LAS VEGAS — The Cincinnati Bengals selected Michigan safety Daxton Hill with the 31st pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
The brother of NFL running back Justice Hill played a team-high 739 snaps for the Wolverines in 2021, finishing the season with two interceptions and 70 tackles. NFL analyst Lance Zierlein said in a profile of Hill he would be a "coveted target" for defenses in "pass-happy divisions."
While this year's selection might not grab the same attention the last two first round picks did, the Bengals grabbed some much-needed defensive depth. Cincinnati picked up veteran offensive linemen in free agency, allowing them to focus on holes in the defensive line and secondary.
Head coach Zac Taylor said he was surprised to see Hill on the board so late in the first round, noting his athleticism and versatility.
"Felt like Dax was a premier player sitting right there that we took," Taylor said.
Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo said Hill "certainly has the traits" of great safeties he's coached before.
"When you add a piece like this ... it adds a couple of things maybe we didn't do last year that we possibly can do," Anarumo said. "You add a heck of a player like this, maybe it allows you to do some more things."
Several mock drafts had Cincinnati picking up a cornerback, and Taylor said the team is not ignoring the need. Though, he said he can't say when they'll address it.
No matter who the pick was, Bengals fans who attended the team's draft party said they trust the decision-makers in the war room following the Super Bowl run.
"Today is going to be excitement all across because we know, the fans know, how close we are to bringing the Lombardi," Jeremy Conley said. "The Hunt Trophy is sweet. We want the Lombardi. Everyone is going to be excited no matter what the pick is."
Steve Nagel, a season ticket holder for 32 seasons, said he hasn't felt this kind of excitement in a long time.
"The last few years has been kind of surreal," Nagel said. "After 32 years, we've seen the lows of the lows. It's great to see such dedication, improvement — the love for the city and coach, it's been amazing."
Fans of both the Bengals and the Bearcats also saw University of Cincinnati cornerback Ahmad 'Sauce' Gardner selected fourth overall by the New York Jets. Teammates Desmond Ridder, Alec Pierce, Coby Bryant and more wait to hear their names called.
All seven rounds of the 2022 NFL Draft will air on WCPO.
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