CINCINNATI (AP) — The Cincinnati Bengals needed help at cornerback and passed on some enticing prospects to snag Michigan safety Daxton Hill with the 31st pick.
Bengals coach Zac Taylor said the team couldn't pass on Hill, who is expected to contribute right away in the secondary as a safety or nickel cornerback.
“Surprised he was there for us,” Taylor said.
“He is a little undersized but has unbelievable play speed (4.38 in the 40)," Taylor said. "He changes direction well and has a good knack for the ball. He played nickel a lot, sets the edge, could cover your slot or your tight end. He’s a baller.”
Picking second to last as the Super Bowl runner-up, the Bengals snagged the versatile, 6-foot, 191-pound Hill, who mostly played safety but also some slot cornerback at Michigan and was considered one of the top defensive backs in his class.
Hill played in 33 games in three years at Michigan, starting 23 in the secondary. He recorded 151 career tackles, including 7 1/2 for loss, three fumble recoveries, four interceptions and 20 total passes defended.
He was a first-team All-Big Ten pick in 2021, starting 14 games with 70 tackles, 4 1/2 for loss, two interceptions and nine pass breakups.
“We saw him immediately, and all the versatility he brings is what stood out," Cincinnati defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo said.
Hill said he met with the Bengals at the combine and had some video calls in recent weeks.
“Words can’t really describe how I feel right now," he said. "Just really grateful for the opportunity.”
The Bengals were forced to sit and wait after years of being active earlier in the draft. The stakes are not as high this time compared with the early picks in the last two drafts that landed cornerstone stars Joe Burrow and Ja'Marr Chase.
The Bengals, who made a stunning run to their first Super Bowl in 33 years, addressed their offensive line needs through free agency, getting guard/center Ted Karras, right guard Alex Cappa and right tackle La’el Collins.
The Bengals still are in need of depth at cornerback after cutting the oft-injured Trae Waynes. They re-signed Eli Apple as a starter next to Chidobe Awuzie. Apple had his moments, but was frustratingly inconsistent last season.
“I think those are needs we’re going to continue to address,” Taylor said.
Two of the cornerbacks seen as possible picks for the Bengals were still on the board after the first round, Clemson’s Andrew Booth Jr. and Washington’s Kyler Gordon.
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