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*** RD 1 BENGALS DRAFT - DAXTON HILL (S) ***


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Sheil Kapedia -The Athletic:

 

31. Cincinnati Bengals: Dax Hill, S, Michigan

The word versatility gets thrown around too much this time of year, but it applies to Hill (6 feet, 191). In 33 games for Michigan, he played both as a slot corner and a split-field safety. Hill had excellent ball production last year with 11 passes defended and two interceptions in 14 starts. He ran a 4.38 at the combine.

Hill checks so many boxes. He’s rangy, explosive, competitive, versatile and durable. This feels like a “best player available” pick for the Bengals. I love Hill’s fit in Cincinnati. He should contribute immediately and has the upside to be a cornerstone of that defense for years to come.

Grade: A

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4 winners and 3 losers from Bengals’ first-round selection of Daxton Hill

Lou has a very promising defense on his hands.

 

By Jason Marcum@marcum89   
 

Day 1 of the 2022 NFL Draft is in the books.

 

For the Cincinnati Bengals, Round 1 saw them land Michigan Wolverines safety Daxton Hill, one of the best defensive backs in the entire draft. He was widely expected to go higher than 31 overall, as ESPN had him ranked 18th overall, while CBS’ Dane Brugler had him ranked 20th.

The Bengals don’t have an immediate need at safety, though Hill is capable of playing slot cornerback at a high level. He also figures to be a starting safety in 2023 when at least one of Jessie Bates/Vonn Bell likely moves on.

 

Now, let’s take a look at the biggest winners and losers from Day 1 of the draft for Cincinnati.

Winners

Lou Anarumo: While the Bengals offense gets much of the attention, it was the defense that stepped up big in the playoffs and carried the Bengals into the Super Bowl. Now, Anarumo has another Round 1-caliber player to bolster his defense with. Hill is easily one of the best defensive backs in this draft, as he can play safety and slot corner at a high level. This is another good chess piece for Anarumo to slow down guys like Lamar Jackson and Patrick Mahomes.

 

The front seven: When you’ve got a great secondary, it makes life so much easier on the defensive linemen and linebackers. Adding a player the caliber of Hill will further fortify the secondary will absolutely help guys like Sam Hubbard, B.J. Hill and Trey Hendrickson get to the QB before he’s able to get the ball out.

 

Hayden Hurst: The Bengals lost starting tight end C.J. Uzomah to the New York Jets this offseason. His tentative replacement was former first-round pick Hayden Hurst, who was signed to a one-year deal. Coming into the draft, there was growing buzz that Colorado State tight end Trey McBride could sneak into Round 1 with the Bengals as a prime candidate, but that thankfully didn’t happen. So for now, Hurst is still set to play in an offense that could allow him to have the best year of his NFL career.

 

The offensive line: Though guys like Zion Johnson and Tyler Linderbaum were off the board, there were still some quality offensive linemen on the board, but the Bengals opted not to address the position. That’s good news for everyone slated to start next season, especially Ted Karras at center and whoever the left guard ends up being.

Losers

Vonn Bell and Jessie Bates: The Bengals are currently set to have starting safeties Jessie Bates and Vonn Bell become free agents next year, so drafting a safety in Round 1 means at least one of them is highly unlikely to be retained. That’s just how the game goes, and it’s good to know the Bengals have a replacement for one of them already lined up.

 

Eli Apple: While the Bengals didn’t address cornerback directly in Round 1, Hill can play some there. And Zac Taylor essentially said this position still a big need for the team heading into Day 2, which is bad news for Eli Apple as he looks to hold onto his starting spot.

 

So while Apple still is the likely second starting boundary corner, he’s very likely to get some strong competition for that spot in the draft, likely at some point on Day 2.

 

https://www.cincyjungle.com/2022/4/29/23047566/bengals-draft-2022-4-winners-3-losers-daxton-hill-michigan

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Some thinking out loud here.

