What do you want him to do? He’ll do it. Seriously.
I knew coming into my film study that he had the athletic profile to play all over the field but was blown away at just how diverse of a defender he was. Deep post safety, robber, sack WILL linebacker, nickel back, walked up on the line of scrimmage, the punt team—you name it. Hamilton has rare athletic gifts and they’ll allow him to fill a plethora of roles and reps on defense. He’s going to be a total headache to account for ahead of each and every snap for opposing offenses and has the potential to disrupt plenty of opposing concepts if the defense has a read on what they’re trying to accomplish each week.
If he had a custom Madden X-Factor, it would be "Nightcrawler" for how quickly he can drop into the fit.
Literally a cheat code in the run game. I’ve watched him fit up interior gaps from 12-15 yards of depth with consistency and without issue in uneven levels on the defense. His perimeter work, both from high-post alignment and in the nickel, is excellent. He’s swift to drive and attack blocks, beating them to the spot and then uncovering to square up the ball-carrier. He’s an effective tackler and his range is out-of-this-world good in this capacity.
Hamilton’s high-level athleticism and prototypical size blend to create an efficient open-field tackler.
Watching him run the alley on Najee Harris and cut him down one-on-one makes him an easy sell as a tackler, but he’s effective in all angles of pursuit. Wrap up, alligator roll, chopping, you name it. I was impressed with his willingness to strike big at the catch point but, more importantly, the tastefulness he brought to it to avoid penalties.
Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton might just be the best NFL draft prospect I’ve personally studied since entering into the draft space in 2014. This is a unicorn-caliber player who is physically capable of executing a slew of roles and responsibilities and the Notre Dame program did a terrific job accentuating his versatility and allowing him to shine on all three levels of their defense. Hamilton’s football IQ and instincts are simply on another level, too. He sees the game differently and that allows him to play the game with a rare patience before calling upon elite physical skills to transition and drive to the football.
Hamilton’s youth trainer credits him with a 40” vertical, an 11’ broad jump, and ‘the fastest (electronic) 10-yard split I’ve ever timed at my facility’ at the age of 18 when he left for the Irish program. Keep your binoculars handy when you watch him play, he’ll keep you busy searching for him on a play-by-play basis. One game studied featured Hamilton’s first few snaps that involved playing coverage on the punt team, aligning in the nickel and pushing to the flat, driving to deep middle of the field coverage, aligning as a stack player and playing robber, and then aligning as an end man on the line of scrimmage in a pressure look.
He’s an elite tackler, offers tremendous range, and allowed his ball skills to shine in 2021 before an injury cut short his season as a junior and cost him the second half of the Irish’s season. NFL teams will have the luxury of plugging him into their secondary and getting an immediate upgrade and an impact player; be it fitting the box from deep alignments, man or zone coverage from the nickel or as a part of pressure packages prowling the line of scrimmage.
Hamilton can do it all and should be considered a defensive weapon that is given as many roles as a team can craft for him. He shouldn’t leave the field on defense in any personnel grouping thanks to his IQ and physical versatility and elite size for the safety position. For my money, this is the most physically talented player in the class and, as previously mentioned, is on the short-list for my best prospects since 2014.
Ideal role: Defensive weapon
Scheme tendencies: Creative system that moves players and manufactures personnel advantages in critical down and distance situations
Written by Kyle Crabbs
Games watched: North Carolina (2020), Clemson (2020), Alabama (2020), Florida State (2021), Purdue (2021), Southern California (2021), Wisconsin (2021), Cincinnati (2021)
Best Game Studied: Purdue (2021)
Worst Game Studied: Cincinnati (2021)
Football IQ: I haven’t seen many prospects in my time that see the game as cleanly and calmly as Hamilton. He moves at a different speed than the rest of the players on the field—both faster and slower when needed in both instances. He’ll pick up on keys from a deep post alignment and attack swiftly, oftentimes beating his LBs to the spot. But when he’s closer to the line of scrimmage, he’s content to slow-play the ball and allow the play to declare itself with patience before calling upon his elite athleticism to attack and rally to the football. Refined as a deep coverage defender and as a B-level/nickel defender against both the run and the pass.
Tackling: See Above
Versatility: See Above
Range: His interception against Florida State was a testament to his ability to cover grass. His transitional quickness, instincts, length and long-speed all combine to create congested throwing windows when you target him and if you’re going to isolate him in the high-post, he’s fully capable of cutting routes across the middle of the field or driving on bucket shots to contest outside the numbers downfield to either the field or boundary.
Ball Skills: Ball production was something of a question for Hamilton entering 2021 after a quiet year on that front in 2020, but he appeased those concerns with several excellent plays on the football in his abbreviated 2021 campaign. Whether he’s pushing out to the perimeter from the nickel, attached and playing in phase and undercutting the throw, or working as a deep zone defender and mirroring to follow the football, Hamilton has made a number of A1 plays on the ball and his length and burst make him a threat to collision receivers and meet the ball to jar loose footballs at the catch point, too. There’s little panic with his back to the football and he’s swift to locate the ball when working his eyes back late.
Run Defending: See Above
Functional Athleticism: One of the most dynamic athletes I can recall playing in the secondary in my time scouting prospects. Explosiveness, flexibility, change of direction skills, long speed, and extension skills to attack ball-carriers with a lengthened tackle radius or the ball at the catch point all leap off the screen at you when you watch him play. This guy is built different.
Competitive Toughness: Effort and hustle aren’t a problem. I really enjoyed watching some of his rallies to the football to see just how much ground he covered. He’s a nightmare in the slot for WRs and even TEs to account for when blocking in the run game; his length and size are very difficult to pin and leverage against the run. Hamilton plays with a tone-setting approach in zone coverage and has shown the ability to create doubt for receivers on in-breaking routes into his space (Purdue 2021 vs. David Bell).
Flexibility: Hamilton’s body control and mobility is showcased in a number of different instances, none more notable and impressive than his open-field tackling. Hamilton has little effort collecting himself and coming to balance on a dynamic base, allowing for sudden close to the football and consistency in squaring up his challenges. In deep coverage situations, he’s showcased strong rotational hip mobility to carry speed through his transitions and sharply accelerate when needing more steep-angled adjustments to pursue a target.
Special Teams Ability: I was blown away to see a player of his caliber running on the punt team in 2021, but lo and behold there he was. I have a hard time imagining special teams reps with any level of consistency on his NFL resume given the presumed importance of his role on defense, but he’s got the speed to get downfield and cover punts, the tackling to be an effective cover player, and the size and quickness to potentially man a gunner spot too if need be.
TDN Consensus: 92.92/100 (Top 10 Overall Value)
Crabbs Grade: 93.50/100
Marino Grade: 92.00/100
Harris Grade: 90.00/100
Sanchez Grade: 94.50/100
Weissman Grade: 94.50/100
Parson Grade: 93.00/100