By Dylan MacKinnon
Much like Kayvon Thibodeaux, this is a guy I originally had no plans to write a profile of. Kyle Hamilton was a consensus top 5 pick at the beginning of the draft process. But much like Thibodeaux, his stock seems to be falling in the final month before the draft. Underwhelming showings at the combine and his pro day appear to be the culprit for his sudden fall. ESPN’s Matt Miller and Jordan Reid reported that “the consensus around the league is that a drop is expected”.
While that may be some teams later in the draft putting that out there in the hope he falls, it very well may be true. This means it is no longer unreasonable to say Kyle Hamilton can end up in Midnight Green. It would mean that the Eagles spent a first-round pick on a Safety for the first time in franchise history. But is Hamilton the type of player who could compel them to break that trend? Let’s get to know the Notre Dame product a little bit better.
A Unicorn At Safety
When it comes to safety, Hamilton is special. He is so much more than your typical safety. His blend of size, quickness, coverage skills, and physicality allows him to do pretty much anything you need him to. Want him to battle with a Tight End? He at times erased the other team’s tight end from games. Want him to step into the box? He excelled at playing the run at Notre Dame. Need someone to make a big play? In his 3 years, he had 8 interceptions in 3 years, and eventually, QBs just stopped testing him.
This is why before this past month he was set to break the mold and go top 5 as a safety. In his time at Notre Dame, he had 138 tackles, 7.5 for a loss, and 16 passes defended in 30 games to go with those interceptions. This final year he had 3 interceptions in 7 games before his season was ended early with a knee injury. Hamilton was an All-American in all 3 years at Notre Dame. He was also a finalist for the Chuck Bednarik Award, given to the best defender in the nation. Jordan Davis won the award, but Hamilton was a worthy finalist.
Hamilton is like if a mad scientist crossed together a cornerback, a linebacker, and a safety in a lab. Hamilton was asked to do a lot in the Notre Dame defense. One play he would be up in the box to play the run. The next he would be lined up man-to-man vs a Slot WR. After that, he may be asked to drop back into deep zone coverage. And he excelled at all of it. Notre Dame’s former Defensive Coordinator and new Head Coach Marcus Freeman even commented on how he feels he asked Hamilton to do too much.
“You talk about football production, Kyle Hamilton is as good as I’ve ever been around. And I’ve been around some really, really good football players. And (it’s not) only his athleticism, physicality, intelligence, and ability to put himself in a position to be successful. I think sometimes, as the defensive coordinator, I overutilized him and asked him to do too much because you felt he could do anything,”- Marcus Freeman
One of the biggest things that stands out about Hamilton is his range. He covers a lot of ground. Hamilton is a true sideline to sideline player. Getting to the edge of the Notre Dame defense was incredibly difficult for ball carriers because many times Hamilton was getting there before they ever could. And when he gets there, he rarely misses the tackle. He hits like a linebacker. Just watch how fast Hamilton got from the defensive backfield to the offensive one to make a tackle for a loss here.
Kyle Hamilton, folks. That is all. pic.twitter.com/eQ43Xu1maf— Daniel Valente (@StatsGuyDaniel) April 7, 2022
That range shows up in pass coverage too. There were many times where he ran across half the field for a last-second pass breakup or interception. This made him an ideal option when Notre Dame played Zone coverage. But his range helped him in man to man where he showed an excellent ability to recover. Hamilton also has a remarkable Football IQ. You would barely ever catch him biting on a fake, or over pursuing a bad angle. He doesn’t waste motion on the field. He makes his read, which is usually correct, and takes the ideal angle to make the play.
So Why Is He Falling?
Underwhelming performances at the Combine and his Pro Day are the apparent cause of his stock dropping. At the combine, he ran a 4.59 in the 40-yard dash. His attempt at his pro day to redeem himself went worse, clocking in at 4.7. This along with the knee injury has raised red flags about his athletic profile for some.
But the workouts should not be concerning. Football players very rarely have to run 40 yards in a straight line in an actual game. The only time that may happen is if they are trying to chase someone down from behind. What matters much more, is game speed. And Hamilton undoubtedly has game speed. GPS technology clocked him at speeds as high as 21mph in-game. And if that is not enough to convince you, I would suggest scrolling up and watching the highlight I shared again. See how fast he gets into the defensive backfield? Does he seem slow?
Kyle Hamilton is far more athletic than his combine or pro day suggest he is. I don’t know why his performances were mediocre those days. Maybe he is still recovering from the injury. Maybe he just had a couple of bad days. But they are in wide contrast to what we see on tape. And if there is a conflict between the tape and the combine, the tiebreaker goes to the tape. It is also worth mentioning Kyle Hamilton made Bruce Feldman’s Annual Freak Athlete list.