He's not going to be the primary Slot Corner: Hilton is signed to do that for the next 3 years at a very reasonable amount
We don't want him to be the primary Deep safety: We want Bates in that role his leadership is important
He hasn't played outside corner much at all
He has played in the box but is a bit undersized for that Vonn Bell is 5-11 205 he is 6-0 191
We signed Tre Flowers who was adept at guarding TEs

If you were starting a team with no players at all he would make a ton of sense. A very high level athlete and versatile playmaker with zero red flags. Plus you can get his brother to come cheap after he is cut from the Ravens this year.

I like the pick. I like the player. I like it all if he can play box effectively and stay healthy. He won't struggle to get snaps as the primary backup for 3 starters. He has star written all over him and centerpiece of the defense. He also allows you to pay Bates now and then replace Bates in 4 years as he shifts from box to deep. Which is I think the most likely situation. He's the dime S and corner, primary backup for slot corner, Bell and Bates. Replaces Bell in 2023, replaces Bates in 2027.

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Daxton's height is 6'0, but his wingspan is 6'7 - which is exactly what you would create in a lab when making a DB.

 

I also see he was a 5-star recruit coming out of High School and supposed to go to Alabama, but at the last minute chose Michigan. 

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A thorough write up on him from Pro Football Network... 

 

Daxton Hill Scouting Report

The numbers don’t always adequately reflect a player’s pace on the field. Some players appear faster or slower than their athletic times. Hill, however, plays exactly as fast as you would expect. After having the highest SPARQ rating in his 2019 recruiting class and logging extraordinary numbers out of high school, he backed up that reputation with his play on the field.

 

Athleticism, of course, isn’t everything for NFL Draft prospects. There has to be a combination of athletic and mental skill present. In Hill’s case, it’s absolutely there. Hill has a rare athletic foundation to build on, and he’s been consistently building on it over the past two seasons.

 

Hill’s athletic profile

Hill’s athletic numbers hint at otherworldly dynamism, and he lives up to that on tape. When Hill plays at full speed, he moves at a pace that few can match. Expectedly, the Michigan product has elite explosiveness and pursuit speed. These qualities combine into impressive range, both downfield and side to side.

 

Hill is an extremely twitchy athlete who possesses ample amounts of constant potential energy. He has the athleticism to quickly adjust his angles in tight spaces, and his speed and explosiveness allow him to make up ground when he reacts late. The Michigan S shows intense closing burst at the tackle point, and his impressive proportional length allows him to handle 1-on-1 situations.

 

Beyond his speed and explosiveness, Hill is also exceptionally fluid. He’s extremely smooth and quick transitioning out of his backpedal. He can flip his hips and explode in an instant. This hip fluidity shows up downfield, where he’s shown he can flip and stick to receivers with ease. Hill can be an eraser in the deep third, but his combination of explosiveness and fluidity is also conducive to success in the box, as well as in the slot.

 

Execution beyond the physical traits

Earlier in his career, Hill was a work in progress on the operational side. However, the Michigan S has shown promising flashes of awareness, steady mechanics, and other intangibles, and he was much more consistent in 2021.

 

First and foremost, Hill doesn’t play slow. He utilizes the full extent of his athleticism more often than not, and he’s also very aggressive and physical. He’s shown physicality at the route stem on more than one occasion, and he has a willingness to engage ball carriers. Hill possesses a containment mentality as a tackler and doesn’t throw himself around recklessly. He’s good in run support with his burst and tackling ability.

 

In space, Hill also has lots of appeal. The Michigan S flashes quick recognition ability and strong instincts when scanning the gaps in run defense. Hill’s shown he can key in on a quarterback’s eyes and decode his next course of action in real time. Additionally, Hill has smooth footwork at the line. He maintains steady leverage before turning his hips.

 

Finally, Hill has a great deal of versatility already. His athleticism affords him much of this flexibility. The Michigan S has shown he can handle roles in single-high, two-high, or the slot. And he has the fluidity to potentially do boundary work as well. He’s a chess piece through and through.

 

Areas for improvement

Heading into 2021, Hill showed flashes of good processing and recognition, but he was still a work in progress in that area. The Michigan S notably improved in 2021, however, honing his instincts on the back end. His processing was more consistent, and he was able to anticipate plays, keep his positioning, and close quickly. There’s still room for him to further perfect his craft, but his mental game is very much trending up.

