Hamilton or Mathieu: Which safety is a better fit for the Eagles?

One of the biggest remaining holes on the Eagles roster is at the safety position. Although Anthony Harris will return to assume his starting role in the secondary, Rodney McLeod will not, signing a two-year deal with the Colts just this week.

Luckily for Howie Roseman, the Eagles have two very alluring options they could pursue to fill this need.

First, they could sign Pro Bowl safety Tyrann Mathieu. They’ve been linked to Mathieu for the past few weeks and it’s believed that the Eagles may be front-runners for the Honey Badger.

Mathieu should come at a reduced price and he’s a clear upgrade at the position. Not to mention he’d give the Eagles some real defensive fire power.

On the other hand, we have the top safety prospect entering this year’s NFL Draft, Notre Dame’s Kyle Hamilton. Early on in the draft process, Hamilton was a consensus top-10 pick. Fast forward to now and there are rumors swirling about a potential slide. ESPN draft analyst Matt Miller had this to say regarding Hamilton’s current draft stock:

Hamilton is harder to peg because the Notre Dame safety’s positional value and a slower-than-expected 40-yard dash time seem to have cooled his stock. I see the No. 15 and the Eagles as his floor. He’s a top-five prospect on my board because of his toughness, physicality, and playmaking skills, but not every team will value a safety that high.

While I still see Hamilton going top-10, falling to 15 is not out of the realm of possibilities. He’s a freak athlete standing at 6-foot-4 and weighing in at around 220, but some evaluators have Hamilton pegged as a pure box safety who doesn’t have the skill set required to play over the top.

When considering which safety would be a more ideal fit for the Eagles, there are a few things to take into consideration. First, what kind of skill sets do the Eagles actually need?

It goes without saying that Hamilton will be at his best when playing near the line of scrimmage in the NFL. However, the Eagles already have a safety in-house who has proven to be a very capable box safety, Marcus Epps.

According to Pro Football Focus, Epps was one of the best safeties against the run last season, posting a run-defense grade of 88.9, second-best among all qualifying safeties. Hamilton would probably be an upgrade in the long-run, but it’s no secret that defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon really likes Epps’ fit in his system. Drafting Hamilton would mean that either he or Epps will have to play a little out of position. Both can theoretically play in a two-high look, but they’re both best utilized around the line of scrimmage.

In regards to Mathieu, he can do it all. He can play near the line with ease, while also providing stout coverage ability on the backend and in the slot when necessary. Since joining the Chiefs in 2019, Mathieu has logged over 600 snaps at deep safety, in the box, and in the slot.

McLeod was asked to do a lot of different things in Gannon’s scheme last season. In 2021, McLeod logged over 70 snaps in the box, as the deep free safety, and as a slot corner. If that’s the type of role the Eagles are looking to fill, then pursuing Mathieu over Hamilton is a no-brainer.

Although Mathieu will cost more than Hamilton, he’s the better overall safety and has a clear fit in Gannon’s scheme.

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