NFL Draft Evaluation: Notre Dame Safety Kyle Hamilton Is A Unicorn

In his first article at Irish Breakdown, NFL Draft analyst Ryan Roberts breaks down Notre Dame star Kyle Hamilton
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Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton is expected to be one of the nation's top defenders in 2021. He is also expected to be a top draft pick in the 2021 season. Here is an evaluation of Hamilton from Ryan Roberts of Coast to Coast Scouting.

FROM LATE BLOOMER TO UNICORN

It did not take long for Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton to earn a role amongst a veteran laden secondary during the 2019 season. Despite the Irish boasting two talented senior safeties in Alohi Gilman and Jalen Elliott, Hamilton established a role as a true freshman, pacing the team with four interceptions en route to Freshman All-American honors.

The Atlanta (Ga.) Marist product would enter his sophomore season as a projected breakout star nationally. The talented sophomore would do just that, leading the Fighting Irish to an undefeated regular season and a College Football Playoff berth, concluding with first team All-American honors from the Football Writers Association of America and Phil Steele.

The late blooming Hamilton, spending the majority of his career as a three-star recruit while at Marist School, now sits as potentially one of the most hyped 2022 NFL Draft prospects, assuming that he declares.

As I put him under the microscope, one thing became certain - Hamilton is worthy of all the hype. Assuming he builds off of his production during the 2019 and 2020 seasons, or just maintains it, Hamilton would finish as the top safety that I have personally evaluated in the 2022 draft class.

Wearing a ton of hats for the talented Irish defense (seeing reps anywhere from single high, two high, manned up in the slot or as an extra box defender, Hamilton sat as a fascinating film study with a myriad of possibilities. The question is; just where does Hamilton fit best?

IN THE FILM ROOM

There are some “traditionalists” who will beg the question whether a transition will be more beneficial for a player of Hamilton’s frame. That archaic line of thinking drastically undersells the level of athlete we are dealing with here.

Hamilton isn’t good. Hamilton isn’t great. Hamilton is special.

While his long levers can be looked at as a hindrance at times redirecting, the amount of explosion he creates in short spaces and overall range is rare for a player his size. Here he matches the second vertical, flips his hips and makes a great pass breakup near the sideline against Alabama. A remarkable play for a safety three inches shorter and 20 pounds lighter, Hamilton does uncommon things at an uncommon size profile (6-4, 219).

Things you would expect: Hamilton’s size does a lot of good when matching up against tight ends and bigger wide receivers, it does. In a NFL that is so predicated on creating ideal matchups, Hamilton is the “tight end eraser” that offers a ton of flexibility working against the Travis Kelces, George Kittles and Darren Wallers of the world.

Having already seen him make an impact in zone coverage, the man skills are what really pops off the screen. Below he completely stalls Florida State tight end Camren McDonald’s momentum, controlling the rep early. Once he forces him to the sideline, Hamilton is able to use his outstanding length to break up the pass on the back shoulder.

That type of size and length allows him to make a ton of plays outside his frame. There is no such thing as a size mismatch against this talented safety.

A tight end didn’t work so let’s throw an ultra quick slot receiver on him that makes his money creating instant separation out of his breaks. Below Hamilton is tasked with handling a 2021 second round pick in Louisville’s Chatarius “Tutu” Atwell on the inbreaking route.

A tight end didn’t work so let’s throw an ultra quick slot receiver on him that makes his money creating instant separation out of his breaks. Here Hamilton is tasked with the 2021 second round pick in Louisville’s Chatarius “Tutu” Atwell on the inbreaking route.

Working in man coverage, Atwell has a clear advantage over the high cut Hamilton - in theory. That theory is proven wrong. Not only does Hamilton get out of his break with little wasted movement, but he is able to explode and match Atwell stride for stride, concluding with another pass breakup.

So not only do we have safety with man skills against tight ends; he can also work against smaller slot receivers in similar situations. The amount of safeties of this particular body type, with the ability to work in man against this variety of body types, can be counted on one hand historically.

He is the ultimate matchup negator.

Hamilton’s size is easily translatable in the run game. He boasts ideal size working downhill, with an insane tackle radius. Below he transitions downhill and is tasked with matching 2021 first rounder Travis Etienne in the hole.

The Clemson product made a career out of making second and third level defenders look silly in one on one situations. Hamilton comes sound and controlled, making a tackle right near the line of scrimmage. Projecting as an impact player in the run game, there isn’t much evidence of missed tackles on Hamilton’s film.

He plays with a combination of balance and patience in the run game that makes him calculated and consistent.

When working inside out, Hamilton displays a silly amount of range in support. With his combination of size, length and athleticism, he is able to make an abnormal amount of plays working towards the sideline.

Shot out of a cannon, Hamilton makes a huge tackle for loss on Etienne while running outside zone. A word continues to get reiterated and repeated throughout the entirety of the film session: rare. Players of this physical skill set do not come around every day.

Let’s put the cherry on top. When Hamilton isn’t making a rangy play in zone or blanketing receivers in man, Notre Dame has also employed him sparingly as a blitzer. He presents an infinite amount of possibilities for a creative defensive coordinator.

Even when he doesn’t get home here against Florida State, you can see the closing speed from a player 6’4” 220 pounds. He covers a ton of ground in all areas of his game. As a blitzer is no exception. He delivers a firm blow against quarterback Jordan Travis, adding to the versatility that Hamilton possesses.

Make that now a jumbo sized safety who has reps making plays in man against shifty slot receivers, using his physicality to blanket tight ends, making plays in deep and short zone, impacting the run game and winning as an extra blitzer. That type of versatility is special.

Rare is something that isn’t uttered often in scouting circles but it is the only word that does Hamilton justice.

HOW HIGH CAN HE GO?

Historically speaking, the NFL doesn’t tend to value the safety position in the top ten picks. In fact, in the last ten draft cycles, a true safety has only been drafted amongst the top ten selections twice.

Those two players, Jamal Adams (#6 in 2017) and Mark Barron (#7 in 2012) have been a bit of a mixed bag throughout their careers. Hamilton has a chance to reverse that trend.

For a player of this rare combination of size, athleticism and versatility, there is no reason to believe that Kyle Hamilton can’t be the next top ten selection. Of course, making that claim in June with ten months to spare leaves no guarantees.

However, a player this rare makes those types of predictions a bit more confident.

Kyle Hamilton

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