 

All this being said, Hill can still find a better balance between patience and aggressiveness, which will continue to come with more experience. Hill can be baited and led astray by misdirection plays at times. He doesn’t always take the best angles in pursuit and sometimes plays himself off-balance. Releases upfield can also work him off-balance and force him off his man. In that same vein, Hill can overshoot tackling angles coming downhill.

 

Moreover, Hill can have trouble deconstructing blocks in run defense. He’s shown he can generate force at the contact point with his closing burst, but he doesn’t always leverage that burst effectively. Additionally, he can be indecisive in congestion.

 

Hill’s ball skills were a knock heading into 2021, but he improved there as well, showing off high-level playmaking ability at the catch point on multiple occasions.

 

Hill’s NFL Draft scouting report overview

Hill is just 21 years old, so he’s still incredibly young. That only makes his eventual projection more exciting because he’s already a very good player. 2021 was a crucial year of growth for the Michigan S, but he used it to his advantage. And now he’s a potential first-round pick.

 

In my eyes, Hill is easily worth a first-round selection and might be one of the top 15 or 20 prospects in the 2022 NFL Draft. The Michigan S has all the athletic tools. He’s supremely explosive, fluid, twitchy, and has great long speed. He’s also a longer defensive back with arms over 32″, and he’s shown he can lay out big hits with his frame.

 

Going further, Hill’s processing and mental work took a noticeable step up in 2021. Hill processed faster on the back end, read and recognized plays more consistently, and was able to better anticipate and position himself to make plays. He played faster and more confident — and it showed.

 

Seeing his sharp linear growth, combined with his elite athletic foundation, it’s clear that Hill is a wise investment to make. He has the versatility to play legitimately everywhere in the secondary and be a game-changing presence. That kind of chess piece is extremely valuable in the modern NFL.

 

Hill’s Player Profile

Hill tested with slightly lower numbers at his Combine and pro day, but he’s always been an elite athlete. He recorded a 4.3 40-yard dash and a 43-inch vertical at 6’1″, 187 pounds out of high school. With these numbers in mind, it comes as no surprise that Hill was a five-star recruit and the 13th overall player on ESPN’s recruiting board.

 

The non-surprises don’t stop there. Naturally, Hill — a product of Tulsa, Oklahoma — was coveted from the East Coast to the West Coast. Schools like Clemson, Oregon, Georgia, LSU, and Oklahoma all submitted offers for Hill. So, too, did Alabama. In fact, Nick Saban hosted Hill on a visit.

 

Even with interest from some of the premier programs in college football, Hill’s eyes turned to Ann Arbor. He took a visit to Michigan in September 2018. In December, he officially committed to the Wolverines.

 

Hill’s career at Michigan and NFL Draft ascension

Hill arrived at Michigan in 2019 as one of the most anticipated recruits in recent memory. The coaches didn’t bother waiting to let Hill hit the field. And Hill, true to his five-star form, didn’t wait to start making plays. The Oklahoma native played in 13 games, accruing 36 tackles, 3 tackles for loss, 1 interception, 3 pass deflections, and 2 fumble recoveries.

 

In 2020, Hill reprised his starting role and flourished despite a COVID-impacted season. Hill started all six games for the Wolverines and outproduced his 2019 campaign. He amassed 44 tackles, an interception, and 4 pass deflections. Hill was a standout for his team, and he took home Academic All-Big Ten honors as well.

 

2021 was the long-anticipated breakout for Hill. The Michigan S amassed 69 total tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, a half-sack, 2 interceptions, 8 pass deflections, and a fumble recovery. He earned first-team All-Big Ten honors for his performance. And now, he’s largely viewed as a first-round talent with a chance to go within the first 32 picks.

