Initial comments ...
Taylor: "We're really excited about (Daxton Hill). He was a player that we thought very highly of and were surprised he was there for us. We're really eager to add him to our team. We think he will be a great weapon for us on defense, and we can use him in a lot of different ways. We're really, really fired up to get him in the building."
Do you guys view him more as a CB or S?
Taylor: "He can play a couple different spots. He's played safety, he's played nickel (cornerback) — he has the athleticism to do a lot of different things. The first thing is just getting him in the building. Certainly we have a vision for him internally of how to utilize him, but I think he can just be a tremendous asset for us on defense."
There were several players on the board available as your slot approached, and you must have felt confident you were going to have an option to select a really good player at No. 31. Were you pretty satisfied to be able to select Hill there?
Taylor: "I think Lou was hoping we'd take an offensive player (laughs). But the way it shook out, we got a pretty good one on defense."
Did the phone ring a lot as your pick approached with teams trying to get back into the first round?
Taylor: "You know, it always rings. But you don't always know what the conversation is — Duke (Bengals director of player personnel Duke Tobin) handles that. But ultimately we stood fit and were content to do that with the player we were going to get."
When looking at prospects, how much was versatility at the top of your list of desired traits for a player have at this spot? What separated Dax?
Anarumo: "Yeah, it always is with any position. We feel that way — the more the player can do, the better off he'll help us as a team. And this guy is no different. He kind of fits that bill to a 'T.' So we're super excited about him. As Zac has already mentioned, he can do a number of different things. We've used a bunch of three-safety packages in the past, and we're looking forward to do a bunch of different things for them. So we're super excited."
How valuable is that to have a chess piece that you can kind of move around and play different roles?
Anarumo: "It's important. When you look at offenses these days and the way tight ends are utilized, and how the running backs come out of the backfield — just different, different things. This guy can cut, he can blitz off the edge and recover good against the run. And he's get good at getting off blocks and things like that. We're getting a good overall football player."
Does he have a versatility that will allow you guys to add new elements to the defense?
Anarumo: "Well, I haven't gotten that far yet. We're going to let him come in here and then see what the shiny new toy can do. We're excited about him."
Were there any specific games or plays that you watched on tape where you thought to yourself, 'Wow, this guy is special?'
Anarumo: "It was his overall play, to be honest. I don't think there was a flash play here or there — his consistency over his career is what stood out to us, and me in particular. I just like how the guy has played at a high level for a long time, and that was intriguing to actually see."
Was he a leadership type of guy at Michigan, and did that come across in your talks?
Taylor: "Everybody at Michigan spoke really highly of him. They had a tremendous defense this year. He was a big part of that, combined with some other guys that you've seen go already and some guys who will go in the future. He really fits the personality we want in a locker room. He's about all the right stuff, and we're just really excited to get him here."
Were you surprised he was there at No. 31?
Taylor: "I would say so."
After drafting a S in the first round, what's your message to your current starting safeties, Jessie Bates and Vonn Bell, who are both in contract years?
Taylor: "We just added a really good player to the room that's going to help us on defense and helps us get back to where we want to go. The guys on the team understand we're just trying to win football games and add any piece that can do it. This guy, like Lou mentioned, can be a third safety but can also play a lot of different roles for you. So it's not that simple to say he's just a one-position type of guy. He can really come in and help us a lot of different ways in combination with Vonn and Jessie."
Did you have him going at No. 31 in any of your internal mock drafts?
Taylor: "That's hard to say (laughs)."
Can you elaborate a little bit more about the process — from the combine through tonight — and when you guys realized he might be the guy you wanted at No. 31?
Anarumo: "It's obviously a long process that we go through. Duke and his crew do a phenomenal job, especially this year with us playing as long as we did. You start identifying the top players at each position on down, and we saw him immediately. Again, all the versatility that he brings is what stood out. You're always hoping that the players you like are there, and it's just the way it felt to us tonight. We were super happy."
What different traits does a safety need in the tackle box versus when playing the field" And what does Dax specialize in?
