Where Will Kyle Hamilton Be Drafted?

Notre Dame Fighting Irish S Kyle Hamilton
Notre Dame Fighting Irish S Kyle Hamilton
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

NFL Draft - Notre Dame's Kyle Hamilton may be the best safety prospect to enter the NFL draft since Eric Berry. But Hamilton is merely a safety prospect, and that limits his draft stock.

Hamilton's overall scouting report is so glowing that it can be hard to find meaningful negatives. Take Hamilton's official NFL.com bio, for example. Lance Zierlein, one of the best in the draftnik business, comes down with a case of Bullet Pointitis, an illness that has plagued me as well at past stops, when writing his capsule on Hamilton. When the template for a scouting report demands both "Strengths" and "Weaknesses," it becomes important to pad out both categories so A) your editor knows you worked really hard; and B) the webpage doesn't look weird. Hence: unnecessary/redundant bullet points. Zierlein tells us that Hamilton's "height is a natural barrier for change of direction," has "elevated pad level as a face-up tackler," and "can be spun around by routes in space." That's three bullet points which boil down to "He's 6-foot-4 and therefore not super agile," a legit weakness (open-field change of direction quickness) wrapped up with a legit strength (the size to match up with elite tight ends and/or take away goal-line fades).

As always, Football Outsiders' 2022 NFL draft coverage is presented by Underdog Fantasy!

Underdog Fantasy

Hamilton's "weakness" can be summed up by the fact that he's a true safety, not a safety/cornerback hybrid or some Tyrann Mathieu-like all-purpose defender. Safeties don't have as direct an impact on the opposing offense as cornerbacks or edge rushers.

(A quick note: Hamilton's relatively-pokey 4.59s 40-yard dash at the combine is universally considered a nothing sandwich, and I concur.)

Eric Berry was the last true safety to merit a top-five pick in the NFL draft: the Kansas City Chiefs selected him fifth overall in 2010 and were rewarded with a string of All-Pro and Pro Bowl performances. Only two safeties have been drafted in the top 10 since Berry: Mark Barron (seventh, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, 2012) and Jamal Adams (sixth, New York Jets, 2017). Both had a few excellent years, but Barron moved into a safety/linebacker role and Adams is now the World's Teensiest Edge Rusher on the NFL's Newest Rebuilding Team. Most teams drafting in the top 10 don't have the luxury of splurging for a true "deep" safety, because deep safeties work best as win-now add-ons for defenses that can already rush the quarterback, stop the run, and hold their own against the opponent's No. 1 receiver. Those teams usually select in the bottom half of the first round.

So Hamilton is a great prospect to watch, root for, and possibly even covet for your favorite team, assuming that team is strong in other areas. But Hamilton is a lousy prospect to fit into a mock draft.

The wagering over-under for Hamilton's draft position is 6.5 at DraftKings. Hamilton's Expected Draft Position (EDP) at Grinding the Mocks is 5.5. Sounds like the Under is a decent value and a fun little prop to pursue while you have your favorite sportsbook app open for 12 straight hours on Thursday-through-Sunday.

Still, I worry about Hamilton's EDP because of the method by which mock drafts are actually assembled, particularly in the days before free agency.

Most of us who create mock drafts are traveling in a herd right now. We all know that Michigan edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson, Oregon edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux, and a trio of left tackles are atop most draft boards; that there's no elite quarterback prospect; and that the fates of non-elite quarterback prospects Liberty's Malik Willis and Pitt's Kenny Pickett will be determined by the trade and free agency markets. We also know edge rushers and left tackles are top-priority prospects and that the teams atop the draft order need them. The top two or three players on most mocks look the same and will probably continue to look the same until the hours before the draft.

Then come the Houston Texans. They're the first "wild card" slot on the board for an experienced mock drafter: a team that needs just about everything and is likely to do just about anything. I half-jokingly mocked Hamilton to the Texans a few weeks ago, based on the logic that Jackie Down The Line Easterby will demand that the team's top pick be someone he has heard of. Per Grinding the Mocks analysis, I was far from alone in that choice, if not in the honesty of my reasoning: Hamilton and the Texans are paired in just under 19% of mocks. It wouldn't be a terrible selection for the Texans, but it's really just a "let's get Hamilton off the board" dart from a mock draft standpoint, especially with a Deshaun Watson trade now likely pending. Any EDP analysis at this point is caught in a feedback loop of guesstimation.

If Hamilton slips past the Texans at No. 4, he will also slip past the lineman-needy Giants at No. 5. The Panthers are another wild-card spot, and the Texans could well be picking again at No. 6 by the time the draft arrives, but as things now stand Matt Rhule ain't saving his job by drafting a safety. That takes us past the Over for Hamilton. He could then fit as the Giants' or Jets' second first-round pick, or as an Earl Thomas surrogate for the Seahawks, or as a too-good-to-pass-up addition to the Washington (ugh) Commanders' defense.

