CINCINNATI – The Bengals have their shiny new toy and it’s a perfect fit for the defensive playroom of Lou Anarumo.
When Daxton Hill fell to the Bengals at No. 31, the Bengals defensive coordinator got one of the most versatile defensive backs available and a player who could immediately step in and make an impact.
Described by many scouts as a true “plug-and-play” defensive back who could play a number of positions in an NFL secondary, Hill is someone that projects to play any number of positions including free safety, third safety in a “big nickel” nickel or dime secondary, or as a nickel corner or as a robber defensive back, as he often did for Michigan last season.
Daxton Hill is certainly an interesting weapon to plug into the #Bengals defense.
Interested to see how Lou Anarumo rolls him out. No secret that the Bengals love to play with 3 safeties. pic.twitter.com/4r6v7er1jj
— Willie Lutz (@willie_lutz) April 29, 2022
No wonder the Bengals interest was piqued when he started falling through the second half of the first round.
Hill said Thursday night after his selection by the AFC champs that he spoke with the Bengals at the Combine and again throughout the weeks leading up to Thursday’s first round.
Then on Thursday, in the hours before the draft, Hill said he had one more conversation with the team that was really wanting to add a multi-use weapon to its secondary.
“Hopefully, we can get you if you’re still available so that’s what they do so I’m glad they chose me,” Hill said.
This is about much more than just drafting a player who provides depth behind Jessie Bates and Vonn Bell. This pick by the Bengals is an effort to ramp up the efforts of the defense to be disruptive in the secondary and create turnovers and get the ball back in the hands of Joe Burrow.
“We’ll see what the shiny new toy can do.” Lou Anarumo says Dax Hill can play all different spots in secondary. #Bengals pic.twitter.com/HVEsCN8DAh
— Mike Petraglia (@Trags) April 29, 2022
“We’ll see. We’ll get him in here and see what the shiny new toy can do, so we’re excited about it,” Anarumo said. “I think it was just his overall play to be honest. I don’t think it was a flash play here or there. I think his consistency over his career is what stood out to us, me in particular. So, I just like how the guy’s played at a high level for a long time, and that was intriguing.”
Hill started his Michigan career as a free safety but over time, played all over the Wolverines secondary, including slot, nickel and hybrid corner spots. So, is Hill more of a safety or corner?
“I consider myself both. I really don’t want to limit myself to one position so whatever that is, the coaches will definitely put me wherever that may be. I’m ready for the journey and ready to be out on the field.”
As one of 17 undergraduate players taken in Thursday’s first round, Hill has the potential to play free safety, dime safety (in a six DB scheme), nickel corner or a hybrid corner that floats in a pattern-match zone look, such as the Bengals used against potent teams like the Chiefs in the AFC Championship.
“Everybody at Michigan spoke really highly of him,” Taylor told me. “They had a tremendous defense this year, and he was a big part of that, combined with some other guys you’ve seen taken already and some guys that will go in the future. I just think he really fits the personality of what we want in our locker room. He’s about all the right stuff. We’re really excited to get him here.”
In other words, Lou Anarumo has a weapon he can deploy in many ways for a team that will have intense competition to get back to the Super Bowl next February. With teams like the Chiefs, Bucs, Bills, Patriots, Dolphins and Browns (twice) on the schedule, the Bengals secondary will certainly be tested.
“I’m not too familiar with the Bengals defense,” Hill said. “I know a little about it. My versatility is for sure something they’ll use as an asset for the team. Whatever that may be, I had this (past year) to display that and hopefully do the same thing with the Bengals.”
Lou Anarumo excited about “adding another great piece” to his secondary in Daxton Hill. #Bengals pic.twitter.com/jDcD4qbQ3U
— Mike Petraglia (@Trags) April 29, 2022
Hill appeared in 33 career games at Michigan, with 23 starts in the secondary. He also contributed on special teams.
“Really just being me, having a good heart and not really paying attention to myself but making sure my teammates and the people around me are playing to the best of their abililties and making sure I’m doing the best I can for those guys, not really focusing on myself but for the team.”
The Tulsa, Oklahoma native accumulated 151 career tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, an assisted sack, four interceptions, three fumble recoveries and 20 total passes defended. To play in Anarumo’s scheme, a lot will be asked of Hill, who doesn’t turn 22 until this Sept. 29.
At Michigan, one of the most demanding academic schools in the country, Hill proved he could handle the load as a two-time Academic All-Big Ten Conference (2020-21). He made an immediate impact in 2019 when he was named Big 10 Rookie of the Year on defense.