Anarumo: "His measurables are great, if you look at what he ran and all of those different things. We're going to chase around two of the toughest quarterbacks in the league this year four times. The more speed we have on the field, the better we'll be. So he lends that. There's certainly going to be a learning curve — there is for every rookie, especially in the back end. We'll give him just enough on his plate to see how much he can handle and kind of take it from there."
With versatility comes intelligence — is his football IQ up there?
Anarumo: "Yeah. Every time we met with him and every interview we've had, he did a great job with that. Just going through it, along with all the other (Bengals representatives) that had met with him, we had no issues with that."
How much face time did you have with him prior to the draft? Was it in person and/or on Zoom?
Taylor: "He was one of our guys we met with at the Combine. He was one of our top 45 interviews — that's the first interaction I had with him. Over the course of time, those guys meet with the position coach. We've talked a lot about him, over the last month particularly. I'd say we were surprised he was there and happy he was there."
Last week, you said you want as many players as possible to be disruptive in the secondary — cause turnovers, and get it back in the hands of the offense. Can Dax be a big part of that process?
Anarumo: "That's something that he can bring for sure. And again, it's not just picking balls off. This guy, he can blitz, he can cause sack-fumbles and all those different things. He brings a wide variety of skills that we think can help in that area for sure."
When you look at the sheer number of CBs on your roster right now, most mock drafts had you guys taking a CB at No. 31. Do you feel like there are still a lot of good CB that could be available in the second or third round?
Taylor: "We do. We do. And again, we just felt like Dax was a premier player that was just sitting right there for us, and we took him. There are certainly other positions we'll continue to address as the draft plays out."
Where did you from a consensus standpoint have him ranked in the draft? Was it in the 20s?
Taylor: "We won't get into that. We thought very highly of him."
You won't show us your first round board?
Taylor: "Only if Duke wants to do that (laughs)."
What was your reaction to all the WR movement around the league and the priority placed on that position?
Taylor: "That was great. To know that we're not taking one first round and see all those guys that were going, that was welcomed by us."
Obviously CB has been a focus for you guys this offseason. How does Hill help that room on your team, and in general defensively?
Taylor: "You get him in the building and see exactly how you can utilize him. We've seen the tape, met with him, and certainly talked about things internally. But I think we just get him in the building and see where we go from there."
When the first three picks were three edge guys and two corners, did you feel like there was going to be a run on receivers and tackles like there was?
Taylor: "Well I mean the three receivers went in a row — they were 10, 11 and 12 — so you get a sense that if people need them, they're probably going to come get them, and that's what ended up happening. Again, as you get into the 20's, and you get a feel for your board, we knew we were going to get a player we were very high on."
As the game continues to evolve, especially with the way passing goes, how does that maybe change your scheme and evolve as the passing game evolves as well?
Anarumo: "We're still looking at all that stuff, and things we did last year. We're always looking to evolve and get into the scheme part of it, but when you add a piece like this, it adds a couple things that maybe we didn't do last year that we possibly can do — whether it be scheme or player. You know, add a heck of a player like this, and maybe it allows you to do more things. Only time will tell on that."
Does it allow you to get more creative when you've got a guy that can play in the box and play deep as well?
Anarumo: "Sure. Again, the flexibility always helps."
Does his versatility, and the fact that you're maybe getting two positions with one pick affect the urgency at all to go get a true corner?
Taylor: I think that those are needs we'll continue to assess as the draft goes. I won't tell you what round exactly we're going to address all those spots."
You mentioned his speed, but what about his physicality and his ability to stick his nose in there in the run game?
Anarumo: "Yeah, he's shown all that and more. A lot of times these days, the perimeter screens the safeties and the nickel position have to handle. He's really shown a great knack of beating blocks and getting guys on the ground. So it's not just always fitting in the A or the B gap with the safeties — that's certainly a part of their job — but it's more of the perimeter game. And, again, when you add speed like this, it only helps."
With his versatility and ability to play in the box, are there any guys in the league he's comparable to talent-wise?
Anarumo: "We have coached a bunch of good safeties in the past. They've all had a wide variety of different skill sets, so to label this kid with somebody else, I don't know, we'll see who he is and go from there. He certainly has the traits of some of the good ones I've had before."