The team that ultimately selects Hamilton will be getting a valuable 10-year NFL starter with Pro Bowl potential. One of the benefits of avoiding a Jaguars-/Lions-/Jets-/Texans-sized impact crater is that valuable 10-year NFL starters at lower-leverage positions can fall to you in the draft if you aren't so needy that you're unequipped to even use one.

More Way-Too-Early 2022 NFL Draft Props

As draft season takes a television timeout for free agency season, unexpected trade season, March Madness, and the resurrection of Major League Baseball, let's examine some other draft props of note. A blanket disclaimer applies to all of these wagers: the entire NFL personnel landscape may have changed by the time you read this. But in some cases, it may be worth pricing in the risk of a splashy signing or trade kneecapping your wager because the potential payout is so tasty.

Aidan Hutchinson, Edge Rusher, Michigan
Over-Under: 1.5
In other words, will Hutchinson be the first player taken in the 2022 draft? The Jaguars franchise-tagged Cam Robinson, after all, which could take them out of the offensive tackle market, and Hutchinson is the top player on many boards.

Let's back up for a moment. Tagging Robinson, an adequate-to-good NFL starter, does not mean that the Jaguars are set at left tackle. It was merely a common-sense move to avoid creating another problem on a roster loaded with them. Starting offensive linemen Andrew Norwell and A.J. Cann hit free agency this week. Had the Jaguars not tagged Robinson, they would have risked losing three-fifths of their starting offensive line. So they could easily select Evan Neal or Ickey Ekwonu with an eye toward kicking them inside to guard for one year, then moving them to left tackle after letting Robinson walk in 2023. The Jaguars could also like Kayvon Thibodeaux. They may try to trade down, but no one is likely to trade up for the top pick in a draft with no quarterbacks.

In other words, this over-under looks a little inflated by Hutchinson's nasty combine workouts and the Robinson news. The Over (meaning Hutchinson will be selected later than 1.5) was a tempting +155 at press time, and the house is likely to finagle that money line downward once we see some free agent action and hear some more draft buzz.

Unless you have Hutchinson on the brain, you may want to give this prop a look.

Kayvon Thibodeaux, Edge Rusher, Oregon
Over-Under: 4.5
I played the Under at +115 as soon as I spotted it last Wednesday. The Jaguars are still likely to take one of the offensive tackles first overall. Hutchinson could well be ahead of Thibodeaux on the Lions' draft board, especially if Dan Campbell buys into the "Oregon guys must be soft because their uniforms are shiny" school of thought that's in vogue among the league's dedicated toasterheads. The Texans could go for the second-best offensive lineman, Hamilton, or a tea cozy embroidered with a psalm instead of Thibodeaux. But if Thibodeaux drops to the Jets, Robert Saleh will bludgeon anyone standing between him and the draft card.

Evan Neal, Offensive Tackle, Alabama; Ickey Ekwonu, Offensive Tackle, N.C. State
Over-Under: 3.5
Don't touch these props until Alabama's Pro Day on March 30. That's when Neal works out after skipping all combine drills.

There's a very high probability that Neal will confirm his status as the No. 1 offensive lineman on the board when he works out, making him unlikely to escape the top three and sending Ekwonu, a Walkthrough/FO 40 favorite, tumbling toward the Giants, whose fans would probably take to the streets in glee.

Sauce Gardner, Cornerback, Cincinnati
Over-Under: 8.5
Gardner's EDP is 8.7, so Grinding the Mocks cannot help us much here. Team needs are also of little help, since every team needs more cornerbacks. I'm a little bit of a Sauce skeptic, but even I would leap on a 6-foot-3 cornerback with a 4.41s 40-yard dash and strong collegiate coverage metrics the moment the top edges, offensive tackles, and (maybe) Hamilton and Jordan Davis were off the board.

This is a fine prop to avoid completely until a Deshaun Watson trade, Jimmy Garoppolo trade, and/or Mitchell Trubisky signing shakes out. If the Panthers are out of the quarterback market, they may be in the Sauce market. If the Texans have two picks in the top 10, one of them could well be Sauce. If not, Gardner could slip for the same reasons Hamilton may slip.

Quarterback speculation leads us to the next set of wagers:

First Quarterback Selected
Malik Willis -175
Kenny Pickett +195
Everyone Else: Don't bother

This prop boils down to "Will the first team to select a quarterback be drafting for potential or need?" The Russell Wilson trade skewed this situation considerably: the Broncos might have chosen for need (Pickett) with the ninth pick, while the Seahawks are more likely to be seeking a quarterback of the post-2022 future (Willis) if they dare to dive into this murky quarterback pool early.

