When the next NFL Draft kicks off in Las Vegas, it will be five years since a safety was selected with a top-10 pick. Since 2010, just three players at the position have ascended to the early part of Day 1. In the 2022 NFL Draft, that select group should add another name in Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton. The Fighting Irish have an extraordinary player marshaling their defense this year, and his scouting report demonstrates just how talented the junior safety is.
Kyle Hamilton NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Safety
- School: Notre Dame
- Current Year: Junior
- Height: 6’4″
- Weight: 219 pounds
Kyle Hamilton Scouting Report
Can Hamilton be the first safety selected in the top 10 of the NFL Draft since 2017? Everything that I’ve seen so far points to that scenario. Furthermore, I would go as far as to say he is one of the best players in the 2022 NFL Draft class regardless of position. Let’s dig into his scouting report to discover why.
Hamilton has uncommon size for the safety position. At 6’4″ and 219 pounds, he is a physical specimen. There are linebackers playing the game that don’t possess the same size as the Notre Dame safety. As a result, Hamilton has elite length. 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.
Additionally, he can reach around opposition receivers to disrupt the ball, knocking it away from their grasp.
Athletic, versatile, and physical
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 play speed, has incredible fluidity of movement enabling tremendous change of direction, and contains impressive short-area explosion.
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 excellent tackling form. His early tape shows some examples of over-zealousness (resulting in overshooting his target), but that appears to have been eliminated mainly during his sophomore season.
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.
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. Derrek 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, plus 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. He was named the 7-4A Special Teams Player of the Year, with two 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 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 statistically, 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 juggernaut running back (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.
The 2021 college football season will be his third and almost certainly final season at Notre Dame. Hamilton is comfortably one of the most exceptional talents in the 2022 NFL Draft class, currently sitting second in Pro Football Network’s Top 50 Big Board. Positional value means he might not be selected that high. However, there is no reason that Hamilton shouldn’t be a top-10 pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.
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Oliver Hodgkinson is a staff writer for Pro Football Network. You can follow him on Twitter at @ojhodgkinson.