Ahead of the 2022 NFL Draft, the odds appear stacked against Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton. It’s been five years since a safety was selected with a top-10 pick. While you shouldn’t scout the helmet, only two Fighting Irish defensive prospects have been drafted in the top-10 since 1978. A slower than expected 40-yard dash time has caused the usual overreaction, but Hamilton still possesses a scouting report worthy of high selection in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Kyle Hamilton NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Safety
- School: Notre Dame
- Current Year: Junior
- Height: 6’4 1/8″
- Weight: 220 pounds
- Wingspan: 79 3/4″
- Arm: 33″
- Hand: 9 1/8″
Kyle Hamilton Scouting Report
Can Hamilton be the first safety selected in the top 10 of the NFL Draft since 2017? He certainly has the skill set to join that elite group of early first-round players at the position. He is the top player in the class, as demonstrated in my most recent Top 300 Big Board for Pro Football Network.
Let’s dig into his scouting report to discover why Hamilton is not only a highly regarded 2022 NFL Draft prospect but should transcend traditional “positional value.”
Hamilton has uncommon size for the safety position. At over 6’4″ and weighing in at 220 pounds, he is a physical specimen. There are linebackers playing the game that don’t possess the same size as the Notre Dame safety. In addition to his size, Hamilton has elite length with 33″ arms.
Both his height and length make him a difficult proposition to throw against. With that coverage radius, he can get his hands up to snag the ball out of the air. He can also use his long levers to reach around opposing receivers to disrupt the ball, knocking it away from their grasp. Furthermore, Hamilton is extremely disruptive at the catch point.
Athleticism, football intelligence, versatility
In addition to his size and length advantages in coverage, the Notre Dame safety demonstrates the ability to track the ball. He’s routinely showed the ability to locate the ball in the air. Meanwhile, Hamilton has the football intelligence to read the quarterback and recognize route concepts to add a further layer of disruption ability.
For a safety of his size, you might expect some trade-off in athletic ability. However, there is none. Hamilton is as athletic as they come. He demonstrates excellent explosion, has incredible fluidity of movement enabling tremendous change of direction, and contains impressive short-area explosion. Despite a slower than expected 40-yard dash, the Notre Dame safety has displayed solid play speed.
Hamilton’s athletic profile ensures he can cover the entire field. As a result, he has been used in multiple alignments for the Fighting Irish. His versatility will prove invaluable ahead of the 2022 NFL Draft. Hamilton can play single-high and two-high safety; he has played in the slot and unleashed on blitz plays. His imposing build allows him to play with extreme physicality in the box.
This brings me nicely to the final element of his game. Hamilton is an exceptional tackler. He often demonstrates incredible brute force combined with stellar tackling form. He appears to be a highly academic, high-character player who offers no off-field issues away from the field. Between character and skill set, Hamilton projects to be an early first-round selection in the 2022 NFL Draft, with the potential to be one of the best in the class.
Areas for concern
Although Hamilton seems like a polished prospect in the 2022 NFL Draft, there are some concerns and areas for improvement attached to his scouting report. While these shouldn’t impact his draft stock too significantly, it serves as a reminder that there is rarely such thing as a perfect prospect.
While displaying impressive football intelligence, the Notre Dame safety can be prone to bite on screens, play-action, and RPO plays. This is often a result of his aggressive approach to playing the game. Sometimes, less is truly more, and Hamilton could use a more measured approach at times.
Although regularly displaying excellent play speed, there were a couple of examples of him being caught short in this regard during the games studied. However, this is a rare occurrence rather than a pattern of difficulty.
While he’s demonstrated excellent ball-tracking ability in coverage, there are some examples of him losing the ball in flight with a resulting touchdown given up. Again, this is a rare occurrence, but it is something to consider when finalizing Hamilton’s 2022 NFL Draft scouting report.
Kyle Hamilton’s Player Profile
For as highly regarded as Hamilton is now, it hasn’t always been this way. A late bloomer on the football field, he excelled early on the hardwood, destined to follow in his father’s footsteps as a basketball player. Derrick Hamilton had been a standout at Southern Mississippi, a third-round NBA Draft selection, and a professional in Europe. Kyle, a lanky high school freshman, had the look of a basketball player himself.
An outstanding athlete, Hamilton wowed onlookers at Marist High School early and often. Although he will head to the NFL Draft as a safety, Hamilton spent time all over the field, with a wrist injury curtailing his early attempts to play quarterback. Although those inside Marist knew the talent they had in their class, outsiders overlooked him, tabbing him as a three-star prospect at the onset of the recruiting process.
Things began to shift significantly during his junior season. The hard-hitting, ball-hawking, fast-moving safety generated interest from across the nation as he racked up 60 tackles, 6 interceptions, and 8 pass deflections as part of an All-State campaign. Hamilton jumped to a four-star recruit by the 247 Sports Composite and was listed as the fifth safety in the class and ninth-best player in Georgia.
Despite in-state interest, Hamilton chooses a different path to the NFL Draft
Naturally, in-state interest came from the University of Georgia, Georgia Tech, Georgia State, and Georgia Southern. However, one team had recognized his talents earlier than most. Notre Dame had the inside track on Hamilton, and in April 2018, he announced his commitment to the Fighting Irish. Alluding to his reasoning, Hamilton said at the time:
“Just the fit there. When I was on campus, it felt different from every other place. The combination of academics and athletics was just perfect.”
