Saturday, February 24

Unpacking Future Packers: No. 1 Daxton Hill

The Unpacking Future Packers Countdown is a countdown of 100 prospects that could be selected by the Green Bay Packers in the 2022 NFL draft.

The Green Bay Packers have a solid starting safety duo in Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage Jr. for 2022. With those two entrenched as the starters, the Packers don’t have an immediate need at safety. As it stands right now, Amos and Savage are both set to be free agents following next season and the NFL draft is about long-term projection, not immediate need.

It’s also worth noting that Henry Black played 25 percent of the defensive snaps as the third safety for Joe Barry’s unit last season.

With the uncertain future surrounding Amos and Savage, it’s reasonable to expect Brian Gutekunst to address the safety position early in the 2022 NFL draft.

A player that Green Bay’s general manager could target with the 22nd overall pick is Daxton Hill. The Michigan defensive back checks in at No. 1 in the Unpacking Future Packers countdown.

A five-star recruit out of Oklahoma, Hill recorded three tackles for loss, four pass deflections and one interception during his first season in Ann Arbor. In six games in 2020, Hill recorded 46 tackles, five pass deflections and one interception.

This past season Hill recorded 69 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, 0.5 sack, 11 pass deflections and two interceptions. 

“His play was really good, his best year at Michigan,” Trevor Woods of Maize n Brew said. “He’s above average in coverage at safety at nickel, is really fast, and is a hard-hitter that can be an asset blitzing with no better example than knocking Wisconsin starting QB Graham Mertz out of a big game against Michigan. Hill’s above average in run-support, is a smart player, who should have a bright future in the NFL.”

Hill is a ready-made slot cornerback. He has great short-area quickness and a high football IQ. He shows good route recognition and is quick to break on routes.  He can match up in man coverage with his quick feet and loose hips. According to Pro Football Focus, Hill only gave up one touchdown over the past two seasons.

Hill is tough as nails as a run defender and has excellent range. He’s quick to see the play develop and crashes downhill in a blink of an eye. He’s a reliable open-field tackler and rarely gives up any YAC. 

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As a blitzer, Hill is explosive. He shows great closing burst to the quarterback and when he arrives, he has bad intentions in mind.

“He’s a savvy player and has the speed to go along with it,” Woods said. “Hill is an asset in run support as nickel and can shed the blocks of a wideout more times than not. Hill’s quickness helps him defend slants and shallow crossers. He fell down as a freshman against Jerry Jeudy and was burnt deep for a touchdown in the Citrus Bowl, but since that day Hill has rarely given up major yardage.”

Hill played almost exclusively in the slot this past season for the Wolverines. When he is playing deep, he covers a lot of real estate with his 4.38 speed. He has great range in the backend. With his blend of speed and awareness, no throw is safe with Hill playing deep.

“Speed kills and so does awareness,” Woods said. “Hill has both. That’s what was undeniable ever since Hill suited up for Michigan. He can cover a lot of ground.”

Hill doesn’t have eye-popping ball production. Over the past two seasons, he’s recorded 16 pass deflections and three interceptions. He does a good job of tracking the ball in the air and challenging wide receivers at the catch point. 

“The 20 pass deflections are pretty good considering most of his playing time has occurred over a two-year period, with one of those years being an abbreviated 6-game season in 2020 due to COVID-19,” Woods said. “Hill certainly could have had a few more interceptions, but his ball skills should improve as a pro. Hill made a couple real impressive interceptions this season.”

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Hill would bring a lot of versatility to any NFL secondary. With his ability to match up in coverage, some teams may even view him as a cornerback. The Michigan defensive back is likely best suited in the slot, but he has the ability to play anywhere in the secondary. According to Pro Football Focus Hill lined up in the slot for 580 snaps, in the box for 132 snaps, on the boundary for 19 snaps and deep 80 snaps.

Hill is explosive. That shows up on tape and it was showcased at the NFL Scouting Combine when he clocked a 40-time of 4.38. He then ran the short shuttle in 4.06 and the three-cone in 6.57.

Fit with the Packers

Hill checks a lot of the boxes for the Packers. He’s an elite athlete. He plays a position that they clearly value, having selected two safeties in the first round over the past seven drafts (three if you include Damarious Randall). He’s extremely versatile and he’s 21 years old.

With his versatility, he’d give Joe Barry a lot of flexibility. He could play Savage in the slot and Hill deep. He could play Amos in the box with Hill and Savage deep. The possibilities are endless and are really only limited by Barry’s imagination. 

“His versatility is extremely enticing,” Woods said. “NFL teams love players with Hill’s skill-set, someone who can play both safety spots and nickel corner. Hill is the type of player that can be used in versatile ways. Scouts loved his combine performance, where his forty time was impressive, as was his vertical. Hill’s an athletic specimen and he should carve out a role in the NFL and have a steady career.”

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When Barry was introduced as Green Bay’s defensive coordinator he mentioned that a team can never have enough guys that can play the nickel position. 

“You better have pass rushers and you better have really good defensive backs,” Barry said. “Specifically that nickel position. That Star position. I think it’s vital…I’m from the school where I think you can’t have enough guys that are potential nickels.”

Hill would give Barry a pro-ready nickel cornerback. If he’s on the board when the Packers are on the clock with the 22nd overall pick, don’t be surprised if Gutekunst adds another piece to what’s an already impressive secondary.

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