The Carolina Panthers complicate matters with the sixth overall pick, because they are poorly run, desperate, and have University of Pittsburgh connections. The chance that Matt Rhule pounds the table for the relatively game-ready Pickett in a job-preservation maneuver is so high that Pickett +195 looks like a sound play. On the other hand, the Panthers are pushing hard for Deshaun Watson.

I don't believe that the Seahawks launched their post-Wilson rebuild so they could stick a bow on Willis and declare a new era: they're gonna twaddle with Drew Lock and draft some midround Sam Howell type while they restock the roster elsewhere. The Atlanta Falcons, meanwhile, just extended Matt Ryan's contract and could be gearing up for another offseason of drearily regrettable decisions. Even if the Falcons do the sensible thing and draft Ryan's replacement, they may prefer Pickett to Willis: Arthur Smith can't afford a misfire when he finally turns things over to an heir apparent.

Frankly, these numbers would make more sense if Willis and Pickett were both at -110 or so. Maybe the house knows something we don't, but that's more of a "leaked midweek injury status" thing than "we have spies in 32 war rooms and a crystal ball for free agency" thing. Take Pickett. I did.

Wide Receiver Props
Garrett Wilson +100
Drake London +175
Jameson Williams +750
Treylon Burks +800
Chris Olave +1200

The wide receiver board makes more sense than the quarterback board. (Derrik Klassen and I will touch on the running back board in Tuesday's Football Outsiders Draft Livesteam.) Wilson is the favorite, London could blast past him when he holds his personal pro day on April 5, and everyone else is a longshot due to injuries (Williams), a so-so scouting combine (Burks), or a college teammate who is better (Olave).

Wilson's Over-Under would be an interesting play, but it was not posted yet at the sportsbooks I frequent. Wilson's Grinding the Mocks EDP was way down at 13.7 as of Monday, and that may drop after the Amari Cooper trade. The rock bottom for Wilson will be 16th overall: if he's on the board and the Philadelphia Eagles don't draft him, the villagers will grab torches and pitchforks. And by "villagers" I mean "me."

Lovers of loopy longshots can take North Dakota State's Christian Watson at +3500. Watson had a strong Senior Bowl and combine, and I would wager on him slipping into the first round at around +200, but he ain't coming off the board ahead of Wilson unless he reveals that he's a huge fan of faith-based comedy routines.

More Football Outsiders Draft Coverage

Have you checked out the FO 40 yet? It is freshly updated as of March 14 with some new prospects (including Wyoming linebacker Chad Muma and Western Michigan wide receiver Skyy Moore) and some updated rankings based on combine results. We will also soon be adding QBASE results and other metrics!

The Football Outsiders Draft Livestream is also in full swing on Tuesdays at 1 p.m. EDT. Derrik Klassen and I welcome Chad Reuter this week! If last Tuesday's kickoff show was any indication, major NFL news will break during the livestream, leaving Derrik and I entertainingly flustered. You can pregame the livestream by reading Klassen's deep dive on Iowa State running back Breece Hall here.

One more non-draft-related programming note: the whole Football Outsiders team will be providing quick reactions in Extra Points on breaking NFL free-agency signings and other news throughout the week. I will personally be manning the desk at some of the times when news is most likely to break: the start of "legal tampering" on Monday, the official start of free agency, and so on. That guarantees that absolutely nothing will happen during those shifts, but be sure to drop by when news does break, because we will be here with stats, insights and analysis.

Speaking of which…

Carson Wentz, Amari Cooper and More: Quick Hits on Last Week's Biggest Moves

The Russell Wilson trade made it intoThursday's Walkthrough/Four Downs crossover event, but here are some thoughts on the major moves which took place when I was not on duty.

Dallas Cowboys trade Amari Cooper to the Cleveland Browns
The salary cap works in mysterious ways, and the Cowboys' catch-as-catch-can budgeting approach had inevitable consequences. Overpaying Ezekiel Elliott and Jaylon Smith and other missteps over the last three years made it impossible for the Cowboys to keep the core of what should have been an elite passing game together. Blake Jarwin is now gone, La'el Collins is on the trading block, and a lot of resources are now tied up in Michael Gallup (rehabbing an injury but receiving a big new contract this week) and Dalton Schultz (the franchise-tagged tight end that the Cowboys never seemed to like quite as much as Jarwin).

The only things keeping the Cowboys buoyed among the NFC Super Bowl contenders right now is that the NFC East just got weaker and there are plenty of open slots among the playoff pool.