 

Tony Pauline’s Scouting Report on Daxton Hill

Positives: Athletic safety prospect with a complete game. Quick and fluid pedaling in reverse, smooth flipping his hips and tracks the pass in the air. Possesses a burst to the ball and has a nice move to the throw. Quick to read and diagnose plays, shows speed laterally, and keeps the action in front of him. Breaks down well and uses his hands to protect himself. Squares into tackles and wraps up ball handlers. Takes good angles to the action and works hard to get involved.

 

Negatives: Doesn’t play to his 40 time and lacks a second gear, despite his Combine forty time. Possesses a long, wiry build.

 

Analysis: Hill is an athletic safety who has shown consistent improvement on the field and increased his production every year. He possesses good upside and projects as a traditional free safety who can line up over the slot receiver.

 

https://www.profootballnetwork.com/daxton-hill-michigan-s-nfl-draft-scouting-report-2022/

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3 minutes ago, MichaelWeston said:

Some thinking out loud here.

He's not going to be the primary Slot Corner: Hilton is signed to do that for the next 3 years at a very reasonable amount
We don't want him to be the primary Deep safety: We want Bates in that role his leadership is important
He hasn't played outside corner much at all
He has played in the box but is a bit undersized for that Vonn Bell is 5-11 205 he is 6-0 191
We signed Tre Flowers who was adept at guarding TEs

If you were starting a team with no players at all he would make a ton of sense. A very high level athlete and versatile playmaker with zero red flags. Plus you can get his brother to come cheap after he is cut from the Ravens this year.

I like the pick. I like the player. I like it all if he can play box effectively and stay healthy. He won't struggle to get snaps as the primary backup for 3 starters. He has star written all over him and centerpiece of the defense. He also allows you to pay Bates now and then replace Bates in 4 years as he shifts from box to deep. Which is I think the most likely situation. He's the dime S and corner, primary backup for slot corner, Bell and Bates. Replaces Bell in 2023, replaces Bates in 2027.

 

I think it just ends up being situational.

 

1. bates turned us down two years in a row on offers, IMO, thats the end of that. If not he can replace Bell. 

2. You mentioned it that the issue is if everyone is healthy, but thats kinda rare, so he will get time due to injuries

3. can he maybe return kicks/punts or anything? i assume he could get ST snaps as usual.

4. situational play. the more the NFL gets pass happy the more guys you need, so as you said again, he will get snaps from bell, flowers, etc in different sitautions.

 

it almost feels odd not having a guy needed to fill a hole, but in 12 months we have 0 starting safeties under contract, so he is depth and situational play now and likely a solid ready starter next year.

 

IMO

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From Walter Football ...

 

Strengths:

  • Very good nickel cornerback
  • Man-coverage ability on slot receivers
  • Plug-and-play starting nickel corner in the NFL
  • Instinctive
  • Quick
  • Fluid; can flip his hips and run
  • Covers a lot of ground
  • Always around the ball
  • Willing run defender
  • Tough tackler
  • Has some skills
  • Very good at picking up receivers in off-man coverage
  • Versatility
  • Intelligence
  • Plays tough and hard
  • Experienced

 

Weaknesses:

  • Slim build
  • Could have a hard time avoiding injury in the NFL
  • Could have a hard time holding up as a strong safety, eighth man in the box
  • Lacks size to tackle NFL running backs

 

  • Summary: 
    Hill's best trait for the next level is his ability to line up and cover slot receivers. His quickness, flexibility and fluid athleticism allow him to line up at the line of scrimmage or pick up receivers in off-man coverage. Hill will be a real asset to his defense when going against dangerous slot receivers. For nickel, he is a phenomenal cover corner to run the route and prevent separation. He shows good instincts to play the ball and is very active in the middle of the field.

 

Player Comparison: Jimmie Ward. Injuries have also hurt Ward (5-11, 193) in his NFL career, but when healthy, he is a quality safety and nickel corner for San Francisco. Hill is almost identical in size to Ward. While Ward was a safety/corner tweener, Hill is a true nickel who can play some safety. In the NFL, Hill could be a defender who is similar to Ward.

