The 50 best players in the 2022 NFL Class

(Melina Myers – USA TODAY Sports)

Height: 6’4 1/8″ (99th) Weight: 220 (92nd)
40-yard run: 4.59 seconds (93rd)
10-yard gap: 1.58 seconds (97th)
Bench press: N/A
Vertical jump: 38 inches (81st)
Long jump: 131 inches (93rd)
3-taper drill: 6.9 seconds (70th)
20-yard shuttle: 4.32 seconds (24th)

Wingspan: 79 3/4 inches (94th)
Arm length: 33 inches (90th)
Hand size: 9 1/8 inches (34th)

Organic : A four-star recruit from Marist Atlanta School, Hamilton was born on the Greek island of Crete and spent time in Russia when his father played basketball there before moving to Atlanta as a boy. He was a basketball and football player who played quarterback until college until an injury took him away from the position – and the lineup. He was a star safety and wide receiver in high school, and picked Notre Dame over just about every major program in the country because of his academics. A three-year-old and two-year starter for the Fighting Irish, Hamilton played all over the Notre Dame defense, tallying 313 snaps in the box, 437 in the slot, 644 in free safety, 29 on the defensive line, and 15 at cornerback. He was a first-team All-American in 2021 (his second straight season) and led the defense in steals with three despite missing the final six games of the season with a knee injury.

Statistics to know: During those three seasons with the Fighting Irish, Hamilton gave up 39 receptions on 82 targets for 388 yards, 149 yards after receiving, one touchdown, eight interceptions, 14 pass breakups and an opposing passer rating of 25.9.

Strengths: Hamilton can work all over the pitch as a match defender as his transition skills are excellent. He will use his hands to set the landmark and run the route with the receiver no matter where he goes. This interception against Florida State is a masterclass.

This is his second interception against Florida State, and it’s the first example of many where Hamilton’s insane ability to work from one side of the court to the other in very little time comes across as a major asset. He starts the game on the right defensive seam, and somehow not only reaches the left boundary, but has the wherewithal to make the pick. There aren’t many safeties in the NFL who can pull that off; Devin McCourty at his best has games like these – and Devin McCourty is 5-foot-10 and 195 pounds. Guys this big and lanky aren’t supposed to have movement abilities like this.

And when Hamilton closes in on a receiver, he arrives with violent intentions. Said catcher better have his head on a swivel.

Hamilton hasn’t blitzed much for Notre Dame, but if I’m on his NFL coaching staff, I think about his size, his aggression, and his closing speed, and I want him on that wall. The Wisconsin quarterback would likely agree.

You’ll hear that Hamilton has coverage issues in the slot and in the men’s coverage underneath, but… I don’t know, you guys – that rep against Cincinnati looks pretty good to me. When you can have security that goes with the flow and goes to the limit like that, I think that’s a plus.

It was a 31-yard run for Purdue’s King Doerue, but watch how Hamilton rushes to keep him from becoming a home visit by outplaying everyone on the field. All that closing speed you see in the cover is just as evident when he plays the run.

Weaknesses: Hamilton’s size leads to questionable transition skills at times, and while he can play the deep third as a sole defender, it’s not his optimal spot – unless he turns and runs to react . He’s not the ideal defender against faster, more angular receivers. On this play against USC, Hamilton’s coaster on a single high is pretty decent, but he doesn’t transition as quickly as he would if he was going down to the receiver. Drake London gets a 29-yard catch as a result.

I think Hamilton can become a better deep third player, and it’s still crazy what he’s able to do there at his size, but that’s a discussion to be had in the front offices, and you can see why some analysts call it for this. If you want him high in two deep looks, which is what the NFL is headed for anyway, I think he’ll be fine. He needs to be more sudden with his transitions, develop better timing on the ball and trust what he sees in those open ground situations.

Conclusion: There are a lot of questions about Hamilton’s future in the NFL. I have two.

Is Hamilton the next evolution of Isaiah Simmons’ ‘defensive weapon’ model as deep-half skills and unholy open-field speed are now integrated? What is that worth for a defense?

Why is Hamilton the best player in this draft class? He is an unprecedented athlete in one of the most important positions in the NFL. We have simply never seen someone like him before. That’s why he is for me the best player in this draft class.

Some teams won’t know what to do with him. Some will see him as a tall safe – I’ve seen comparisons to Kam Chancellor, and with all due respect to Kam Chancellor, that obliterates the crucial component of Hamilton’s lineup from the game. Plus, some teams just don’t value the safety position enough to consider him a top prospect. You can usually tell which teams think about such safeties in the modern NFL because their pass defenses stink.

I hope Hamilton goes to a team with a head coach and defensive coordinator who doesn’t try to limit his potential as a main type of player or whatever. Kyle Hamilton is the rarest type of player – a jack-of-all-trades who’s also a master at just about everything, and dodgy stuff is fixable. You can build an entire defense around a player like this.

NFL Comparison: Derwin James. When healthy, James has become one of the most versatile and productive safeties in the NFL, and he does it everywhere. Last season, he played 361 snaps in the box, 224 in the slot, 326 in free safety, nine at cornerback and 41 along the defensive line. James had some transitive issues as a pure third deep safety, but with the Chargers running a ton of twos under head coach Brandon Staley, that concern is minimized by the scheme.

Now take everything I just said about Derwin James, add three inches to his height and 5-10 pounds to his weight. Now you have Kyle Hamilton. Again, we are talking about an unprecedented player.

(Okay – the ultimate upside comparison for Hamilton, and I’m doing it with a ground of apprehension, is the delay, great Sean Taylor. Taylor could do things at 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds that just didn’t make sense physically. Hamilton should develop more softness in the deep third, but he has all the other attributes to have that kind of impact in the NFL over time).

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