Does anything stand out in your meeting with Dax at the combine?
Taylor: "I think he had a very genuine personality, and he was very confident in the information he was giving us. It's only 18 minutes, but in those 18 minutes, he was impressive enough to make a point. If you're giving a guy a plus for presence in the room, that's one thing you take away from that interview."
What's that moment like on the phone when you know you're about to change somebody's life?
Taylor: It's great. You can hear the family in the background — friends, or whoever's there with them — and sometimes you don't get a great sense of the emotion they're going through, because they're trying their best to hold it together while they're on the phone with you, and then they kind of release that when they're off the phone. I try not to keep on it too long, because I know there's a lot of important people in their life that they want to get to after that, so I just give them the information. We'll circle back later tonight — I know it's late, but in Oklahoma it's only 10:45. But we'll circle back with him once he's calmed down and get a chance to get him more information."
When you make a pick like that, do you plan on calling Jesse Bates, given that you just addressed that position in the first round?
Taylor: "One thing about our team is throughout all these picks that we've had throughout the years, they're always asking for the phone numbers of these guys so they can start getting in touch with them. With a lot of the team leaders on the team, that's one thing that's always excited me the last couple years, is that they always want to reach out to these new players and welcome them to the team. Those are all conversations that we'll have. Our players will be back in the building on Monday, so we'll expect a good group of them here. It's not mandatory, obviously, but it'll be exciting to get around those guys and get a chance to catch up."
I don't know how many in the league are better, but you guys have some pretty damn good players in that safety room ...
Anarumo: "Yeah, we feel like it for sure. We did coming into it, and again, you add another great player like this ... It's a premium position these days with the way offenses throw the ball around. The more DBs you have, the better. I'll say it again, but his versatility and flexibility just creates more potential good matchups for us."
First-round picks aren't expected to play special teams a lot, but is that something you'd ask of him, and does he have a history on special teams?
Taylor: "He's done some stuff in the past at Michigan, and we'll see how that factors in with (special teams coordinator) Darrin (Simmons) right now, but we drafted him in the first round to help us on defense first, and then we'll see what fits from there."
Were you thrilled to see a fellow Okie coming in?
Taylor: "Yeah. Yeah, it is. Booker T. (Washington High School), Tulsa, Oklahoma — they've got a great program there, and a great history of tremendous football and basketball players coming out of there. I think Robert Meacham was a great football player that went to Tennessee. Etan Thomas I believe went to Syracuse and played basketball."
How challenging is it to call plays, and how challenging is it for the quarterback to deal with a guy like Dax that can move around and play multiple spots?
Taylor: "Yeah, it is. Again, that goes right in the mix with Vonn (Bell) and Jesse (Bates). They create issues as well, because they're really smart players, and they do a great job of communicating and disguising. So you add another piece there that fits in the mold of what those guys have already started getting going for us. Again, it helps make our defense better."
What do you anticipate that he'll have to pick up the most and learn at this level?
Taylor: "That's a good question. I think that's a hard one to answer right now, because until you get a player in your building, and you can be with them for an extensive period of time, and you install our defense, and you give him a chance to go against our offense out the gate, you have a much better sense of how much they need to learn quickly. Obviously that's stuff we try to gather during the pre-draft process the best we can. Is this guy able to retain information? Does he have a high football IQ? Those answers are yes, and now you get a chance to see him in the fold. Some guys pick it up faster, some guys it takes a little bit more time, maybe end of training camp. Neither of those are issues for us, so we'll just see how he fits in once he gets here."
How many different places did Michigan utilize him? When you looked at Michigan tape did you transpose that to your scheme, or are you going to try and do more things with him than he did at Michigan?
Anarumo: "Yeah, as Zac just said we'll kind of see where he's at when we get him. But they did move him around a bunch, which is great to see. You're always wanting to see evidence on tape of what the player can do — from nickel to safety, and as a blitzer and covering tight ends. All those things. All of that's on tape for us, which was great to see, and we can always build from there which is always better."
Where are you and how many people are you with?