 

https://walterfootball.com/scoutingreport2022DHill.php

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A New York Post article from a week ago ... (I like to read pre draft stuff for more objectivity, as writers let their bias enter based on who picks a player)

 

Versatile Daxton Hill speeding his way up 2022 NFL Draft charts

April 22, 2022 
 

Daxton Hill has been a quick riser in various mock drafts in recent weeks, especially since the versatile Michigan defensive back opened eyes with his speed at the NFL Scouting Combine last month.

 

Notre Dame’s Kyle Hamilton has been the consensus top-rated safety on every board for this draft cycle, but he might not be the only player at that position deserving of a selection in the first round.

 

Hill, the younger brother of Ravens running back Justice Hill, is currently being projected to go at No. 25 to the Bills by ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. If he falls to the second round, Hill could be available for either the Jets, who lost safety Marcus Maye to New Orleans in free agency, or the Giants.

“I’ve always liked Daxton Hill,” Kiper said on a conference call last week. “Here’s a guy who did everything at Michigan. He can be a slot corner. He can play center field. He tackles so well, he can get after the quarterback, he intercepts passes.

 

“He was a five-star recruit coming out of high school [in Oklahoma], No. 1 safety, speed to the football, everything that shows you he’s going to be ready to go. He’s perfect for the way the game is played today.”

 

Hill technically is listed as a safety, but the junior was positioned all over the field on a loaded Michigan defense that also boasted the potential No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft, defensive end Aidan Hutchinson, in the second-ranked Wolverines’ run to national semifinals and an Orange Bowl loss to Georgia, the eventual national champions. Linebacker David Ojabo also was considered a potential top-10 pick before he suffered a torn Achilles at Michigan’s Pro Day last month.

 

Hill’s stock has risen since he posted a time of 4.38 seconds in the 40-yard dash — the 14th fastest among all participants — at this year’s NFL Scouting Combine. After Hamilton, Hill is widely listed atop the next group of available safeties, along with Georgia’s Lewis Cine, Baylor’s Jalen Pitre and Cincinnati’s Bryan Cook.

 

Really, it’s my versatility and the amount of things I can do on the field,” Hill said after Michigan’s Pro Day. “Everything is kind of up in the air, and you don’t know where you’re gonna be picked. The only thing I can control is how I perform and interview, so I think those two components are the two best things working for me right now.

 

“I’ve been thinking about this and dreaming about this experience for a while now. To see it actually come around is exciting.”

 

Hill says he’s spoken to his brother, who was chosen in the fourth round by the Ravens in 2019, about how to approach his discussions with interested NFL teams. Both siblings declared for the draft following their junior seasons, with Justice Hill playing collegiately at Oklahoma State.

 

“For sure, he’s always in my corner, because he was three-and-out … so you have more eyes on you,” Daxton Hill said. “He was just telling me to keep the same confidence that I always have and just let everything come to me. That’s just how it is, whenever you’re an underclassmen, a junior, they want to see why you’d leave early.”

 

While Kiper ranks Hill as his “13th-best player” on his overall board, ESPN colleague Todd McShay said he believes Hill could hear his name called as high as “the 15-20 range” next Thursday night.

 

“Dax Hill, the safety from Michigan — this guy has been overlooked because we talk so much about Kyle Hamilton from Notre Dame at the safety position,” McShay said this week on an ESPN podcast. “The interesting part with Dax is he’s sitting at just over 6-foot, 191 pounds, ran a 4.3 in the 40-yard dash, had the best three-cone drill of all the safeties at the NFL combine this year.

 

“But he’s not just a single-high safety that can cover basically the whole field. He is a playmaker and he’s also a nickel corner that occasionally you could actually trust out on the perimeter one-on-one in coverage. He’s the best pure cover safety in this class.”

 

Hill was a first-team All-Big Ten selection this season after totaling 69 tackles (4.5 for loss) with two interceptions and eight pass breakups in 14 games. Among all defensive backs, Kiper ranks him behind only Cincinnati’s Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner, LSU’s Derek Stingley Jr. and Hamilton.

 

“You go back to grades and film, he’s a slot corner. And you can make an argument he’s one of the best slot corners,” Kiper said. “At safety, there are some guys that after the first five or six you’re a little iffy on. I think Daxton Hill could be one of the most underrated defensive players in this draft.”

