In one of the more dramatic first rounds in Baltimore Ravens history, the first domino of the Baltimore Ravens draft fell when they selected safety Kyle Hamilton with the No. 14 pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. Leading up to the pick, there was a run on wide receivers, with four going in six picks. Then, the Philadelphia Eagles traded ahead of the Ravens to select defensive lineman Jordan Davis from Georgia. The Ravens decided on Hamilton at No. 14 and turned in the card. That sparks the question, why did the Ravens draft Kyle Hamilton?
Short answer? The Ravens drafted the best player available. After signing Marcus Williams to a five-year, $70 million contract—adding to a defensive back group of Brandon Stephens and Chuck Clark, it’s obvious the Ravens had Hamilton so highly graded that they couldn’t pass on him. It was the polar opposite of a “need” pick.
Long answer? Hamilton possesses prodigious size, length and a well-rounded skillset that will make him a versatile matchup weapon in Ravens Defensive Coordinator Mike Macdonald’s defense, which featured three safeties often at Michigan. Hamilton can line up in split-safety alignments, single high, in the slot and as a dime linebacker on passing downs. Let’s take a look at Hamilton in each of those alignments.
Pass Game Deep Alignments
It’s rare to find players with such size and length that possess the hip fluidity and smooth backpedal Hamilton does. When breaking on a route, the 6-foot-4 safety can undercut receivers to get a hand on the ball or reel in an interception due to his 94th percentile wingspan. Range is so often coveted in safeties, and while Hamilton may not be an elite track athlete, his size allows him to close the gap and make plays on balls that quarterbacks don’t anticipate when they let go of the football. Fluid hips, processing speed and length go a long way in ball production, and Hamilton possesses all three. According to Sports Info Solutions, Hamilton lead this safety class in “hand on ball percentage”, which is defined as “Percentage of plays where a defender got their “hand on the ball.” This includes breaking up or intercepting a pass as well as forcing or recovering a fumble.” Hamilton led this class in passes broken up per game and was tied for third in interceptions per game as well.
Pass Game Underneath Alignments
The 21-year old has both processing and closing speed underneath and can run sideline to sideline to initiate contact on short passing contacts before receivers have a chance to turn upfield. Matching up against tight ends, Hamilton is big and long enough to match physicality while nimble enough to win positioning when carrying routes up the seam. Baltimore has struggled for years to find consistent matchup players that can neutralize tight ends and Hamilton has the profile and skillset to be one of the better matchup players in those scenarios in the NFL. While Hamilton doesn’t possess the low center of gravity to match up with slot receivers, he will add an exciting match-man presence against bigger bodies in the slot.
He’s a potential impact player fitting the run from single and two high alignments to fill alleys and is a technically sound tackler who can thump. The former All-American has relentless physical stamina and will routinely run down ball carriers from the far numbers to the opposite sideline and uses his 80-inch wing span to clean up. Hamilton has a great understanding of perimeter blocking leverage and where he needs to force runners, or in other words, where he can’t afford to lose.
Overall, Hamilton lives somewhere in the world of Los Angeles Chargers Derwin James, Arizona Cardinals Isiah Simmons and former Seattle Seahawks Kam Chancellor as a defender. He will immediately be a matchup tool for Macdonald against tight ends and in underneath curl to flat zones closing out to the sideline and wrestling down underneath throws. With safety usage at an all-time high, the Ravens will have one of the most well-rounded safety rooms in the NFL between Williams, Clark, Hamilton and Stephens, allowing them to use a litany of different looks on third down.
For being one of the youngest players in this year’s draft (Hamilton was the fifth-youngest player drafted last night) Hamilton is one of the most polished rookies, and his game should immediately translate into Baltimore’s defense as a heavy rotation/starter player. With Williams, Humphrey, Clark and Peters around him, Hamilton’s ability to process post snap and pattern match should grow expeditiously. Baltimore severely struggled to navigate against bunch and trips looks last year with blown coverages weekly. The return of Peters with the additions of Hamilton and Williams hopefully solves those issues and returns the Ravens secondary into being one of the strongest units in the NFL.