While the Cincinnati Bengals added a lot of impactful free agents last offseason, one didn’t fly under the radar more than Mike Hilton. Cynthia Frelund of NFL.com wrote that Hilton is the Bengals’ most underappreciated player and it’s hard not to agree.
"Coverages that utilize more than four defensive backs have become a common sight in the NFL, and slot corner is now more of a full-time position than one that can be filled only situationally. Hilton, who signed with Cincinnati in 2021, is a great example; he played slot corner on 76.2 percent of his snaps in his first year with the team, per NGS, and improved his effectiveness in each game last season. Computer vision shows that in his first 10 games as a Bengal, he allowed a passer rating of 83.0 in coverage (that is, when he was within 3 yards of the nearest target at the time the ball arrived)."
Yeah, Hilton truly was an unsung hero for the Bengals’ defense in 2021. They added a lot of great players to the team, especially on the defensive side. Chidobe Awuzie joined Hilton in the secondary but Awuzie definitely got his fair share of recognition, as did newcomer pass rusher Trey Hendrickson.
Frelund continues with her analysis of Hilton:
"Over his last 10 games (including playoffs), that number reduced to just 61.2. NGS shows that when he was the nearest defender in 2021, he allowed a 72.0 completion percentage in the regular season (+4.3 percent completion over expected) but only a 66.7 completion percentage (-5.2 percent CPOE) in the playoffs. It stands to reason that the 35th-highest-paid corner will improve even further with more time in this system."
Put some respect on Mike Hilton’s name, Bengals fans!
Simply adding Hilton was a smart enough move for Cincinnati but it’s an even more brilliant move when you consider that the team pried him away from division-rival Pittsburgh.
When looking at the Bengals’ revamped defense last year, a lot of people are quick to mention guys like Awuzie, Hendrickson, Sam Hubbard, B.J. Hill, D.J. Reader, and even Eli Apple before discussing Hilton and the impact he had on the team.
Without the Bengals’ defensive improvements in 2021 this team doesn’t make it to the Super Bowl. The slot corner doesn’t get a lot of publicity or credit so Frelund is absolutely right that Mike Hilton is the most underappreciated player on the Cincinnati Bengals’ roster.
Hilton finished the 2021 season with a PFF grade of 72.3, further validating the impact he had on the 2021 Bengals.
Would you agree? If not, who gets your vote for most underappreciated player on the team?