You were probably hoping the Patriots would draft a safety from Michigan right? There might be a good chance they do, but not the safety you’re probably thinking of. Michigan has another safety prospect in the draft, Delano Hill. While Peppers played mostly box safety and linebacker, Hill played multiple roles in Michigan’s secondary. Whether it was the single-high safety, covering TEs or slots, or playing in the box, Hill did a solid job for what he was asked to do.
Hill tested well at the combine, putting up a strong 4.47 40 and a 6.96 3-Cone and a respectable 33 1/2” vertical and 9’7” broad jump. Hill is an excellent tackler in all areas of the field and doesn’t get driven back. At 6’1” 216, Hill has the size to be a solid box safety and with 32 1/2” arms has the length to combat NFL TEs in coverage. The team has also been looking at long term replacements for Patrick Chung, who will be 30 this year and a free agent after the 2018 season. The team drafted Jordan Richards two years ago, but hasn’t been able to get on the field and was a healthy scratch in the postseason.
As a senior, Hill recorded 52 tackles, 4.5 for loss, 3 INT, and batted 3 more passes. That earned him a 2nd team All Big 10 honors. Even though the production isn’t great, the traits translate very well to the Pro Game where he’ll be used more in the box against the run and matching up against TEs in man coverage. His versatility makes for an ideal 3rd safety in the long run who can handle different assignments at a fairly competent level.
Vs. Ohio State 2016
Vs. Michigan State 2016
Patriots Fit: Hill would compete with Jordan Richards for the 4th safety role on the 53-man roster. At the minimum we should see him on Special Teams where his ability to tackle in the open field is a plus. His versatility on the field, as either the single-high free safety, playing in the box, or lined up against TEs or slot receivers allows for the Patriots to operate in the Big Nickel package. In Year 1, I don’t think he overtakes Patrick Chung for the role, but could wind up doing so by the end of Year 2.
Pro Comp: Patrick Chung. Like Chung, Hill is able to handle multiple roles in the secondary, but will spend most of his time in the box. Hill is a better single-high safety than Chung, although Chung is more athletic in man coverage than Hill. With Chung on the wrong side of 30, the Patriots are looking for a long term replacement at the box safety position. Hill is probably a Day 3 guy, but I would not be surprised if the Patriots picked him in the 3rd round like they did four years ago with Duron Harmon.