"I'm in Tulsa. About 60."
What is your reaction to being selected by the Bengals in the first round?
"Aw man, it's really an exciting experience, getting to experience it with my family and friends. It feels really good to be a Bengal. Words can't really describe how I feel right now. I'm grateful for the opportunity."
Defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo talked about your versatility being a big selling point. How similar is what you did at Michigan to what you may have to do in Cincinnati?
"I'm not too familiar with the Bengals defense. I know a little bit about it, but for sure my versatility is something they'll use as an asset for the defense and the team. We'll have this full year to display that, and hopefully I'll do the same thing with the Bengals."
I'm sure you are proud to be selected in the first round as it was winding down. Was that becoming a concern?
"Not really. I knew everything was going to fall into place. I really wasn't too concerned — just being motivated by what I did, and then my family was supporting me. Whatever it was, I knew I was going to end up at the right spot."
Outside of meeting with the Bengals at the combine, how much communication did you have with them, and were you surprised that it was them that selected you?
"I had a good feeling with some of the coaches. I had an informal event, like you said, at the combine, and throughout April I had a few Zoom calls with them. Not too much communication, but a little bit of communication. Then today, I also talked with them before the draft saying hopefully we can get you if you're still available, so that's what they did. I'm glad that they chose me."
Besides versatility, what's the next biggest asset you bring to the Cincinnati Bengals?
"I would say having a good heart. Not really paying attention to myself, but making sure my teammates and the people around me are playing to the best of their abilities — making sure I'm doing the best that I can for those guys, so really not focusing on myself."
Would you call yourself? A cornerback or a safety?
"I would consider myself both. I don't want to limit myself to one position. Whatever that is, the coaches will put me wherever that may be."
Do you have a goal to grow into one specific position, or do you want to be a hybrid player your whole career?
"For sure, being a hybrid player throughout my entire career. I don't really want to limit myself, because I know I can play other positions — whatever that may be, whenever that may be. I'm ready for the journey."
How comfortable do you feel in the slot? What's your most natural position?
"Very comfortable. I came in at safety, so I feel like safety. And then this year having that slot corner role was something I really developed throughout the season. I can see myself doing either or, but for sure coming in as a safety. I definitely have instincts as a safety, but I can also play that slot corner."
How excited are you to come to a team that is coming off a Super Bowl appearance? A lot of fans will consider you a piece that will help get the Bengals over the top ...
"It's a blessing. It's ironic how we could've won the Super Bowl last year, but my upside can be important to the team, and I feel like me coming in Day 1 can definitely show that I can do great things for the defense and for the team."
Do you know anything about the Bengals safeties?
"A little bit. I can't remember their names off the top of my head, but I know they have a great safety room and overall defense. I watched them a little bit last year to see what they did, and to see myself actually playing in that type of defense."
What was going through your mind when the phone started to ring and you saw the Bengals were on the clock?
"It was crazy because I went to the restroom, and my family told me not to go to the restroom. I had to really hurry up and get up out of the bathroom. So then I just picked up the phone and went downstairs and told everybody the Bengals were calling. That was a funny moment for me."
How close were you to not making it out of the bathroom in time to make sure you got the call?
"Oh no, I made sure I had that call (laughs). I just had to zip up real quick (laughs). Then, I just answered the phone and was like, yeah, it's the Bengals and everybody was excited."
Have you heard from any member of the Bengals yet?
"Just some of the business people in terms of flights, and some reporters, I believe. I couldn't really hear them — there were a lot of people here — but for sure some people."
How much do you enjoy blitzing the quarterback?
"That is something I definitely enjoy doing. It's something I did a lot at Michigan — wreaking a little bit of havoc throughout the year. I feel like I can do the same thing as well at the Bengals. They'll probably do that with me this year, so whatever that is, I'm for it and willing to get better at it, for sure."
Was tonight a dream come true?
"For sure. Definitely the last few years — growing up watching football, and now, throughout my college career knowing that I had an opportunity to go to the NFL. It was a great experience to actually see it come to fruition. And me, having the opportunity to play at the next level, for sure."