Rare. Versatile. Rangy. Athletic. Instinctual. Competitive. Productive.
Those are just some of the adjectives scouts and NFL Draft analysts have used to describe Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton.
Even when talking to former Notre Dame players currently on the Lions roster who played alongside Hamilton in South Bend, they couldn't say enough good things about the player Hamilton is and the impact he had on that program starting from his first day on campus.
He's a complete player with center field range, playmaking instincts and terrific ball skills. His tape against Florida State last year showed off all those traits.
But there's a common narrative that there isn't enough value drafting the safety position high. Safeties play the farthest from the football, and because of that, they're somehow viewed to possess less value.
The reality is Hamilton has a chance to be a really good player at safety. He's drawn comparisons to former Seahawks Legion of Boom member Kam Chancellor because of his rare blend of size, strength and instincts, Chargers safety Derwin James, Ravens great Ed Reed and Steelers Hall of Famer Troy Polamalu. Those players all had such a big impact in making those defensive units as good as they were.
Hamilton measured in at 6-foot-4, 220 pounds at last week's NFL Scouting Combine. His 4.59 time in the 40-yard dash didn't stand out, in fact it ranked 14th among all safeties at the Combine, but there's a difference between game speed and 40-yard dash speed. He's so instinctive that he plays so much faster on tape. Hamilton was a middle enforcer for the Irish who made plays all over the field in the passing game. His 38-inch vertical was third best among the safety group at the Combine, and his 10'11" broad jump, which measures explosive athletic traits, was second best behind only Georgia's Lewis Cine (11'1").
"High-impact safety with unique blend of traits and characteristics that make him a bit of a unicorn at the position," NFL draft analyst Lance Zierlein said of Hamilton. "Hamilton has the eyes and speed to play over the top, the strength and toughness to play near the line, and coverage length to guard elite pass-catching tight ends who often mismatch opposing defenses.
"It's rare to find such a ferocious striker and intimidator who has the football intelligence and athletic prowess to go make plays in the passing game, but Hamilton provides it all. He thrives playing downhill or sinking into a robber alignment on the back-end but will have occasional missteps in coverage when in retreat from his pedal. Hamilton has the traits and football character to transition from standout college moments to a standout pro career as a future Pro Bowler with All-Pro potential."
Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn and defensive backs coach and passing game coordinator Aubrey Pleasant have spoken on multiple occasions about how much the safety position means to their defense.
"Because of the way we play defensively, we really ask our safeties to do a lot of things not only in the run fits and pass coverage, blitzing, playing in the middle of the field, our half-field safety," Pleasant said last month at the Senior Bowl. "So you need some versatility, you got to have some really good leadership qualities, and you got to have some ball production."
Check, check and check when it comes to Hamilton.
Hamilton is a big-time playmaker with a unique blend of size, length and football IQ. He recorded eight interceptions and defended 16 passes in 31 career college games. Like Zierlein said, Hamilton has the skillset to cover elite tight ends, which is one of the biggest mismatches for defenses in the NFL game right now.
When we talk about value at the top of the draft we should be talking about the player and not necessarily the position, especially in a year where the top of the draft isn't full of quarterback talent.
Hamilton is a player Lions general manager Brad Holmes will do his due diligence on. Most people around the league in Indianapolis last week thought Hamilton has a chance to be a difference maker for a defense very early in his career.