis: Hill is an athletic safety who has shown consistent improvement on the field and increased his production every year. He possesses good upside and projects as a traditional free safety who can line up over the slot receiver.