Kyle Hamilton enters the 2022 NFL Draft as a potential top-five pick. If he goes off the board before pick #6, he’ll become the highest Irish draft pick since 1993. As it stands, he’ll certainly be Notre Dame’s first first-rounder since Jerry Tillery in 2017. How does Hamilton stack up, where does he best fit, and who will draft the Irish safety?
Kyle Hamilton Strengths
One of Hamilton’s most obvious strengths is his pure physicality. At 6’4, 220 pounds, Hamilton is a true monster in the safety position. He delivers absolutely thundering hits, and rarely do ball-carriers or pass-catchers break a Hamilton tackle attempt.
Beyond the physicality, Hamilton displayed vastly improved open-field tackling throughout his career. There can be some critiques regarding his angle of approach, but Hamilton’s length and size frequently covered up these issues. Hamilton was not only proficient in pass coverage (eight career interceptions), but he disrupted opposing run games (7.5 tackles for loss). Those stats came in a defensive scheme that didn’t play its safeties extremely aggressively.
Kyle Hamilton Weaknesses
There aren’t too many, as Hamilton grades out as the top prospect in this draft. He’s the highest-graded safety since Malik Hooker in 2017 by NFL.com’s prospect grader. However, Hamilton’s Combine results provided some concern. Among safeties, Hamilton tied for last in the 40-yard dash, ranked fifth of seven in the 3-cone drill, and finished next-to-last in the 20-yard shuttle. Hamilton’s film shows that his on-field speed seemingly exceeds these poor numbers, but certainly, the raw physical score was a little concerning. Whoever drafts Hamilton is expending a very high draft pick on a non-premium position. For reference, the aforementioned Hooker came off the board at 15th overall in his draft class. Teams don’t frequently draft first-round safeties, so the Combine and Pro Day numbers may scare off a few teams from taking Hamilton extremely early.
Best 2022 Game Film: Florida State
It’s hard to argue this one – Hamilton notched two interceptions in the season opener for the Irish. For one of them, Hamilton covered about half the width of the field to make a tumbling pick near the sideline. Many called it one of the best interceptions they’d seen, and this game certainly showed that the on-field speed may not be a huge concern for Hamilton.
Worst 2022 Game Film: Cincinnati
Hamilton only played seven games and was a difference-maker in many of them. The Cincinnati loss stands out as a tougher game for the safety. Cincinnati tight ends and receivers seemingly torched the Irish secondary on up-the-middle routes all game, carving through Hamilton’s primary domain. Towards the end of the first half, Hamilton surrendered a rare touchdown, getting turned around on a deep ball from Desmond Ridder. Some scouts have questioned Hamilton’s coverage in space. The Cincinnati debacle certainly highlighted a few of those concerns.
Best Fit: Atlanta Falcons
This would be a great pairing. Hamilton gets to enter as a Year 1 starter, playing alongside Dean Marlowe, a high-level NFL safety. Meanwhile, Atlanta gains a great rookie playmaker for their defense as they begin a huge rebuild.
Prediction: New York Jets (Round 1, Pick 4)
There’s been speculation Hamilton will drop. And certainly, that’s a possibility. But, realistically, New York’s secondary is in shambles. They pick twice in the top ten and could feasibly land both Hamilton and LSU’s Derek Stingley to address both corner and safety with premium talents. Hamilton’s ceiling is No. 3 to the Texans, with the top two teams projected to go after either offensive linemen or edge rushers. Likely, the floor is somewhere in that No. 13 range. That’s where the Browns, desperately seeking defensive upgrades, select. Hamilton shouldn’t fall that far, and it’s hard to imagine Cleveland passing on that opportunity.