Philadelphia Eagles: Good, let Kyle Hamilton slip all the way to 15

(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

Kyle Hamilton is the highest-graded player in the 2022 NFL Draft according to and their chief scout Lance Zierlein.

Measuring in at 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, Hamilton is a weird hybrid box player who perfectly splits the difference between linebacker and strong safety and is the sort of unicorn defensive playmaker worthy of reconfiguring an entire defensive scheme around.

Is that high praise? You bet, but when Hamilton has been called a “better pure talent than (Arizona Cardinals LB) Isaiah Simmons” by a scouting director for an NFC team, one can’t help but imagine how exciting the prospects of deploying the Notre Dame product in the back seven of a defense could be, especially if a scheme is adjusted to highlight his unique talents as a coverage player.

Tight ends, be on notice: Hamilton is going to make your life a whole lot harder.

So naturally, when a player like Kyle Hamilton enters his name for consideration for the draft, he’s going to come off the board quickly, right? Maybe not first or even second, but surely in the top-5, or even top-10? No, not necessarily, as, according to NFL scout Matt Miller, there’s a very real possibility Hamilton could start to slip due to his slow 40 time and the confusion about his position at the NFL level. If that happens, let’s hope he slips all the way down to 15, as he would be an incredibly compelling addition to the Philadelphia Eagles regardless of what position he technically plays.

The Philadelphia Eagles would be lucky to land Kyle Hamilton at 15.

Theoretically, Kyle Hamilton isn’t an ideal fit at safety for the defense Jonathan Gannon wants to play.

A proponent of running his defense from a two-high shell with more-or-less interchangeable athletes at the free and strong safety spots, having a player with Hamilton’s athletic profile, who almost demands to be played closer to the line of scrimmage in the box, would be a poor fit, especially if he does, in fact, run in the low 4.7s as some scouts clocked him at Notre Dame’s Pro Day. At strongside linebacker, or even on the weakside, Hamilton’s not-so-elite speed would be easier to hide, as he’d have less field to cover on any given play versus being deployed double-digit yards off the line of scrimmage, but being deployed back at free or even strong safety would effectively mask what makes him good and highlight his game’s biggest weakness.

If the Philadelphia Eagles only view Hamilton as a safety, then they too might view the Fighting Irish’s premiere player as less than a can’t-miss prospect, but if he slips down to 15, his upside might just be worth the minor growing pains associated with his position ambiguity.

Why? Because Hamilton doesn’t have to just play safety, or linebacker for that matter, either.

Imagine, if you will, a base defense with Brandon Graham, Javon Hargrave, Fletcher Cox, and Josh Sweat on the line, Haason Reddick, T.J. Edwards, and Kyzir White and linebacker, and a defensive backfield of Darius Slay, “CB2 X”, Anthony Harris on the free side, and Hamilton on the strongside. In that defense, I would imagine Harris would deploy over, say, the left tackle around 13 yards off the line of scrimmage, with Hamilton splitting the difference between the linebackers and the free safety at eight-ish yards off the line. That would allow Hamilton to back peddle into Cover 2, drive down into the box to support the run, or even drop down onto opposing tight ends to shut them down in coverage.

Now imagine how that defense could change in a traditional nickel defense, with Graham taken off the field, Avonte Maddox inserted, and Reddick moved down to play the role of a traditional 4-3 defensive end. In that hypothetical, Hamilton could still deploy as a deep safety or could take some snaps in the box a la Malcolm Jenkins back in the day, where his size could both help to deter opposing play-callers from running the ball and serve as a tight end buster for some of the hardest players in the NFL to cover.

But wait, there’s even more. What if the Eagles decided to really focus on shutting down would-be passers with a big nickel package featuring the same defensive line but with Hamilton and White filling the linebacker spots and Marcus Epps deployed deep opposite Harris in a two safety shell? No offense to Edwards, but what look, which falls somewhere between a normal nickel Cover 2 and a dime package would be a serious improvement from the looks Gannon presented versus four or even five wide receiver looks or against a team like the Kansas City Cheifs who have an elite option at tight end?

Would it be easier to draft whichever safety of Bryan Cook, Jaquan Brisker, or Dax Hill falls to the team in the second round, plug them in at free safety opposite Harris, and call it a day? You bet; all three of those players are great options at the back end of a defense and could theoretically play their role for a fraction of the price Justin Reid received in free agency, but goodness, the philosophical challenge of building a role for Hamilton is a small price to pay for the impact he could have on a defense if it works out correctly.

With three first-round picks in play, that risk is worth the potential return.

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Will Kyle Hamilton fall out of the top-10, let alone to the Philadelphia Eagles at 15? Only time will tell; for all we know, he could end up being drafted by the Houston Texans at three overall, and all of this could be for not, but in the pre-draft process, all it takes is a few dissenting voices for general managers to get gunshy and suddenly, a player like Aaron Rodgers is still on the board well into the 20s. If that happens, well, it would be music to Howie Roseman’s ears, as, after missing out on Jeremy Chinn in the 2020 NFL Draft, landing another hybrid performer could do wonders for Jonathan Gannon’s defense in its second season.