With the recruitment process locked down, Hamilton proceeded to dominate in his senior season. He helped lead Marist to an 11-3 record and a state semifinal. Further proving his versatility, Hamilton racked up 804 receiving yards and 7 touchdowns on 38 receptions while adding 72 tackles, 8 pass deflections, and 4 interceptions.
Hamilton was named the 7-4A Special Teams Player of the Year, with 2 blocked kicks a significant factor. Hamilton was also a 2018 Defensive Player of the Year finalist, ending his high school career in style as a five-star recruit.
Hamilton’s career at Notre Dame
While most players require adjustment when transitioning to the college level, Hamilton immediately impacted the Fighting Irish. Although he is only credited with one start — against USC — he played in 13 games during 2019. During his debut against Louisville, Hamilton demonstrated his exceptional coverage skills, breaking up 2 passes while flashing his tackling acumen with 4 total tackles.
On his first defensive snap inside Notre Dame Stadium, he secured his first career interception against New Mexico. Following a tipped pass, Hamilton plucked the ball out of the air and returned it for a touchdown. Although further interceptions would come against Virginia, Virginia Tech, and Boston College, that first one remains his only touchdown to date.
With 41 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 4 interceptions, and 6 pass deflections, Hamilton emerged as one of the key contributors for the Fighting Irish as a true freshman. As a result, he earned Freshman All-American honors from The Athletic. Furthermore, his name appeared on multiple preseason watchlists and awards as Hamilton geared up for his sophomore season.
Hamilton shines at safety in his sophomore season
The preseason accolades proved warranted. As Notre Dame embarked on a College Football Playoff run in their first (and only?) season in the ACC, Hamilton developed into one of their most dangerous defensive playmakers. Although he had fewer interceptions than in 2019, he was still a force in coverage, logging 6 pass deflections. Those included another 2 against Louisville, both on crucial drives that helped seal an early-season win.
With 63 tackles, including 4.5 tackles for loss, Hamilton’s ferocious heavy-hitting ability came to the fore in 2020. During Notre Dame’s shocking regular-season win over Clemson, Hamilton was pivotal in holding Travis Etienne to just 1.6 yards per carry. Even in defeat during the ACC Championship Game, he set career-high tackles (10) while intercepting Trevor Lawrence. Hamilton also proved up to the task of slowing down Alabama’s Najee Harris.
His performances during the 2020 season earned Hamilton multiple accolades. The Notre Dame safety received first-team All-ACC and FWAA All-American honors. Hamilton was also a semifinalist for the prestigious Bednarik Award.
As a result, he entered the season with a sizeable sense of expectation on his shoulders. On our initial 2022 NFL Draft Big Board, Hamilton was ranked as the top player, even above Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux. Early in his junior campaign, the Notre Dame safety showcased why he’d been valued so highly across the football landscape.
Sensational start to junior campaign marred by midseason injury
Despite a close game with Florida State in the season opener, Hamilton showcased his insane ball skills and range with 2 impressive interceptions. He added another pick against Purdue, taking his career total to 8. Furthermore, 4 pass deflections in the first seven games increased his career tally to 16.
However, disaster struck in the Fighting Irish’s clash with USC. In attempting to tackle wide receiver Drake London, Hamilton suffered a knee injury. Although the severity of the injury was unclear, the impactful safety didn’t play again in 2021. It’s worth noting that Notre Dame claims that if they had reached the College Football Playoff, he would have returned.
Instead, Hamilton declared for the 2022 NFL Draft following the conclusion of the season. With the expectation of an exceptional athletic display, the Notre Dame safety headed to the NFL Combine. While positing impressive explosive numbers — 38″ vertical and 10’11” broad jumps — a slower than expected 40-yard dash time of 4.59 seconds raised some concerns.
A slightly improved 4.56 seconds effort at the Notre Dame Pro Day did little to alleviate those concerns. However, Hamilton’s unique size, explosion, physicality, and football smarts should ensure that he penetrates the top half of the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft. For me, he’s the best player in the class, with only “positional value” between him and a top-10 selection.
Tony Pauline’s Scouting Report for Kyle Hamilton
Positives: Large, forceful college safety who may ultimately move to outside linebacker in the NFL. Instinctive, disciplined, and keeps the action in front of him. Quick pedaling in reverse, fluid flipping his hips, and instantaneously reacts to plays. Runs downfield with opponents in man coverage, tracks the pass in the air, and possesses good hands for the interception. Physical, breaks down well, and uses his hands to protect himself. Mixes it up with receivers and fires upfield to defend the run. Makes the calls in the secondary and does an excellent job communicating with teammates.
Negatives: Displays limited quickness in his game. Lacks flat-out secondary speed and plays to his 40 time. Late getting to the spot laterally. Not very sudden and is more of a loping player than a fluid, quick-twitch athlete. Not a technique-tackler.
Analysis: Highly regarded in many areas of the draft world, Hamilton was a terrific college safety who played fundamentally sound football. He possesses solid ball skills and shows a great head for the game. Yet, his body type, length, and loping style concern me. While I think Hamilton offers a lot of potential for the next level, his game at safety comes with limitations.
Hamilton’s length will make it difficult for him to play over quicker slot receivers, and he lacks the natural range teams want in a true center fielder. It’s my belief that Hamilton is strictly a zone or strong safety in the NFL and will eventually develop into an outside linebacker for a one-gap scheme.