Cooper makes more sense as the Browns WR1 than Odell Beckham ever did, but we're all just bracing for potential Browns quarterback news, so stay tuned.

Indianapolis Colts trade Carson Wentz to the Washington Commanders
This is last year's Sam Darnold/Panthers trade on cat tranquilizers, a slow-motion disaster for both teams. Wentz is 25% better than Taylor Heinicke in ideal laboratory conditions but at least 10% worse than him in the face of literally any adversity, from a minor injury to facing one of his former teams in a high-leverage "revenge" game, something Wentz will have to do three times next year.

While I am throwing meaningless percentages around: I think there's about a 10% chance that Wentz does not even make it to the season opener without a sudden retirement or some other career interruption. He's not the sort of fellow who is fueled by two straight offseason weeks of non-stop national ridicule. He knows Commanders fans aren't about to welcome him with open arms. It's now a matter of public record that Wentz doesn't take these things well, and recent quotes don't suggest that he's amped up to prove his doubters wrong on the field. Yes, the quotes in that link come from a speech at a Christian academy and are understandably faith-centric, but he still sounds more like my octogenarian mother in the waiting room for her kidney specialist than a still-young athlete eager to seize his final chance for excellence.

Again, this is just speculation. But Walkthrough's Wentz instincts have proven rather correct in the past.

Chicago Bears trade Khalil Mack to the Los Angeles Chargers
A solid trade all around: the Bears get a second-round pick and some significant debt relief, the Chargers get a still-formidable edge rusher while keeping both their first-round pick and enough cap flexibility to be active in free agency.

One quick note here to my esteemed colleagues: not every team that trades a draft pick for a veteran is GOING ALL-IN JUST LIKE THE RAMS. Teams, particularly contenders and near-contenders, have been trading draft picks for veterans in every sport since the beginnings of the amateur systems. I know it's fun and profitable to build a storyline around everything, but please keep your powder dry. Thanks!

Atlanta Falcons extend Matt Ryan's contract
This made perfect sense in the same way that opening up a new credit card just to purchase groceries when you are already $300,000 in debt makes sense. The revolving debt is crippling, but you gotta eat. The Falcons will be paying for past mistakes well into the future; taking exorbitant cap hits for Ryan's late-career Eli Manning decline years won't make much of a difference, and they deftly left themselves with no other choice.

Tom Brady returns to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the NFL

Because of course he does. The NFC South is a wasteland, the Cowboys are backtracking and the Seahawks just surrendered. That leaves the Los Angeles Rams and Aaron Rodgers and the Enablers as the only teams that look like true contenders without making some sort of projection about Trey Lance or a first-round hattrick in the draft. The streets needed Brady, and Brady clearly needs the streets.

Stay tuned for Aaron Rodgers' attention-craving 40-day mini-retirements in 2023, 2024, 2525 .. and possibly this June. 


8 comments, Last at 14 Mar 2022, 3:50pm

1 Not exactly relevant, but I…

Not exactly relevant, but I wanted to post a link to the biggest Negative Nancy I could find on the internet: https://www.si.com/nfl/jets/news/new-york-jets-scout-lists-2022-nfl-draft-prospects-to-avoid-first-round-kenny-pickett-chris-olave#gid=ci029c07d18000272a&pid=8-edge-david-ojabo-michigan

Yeah, he hates Hamilton.  I'm not the biggest fan of Hamilton either, but it's a bit much.  I also like Charles Cross a lot more than him, and if he thinks Cross and Neal are lacking in foot speed, I don't understand why the guy who's going to play at guard because of his foot speed isn't on the list (Ekwonu).

4 In other words, this over…

In other words, this over-under looks a little inflated by Hutchinson's nasty combine workouts and the Robinson news. The Over (meaning Hutchinson will be selected later than 1.5) was a tempting +155 at press time, and the house is likely to finagle that money line downward once we see some free agent action and hear some more draft buzz.

Unless you have Hutchinson on the brain, you may want to give this prop a look.

Draft props react a lot to rumor mill buzz, so if you can keep a clear head about them there is some money to be made there. A few articles linking Mac Jones to San Francisco drove his odds through the floor (and by comparison raised Trey Lance's)

That said, the draft is one where insider information is the biggest threat, so keep that in mind as well.

7 Why is Hamilton's 40 a nothing sandwich?

As someone who's not too plugged in on this draft class, it sounds like the consensus is more forgiving of Hamilton's 40 time than I'd expect. Does he have a lot of film suggesting that his playing speed is significantly understated by the 40 time?

I do understand that sprinting 40 yards in underwear has some significant differences from sprinting 25 yards in full pads, but if I were considering investing a top-5 or top-10 pick on a safety, I would want him to be capable of getting to the sideline from a deep single-high position.