There are several areas of need facing the Philadelphia Eagles as they prepare for the 2022 NFL Draft. Among them is the safety position.
After resigning veteran Anthony Harris to a one-year deal, fellow starting safety Rodney McLeod left to join former Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich in Indianapolis. As of right now, Marcus Epps or K’Von Wallace are in line to start opposite of Harris in the Eagles secondary. They’re both 26 years old or younger and present some upside, but heading into the 2022 season with a safety room that consists of Harris, Epps, Wallace, and Andre Chachere isn’t ideal.
The Eagles continue to be linked to Tyrann Mathieu, who remains available on the open market, and reports indicated that Howie Roseman was in discussions with Marcus Williams before he opted to sign with Baltimore. So, the front office clearly understands that safety is a need for this team.
If the team falls short on the bid for Mathieu, there’s a very good chance Howie spends one of his top-100 picks on a safety. Where they decide to address the need in the draft ultimately comes down to one player’s potential draft fall, Notre Dame’s Kyle Hamilton.
Hamilton was a consensus top-10 prospect early in the draft process. After a so-so scouting combine where he ran a slower than expected 40-yard dash, his stock has fallen a bit. So much so that the Eagles could be in play for the Notre Dame product when they’re on the clock at 15th overall. It’s been reported that there is interest among the Eagles brass and that it could be a contributing factor to the Mathieu talks stalling.
Will Hamilton actually fall to the Eagles? And if he does fall that far, should we have legitimate concerns about his potential in the NFL? Let’s break it down.
When it comes to pure athleticism, there may not be a more athletic prospect in this year’s draft than Kyle Hamilton. His 4.59 40 time aside, Hamilton has tremendous closing speed wherever he lines up on the field. He posted a max speed of 21.7 mph last season. His 6-foot-4, 220 pounds frame glides across the field with ease, and his 33” wingspan makes it difficult to throw in his direction.
During his final year with the Irish, Hamilton allowed a completion percentage of 50% and a passer rating of 42.3 when targeted, while also hauling in three interceptions. Hamilton is also very disruptive at the catch point, posting a forced incompletion rate of 10.7% in 2021.
When the ball is in the air, Hamilton is always tracking it. No matter where he starts on the field, he does a great job of finding where the ball is going and breaking on it.
Hamilton is more than efficient in coverage, but he’s also a very effective tackler close to the line of scrimmage and out in space. He only missed two tackles all of last season, which came out to an elite missed tackle rate of 6.5%.
His plus coverage and tackling ability made Hamilton one of the most versatile defensive back prospects in the entire draft. Here’s a snap breakdown of where Hamilton lined up during his Notre Dame career:
Defensive line: 29
Figuring out what Hamilton’s ideal role is within a defense will be a major key to his early development. Although he spent the majority of his snaps as a deep safety in college, he’s at his best when playing close to the line of scrimmage. He has the sort of frame that can erase tight ends in the passing game, while also contributing in filling gaps on run plays.
Put Hamilton on the opposing tight end near the line of scrimmage and figure the rest out later. Having a guy with his length and speed in underneath coverage will cause headaches for any passing offense, even in year one.
The problem with prospects like Hamilton, who are essentially unicorns at their position, is figuring out how to get the most out of them. While Hamilton can play on the backend, that’s not where he will become a transformational talent in the NFL. He’ll be serviceable, but you’re not spending a first-round pick on a safety for him to just be OK.
There will be teams that completely fumble the bag with Hamilton’s skill set if they end up drafting him. That’s not really his fault, but if he gets miscast as a deep, two-high safety and that’s where he spends the majority of his snaps, his impact on the field won’t be nearly as great.
One potential weakness that actually does fall at the feet of Hamilton, however, is his pure man coverage ability. He certainly has the athletic ability to man up with opposing tight ends, but he wasn’t asked to do it a whole lot at Notre Dame. He was more of a lurker; waiting for the ball to come in his direction so he can attack.
This attacking nature also had its downfalls with Hamilton, though they were few and far between. His aggressiveness when breaking on the ball led to long touchdowns throughout his collegiate career. Creating turnovers is great, but how impactful are they if you’re still surrendering chunk plays? A more measured approach from Hamilton would pay dividends at the NFL level.
Despite some of his shortcomings as a deep safety, Hamilton still has the makeup of a top-10 pick. In a defense like the Eagles that utilizes a lot of three-safety looks, Hamilton could thrive early and often.
His playmaking ability is second to none among secondary players in this year’s draft. Hamilton will cause disruption for opposing tight ends and in underneath zone coverage, while also providing stout run stuffing ability near the line of scrimmage. Unleashing his athleticism in favorable situations will pay off immediately.
Now, will he actually fall all the way to 15? I’d say it’s unlikely, but it’s not impossible. The Eagles certainly think it’s possible, otherwise they’d probably have already signed a veteran safety to mitigate the loss of McLeod.
Hamilton is without question one of the most intriguing prospects in this draft and he has the potential to be the best player from this class when it’s all said and done.
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