One of the first and biggest moves made by Kansas City Chiefs general manager Brett Veach in the offseason was signing former Houston Texan safety Justin Reid. He also brought in Deon Bush, who spent his first six NFL seasons with the Chicago Bears.
These two — along with Juan Thornhill, Devon Key and Zayne Anderson — round out the current safeties on the roster.
Safety Tyrann Mathieu provided two All-Pro seasons for the Chiefs on top of immeasurable leadership responsibilities but is currently a free agent. There have been rumors of Mathieu still returning to Kansas City but they have remained just that — as no deals or meetings have been reported between the two parties.
Addressing the safeties even further could be wise to shore up long-term security for the position. Thornhill has been in and out of the starting lineup since getting taken in the 2019 second round, but with only one year remaining on his contract, the front office might utilize some of their 2022 draft capital to ensure they have proper contingencies in place.
Tulsa’s Booker T. Washington High School provided the platform for Daxton Hill to showcase his talents, which led to him being one of the highest-rated recruits in the class of 2019. As a five-star prospect, Hill had every major program in collegiate football trying to woo him to their campus. He committed to the University of Michigan and from day one, proved he was worthy of every accolade bestowed upon him. Hill contributed on defense and special teams as a true freshman and became a full-time starter as a sophomore during the shortened 2020 Big Ten season.
He continued on his upward trajectory and earned All-Big Ten honors after his 2021 junior season. Hill played a significant role for the Wolverine defense and saw action from a deep safety role in addition to having slot cornerback duties. Hill was second on the team with 69 tackles and led the team with eight pass deflections. He hauled in two interceptions and secured 4.5 tackles for loss, proving he is a playmaker across the board.
Hill measured in at 6 feet and weighed 192 pounds before putting together nice numbers at the NFL Combine, running a 4.38 in the 40-yard dash as well as leading all safeties in the 3-cone drill and 20-yard shuttle. While his 33.5-inch vertical jump and 10-foot, 1-inch broad jump weren’t among the very best of the Combine participants, he improved upon them during his Pro Day (37-inch Vertical | 10-foot, 2-inch broad). His brother, Justice, was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in the fourth round of the 2019 NFL Draft which I am sure has aided in Daxton’s preparation for the 2022 NFL Draft.
College film evaluation
Hill played all over the field for Michigan and logged plenty of snaps at both safety and in the slot as a cornerback. He could play day one for many NFL teams as their slot cover defender. His speed leaps off the screen during his film study, and he possesses the almost cliché extra gear, but he has it.
Daxton Hill has another gear which he uses here to save a touchdown pic.twitter.com/VAtLuhHZzk— Talon Graff (@CoachGraff34) April 15, 2022
Hill is in man coverage tight to the line over the slot receiver. He bails away from his coverage once he sees the running back hitting the open lane.
You can visibly see him hit the accelerator to catch the ball carrier to prevent an even bigger play from happening. Defensive speed is something the Chiefs have tried to add more of the last couple of seasons, and Hill brings a lot of it.
Hill’s hips are smooth and fluid here as he undercuts the throw to create the turnover pic.twitter.com/Yvfr8p428b— Talon Graff (@CoachGraff34) April 15, 2022
Hill again is in coverage over the inside receiver, but instead of making a tackle, he is able to create a turnover. He starts to break on the underneath out route but redirects after reading where the quarterback is going. He is able to open his hips fluidly and tracks the poorly underthrown ball with relative ease.
While this is one of only four career interceptions for Hill, he still finds himself around the play quite often.
Hill carries his man in coverage, then is able to fight off the block and make a fundamentally sound open-field tackle to save a touchdown pic.twitter.com/Xq2EcktjAb— Talon Graff (@CoachGraff34) April 15, 2022
There is a lot on display from Hill on this rep. He turns and runs with his man and stays in his hip pocket, maintaining inside leverage until his man becomes a blocker. He fights off the engaged block and squares up for an excellent open-field tackle, stopping the quarterback short of the goal line.
Daxton…Hill pic.twitter.com/GvHh7D6XD8— Talon Graff (@CoachGraff34) February 11, 2022
Hill was tasked with blitzing on several occasions for the Maize and Blue, but more often, the play resulted in Hill making a tackle-for-loss rather than a sack. Here he notches his only career sack, which was credited as a half-sack statistically. Hill lines up about 10 yards away from the quarterback and it takes him about two and a half seconds to get there from the snap of the ball to the sack. Hill is a physical defender who plays with some bad intentions.
Check this INT from Daxton Hill pic.twitter.com/3mTn5qVabm— Talon Graff (@CoachGraff34) February 11, 2022
As previously mentioned, Hill didn’t create many turnovers, but it was pretty splashy when he did. Hill’s speed allows him to play off the tight end to lure in a false safe throw. Hill breaks on the pass to break it up and can hold concentration and complete the catch while lying prone. One of the best plays of his career and it shows how capable he is of being remarkable.
How he fits with the Chiefs
The success of Kansas City’s defense is predicated mainly on solid safety play. Mathieu was integral the three seasons he played for the Chiefs, but time spares no man, and his time as an All-Pro is more than likely behind him, leaving a big hole in Steve Spagnuolo’s scheme. Hill checks a lot of the same boxes Mathieu did in terms of versatility and football IQ.
Hill would provide the Chiefs with a slot cornerback and someone who could be a regular in the starting lineup as a deep safety. Thornhill has had his role reduced before, and with the depth that was there previously, made it hard for him to remain off the field. With the depth of the position improving and the aforementioned contract year for Thornhill, bringing in Hill with a first-round pick to compete for a starting role isn’t out of the question.
His rookie season impact would be noticeable but looking at the bigger picture, Hill might give the Chiefs precisely what they look for in the back end of their defense.
The bottom line
The Chiefs remain playoff contenders, as long as Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid are around the facilities.
However, to remain true consistent Lombardi contenders, the roster needs constant revamping. Hill plays with a nice blend of physical and mental strength in all facets of his game, and while I am excited about what Justin Reid can bring to the organization as football player and a locker room presence, the view for the safeties beyond 2022 is murky.
The hypothetical addition of Hill clears it up quite a bit.