By Charlie Campbell
Summary: Hamilton was one of the top safeties in college football over the past three seasons, earning a lot of acclaim from his freshman season on. He was one of the rare players who was able to start as a freshman for Notre Dame. Hamilton put together an excellent freshman season for the Fighting Irish, showing good ball skills with four interceptions and six passes broken up to go along with 41 tackles. As a sophomore, Hamilton totaled 56 tackles, an interception and six passes broken up. He was the best player on a Notre Dame defense that helped lead the team to the college football playoff. In 2021, Hamilton recorded 31 tackles, three interceptions and three passes defended. He missed the last five games of the year due to a knee injury suffered while tackling USC’s Drake London. The things that make Hamilton special for the NFL are his imposing size, excellent speed, and impressive ball skills.
Hamilton has some pass-coverage limitations that are common armong large safeties, so he does not project to being able to play man coverage on NFL receivers or mismatch receiving tight ends, who he will have a hard time of running with them out of breaks. Hamilton struggled in man on slot receivers in 2021. He could be able to handle man coverage on an average tight end, but he would not be a good fit for man on someone like Travis Kelce, Darren Waller or Kyle Pitts. With his lack of instincts on the back end, Hamilton is not a fit to be a deep free safety. In the sub package, Hamilton could be better off being moved to linebacker. As a safety, Hamilton is a true strong safety who does not possesses the flexibility to switch to free safety. On the plus side, there is no doubt that Hamilton has special straight-line speed and serious ball skills. He also has soft hands and uses his speed to eat up ground when he breaks on the ball.
Hamilton is a contributor in the ground game, but he misses too many open-field tackles. Hamilton has good size and strength to tackle NFL running backs. Hamilton explodes coming downhill and eats up space in a blur. Chasing after running backs and being an eighth man in the box could be his calling card in the NFL. As a run defender, Hamilton should be a good enforcer and able to function as the eighth man in the box. He has to improve his tackling in space, however, and needs to reduce the number of missed tackles.
“I like Hamilton. He’s big, fast, and has ball skills,” said an NFL director of player personnel. “I just don’t think his best position is safety. He is a little straight line and really doesn’t have safety instincts. All of his struggles are in space, which makes it a little difficult to be a great safety. He misses a lot of open-field tackles, and he isn’t great in man-to-man coverage.
“He’s a tweener, sort of like Jeremy Chinn. Hamilton is probably best suited for linebacker truthfully. He could play Sam linebacker in a 4-3, and Sam typically has more coverage responsibilities.”
For the next level, Hamilton could be a hybrid defender who plays strong safety in the base defense and moves to linebacker in the sub package. Over time, linebacker could become his permanent position, similar to Mark Barron. Barron was a bust as a safety for Tampa Bay after being a top-10 pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, but he he turned into a capable starting linebacker for the Rams. In the 2022 NFL Draft, Hamilton looks like a first-round pick.
Player Comparison: Kam Chancellor/Jeremy Chinn. Team sources said Hamilton is a similar prospect to Chinn. Chinn hasn’t been in the NFL very long, but did have an impressive 2020 rookie year with Carolina. Hamilton could be a similar pro to Chancellor. It makes a lot of sense as they are close to the same size. Chancellor (6-3, 225) had a playmaking presence but also had some limitations from stiffness at his size. In the NFL, I could see Hamilton being a pro similar to Chancellor.
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