Another reason he might fall is a bit more justifiable. Safeties are just not as valuable as cornerbacks, Defensive Lineman, or even Linebackers. Not to say they are unimportant. Eagles fans have seen the impact a good or bad Safety can have. But the other positions just have a bigger impact on a play-to-play basis. But Hamilton has a couple of things going for him here. One, as already covered, he is not your typical safety. His versatility and wide range of skills should make him more impactful than your typical safety. He was certainly more impactful at Notre Dame than most safeties. Think back to the kind of difference Brian Dawkins made here. Not to say he is as good as B Dawk, but a great Safety can make a huge impact.
But also for the Eagles, in particular, they would not be spending a top 5 pick on him. He’d have to fall to them, or at least far enough for them to trade up. Avoiding a safety when there are elite players at Corner or Defensive End would make sense. I don’t know if I would take Hamilton over a Kayvon Thibodeaux or Ahmad Gardner, but once those and other elite prospects are off the board Hamilton is certainly worth taking.
As far as actual critiques of his game, there are a few nitpicks. Ideally, he will become a better Blitzer. He has the traits to be able to blitz, but he didn’t get a single sack in college. Maybe because his value in coverage makes it not worth sending him as an extra pass rusher, but it would benefit him to be able to blitz too. He could also stand to be more aggressive. His patient playstyle prevents him from making mistakes. But if he let himself take a few more risks, he could be an elite playmaker. You don’t want to change his game, but a bit of aggressiveness wouldn’t hurt. He can also be grabby in coverage and is prone to penalties. Overall though, there are not many holes in his game.
Kyle Hamilton is not just an asset on the field though. During his time at Notre Dame, he stepped into a leadership role. And that showed up this year when he was injured. With Hamilton sidelined, he devoted his time to helping his fellow safeties prepare for the upcoming game. Something Head Coach Brian Kelly praised him for.
“It’s been a coaching week for him. He’s done a really good job. He’s working with the safeties and engaged being a captain and doing a great job.”- Brian Kelly
That leadership also showed up in taking accountability for himself. When Notre Dame played Florida State, he made his second interception of the game in the second half. But after the pick, he removed his helmet and was called for an Unsportsmanlike Conduct Penalty, costing his team 15 yards. Now we can talk about how that is a pointless penalty and it shouldn’t even be a rule, but it still cost his team. And even though Notre went on to score a TD on that drive, and it was his interception that set it up, Hamilton felt the need to hold himself accountable.
“He’s the first guy that comes up to me and apologized and said, ‘That’s not what a captain does at Notre Dame.’ That’s accountability. That’s responsibility. That’s what you want to hear from a kid who got caught up in a moment. That makes you feel good as a coach, that you have those kind of leaders that understand that and take full accountability and responsibility, and that’s why he’s respected.”- Brian Kelly
Now I think the play he made far outweighs the penalty. But the instinct to take accountability is impressive nonetheless.
What the Draft Experts Say
“Hamilton is a long, super-sized safety who has the explosive range, smarts and toughness to be deployed anywhere on the football field. He anticipates well vs. both the pass and the run and shows the ball skills and tackling balance to be a consistent finisher. Overall, Hamilton frustrates quarterbacks with all the ways he impacts the game and will need an NFL defensive scheme that understands how to maximize his versatile talent. A mash-up of Isaiah Simmons and Justin Simmons, he has the potential to be a diverse matchup weapon in the NFL due to his rare combination of physical traits and natural football instincts.”
“Kyle Hamilton has rare height (6-4), length and fluidity for the safety position. Against the pass, his versatility is a major asset. He has exceptional instincts from the deep half and his range is off the charts. He eats up ground quickly with his long stride and has the athleticism and speed to mirror tight ends and slot wideouts all over the field. Hamilton is an explosive blitzer from depth. He can find and play the ball with ease. Against the run, his burst and angles to the ball are highly impressive, but he will go low and miss a few tackles. I love his competitiveness and production covering punts. Hamilton has all of the tools to emerge as a Pro Bowler early in his career.”
If Kyle Hamilton falls, he should be an option for the Eagles. He is a rare talent at Safety. He can do pretty much anything you would want a Safety to do. Is he worth a top 5 pick? I don’t know. But the Eagles don’t have a top 5 pick, so that debate doesn’t apply to them. The question they will have to likely answer is if he is more valuable than the second-level corners and pass rushers. I would say he probably is. His tape and athletic profile are very impressive. If his poor Pro Day performance makes him drop, it will be to the benefit of whatever team lands him.