 

https://nypost.com/2022/04/22/2022-nfl-draft-daxton-hill-speeding-his-way-up-charts/

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What others say: The Athletic's Dan Brugler thinks Hill's the 2nd best safety prospect after Kyle Hamilton:

Hill plays with the athletic twitch and transitional quickness to interchangeably play slot-man, deep safety or in the box and can just as easily lay licks in the run game as he can cover the slot fade. He displays the competitive temperament and awareness to smother in zone or man, although he can do a better job exploding through his target as a tackler or blitzer. Overall, Hill might not have elite size or length, but his versatile package of skills (athletic range, toughness, football IQ) make him the ideal nickel defender in today’s NFL. He should be a rookie starter as either a split safety or slot defender.

 

 

Pro Football Network made him their #2 safety.

Slide Daxton Hill into the slot or free safety and reap the rewards. He can make up for mistakes from corners but won’t be much help in run fits. He closes ground with blink-and-you-miss-it speed and has the coverage ability to thrive in single or two-high shells. Hill’s skill set will be highly sought after in the 2022 NFL Draft, and he will be a key contributor from Day 1.

…but note that they really like elite athleticism. ESPN's team had Hill 13th overall for that same reason, and the Draft Network pegged Hill as Option #3 as the 2nd safety taken because he's not as physical as Cine.

 

https://mgoblog.com/content/so-you-wanna-draft-wolverine-daxton-hill

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Just now, Cricket said:


One thought I had (not really how valid it might be) would play him as a spy on running QBs (Jackson, Watson, Mahomes, Allen, etc.).

 

Maybe?  :shrug:  

 

yea for sure, Lou mentioned that (sort of) in the presser tonight, that they now have jackson and watson to chase around 4 times a yer so having the speed is a bonus.

 

 

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From Bleacher Report ...

 

OVERALL RANK: 35

 

POSITIVES

— Versatile player. Able to play all positions in defensive backfield.

— Has adequate coverage skills to play man from outside or in slot.

— Good tackling ability. Wrap tackler who also can run through ball-carrier.

— Plays with good aggression and physicality. Throws his body around. Very good run recognition and in-block destruction.

— Good in zone. Best with eyes back to the QB.

 

OVERALL

Hill is a versatile player who has the ability to play all over the secondary. With his physical nature, he performs best when he's close to the line of scrimmage. He relies on his physicality in the run game, with good strength and aggressive tackling.

 

Hill is at his best when working in the intermediate to short area of the field and when he is allowed to play the game moving forward, with the play in front of him. His physical nature allows him to fit the run game as well as occasionally blitz.

 

https://bleacherreport.com/articles/10033608-daxton-hill-nfl-draft-2022-scouting-report-for-cincinnati-bengals-s

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I didn't know anything about Hill until we made the pick.  I wasn't even looking at Safety, not realizing how versatile Hill was.  I did look at the 40-times of some of the Safeties, but Hill must not have been an option at where I was looking, because there were no Safeties with 40-times anywhere near Hill that might be available when the Bengals would pick.  What was Cine, 4.5, 4.6?

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I was never really concerned with who we would take as I knew the Bengals would make the right choice.

 

Look what Lou has done with bits and pieces and a couple of quality Free Agents.  Give him some elite raw talent, while this is also new territory for him as the Head D.C., and it's just going to be as interesting to watch what happens as it was to watch him transform last year's Bengals into an elite Defense (led the league in so many important Defensive Categories, while improving as the season went on).

 

His reclamation project of Eli Apple was a great example of how good Lou is.  Apple was literally bad as a Giant.  He came here with the same skill set....bad habits that needed broken and rebuilt.  He struggled early as expected, but the 2nd Half of the season, he was as important to the improved Defense as any player on the team.  He was very good in the 2nd Half.  Kudos to Lou and kudos to Eli for accomplishing that feat.  It's really difficult to change how you do things as a player and Eli Apple did exactly that.  Looking forward to him continuing this new version of himself.

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