It’s been over two weeks since the 2022 NFL Draft concluded and the hype for the Baltimore Ravens’ impressive 11-man haul is still high. Often overly optimistic and sometimes unfair projections are placed on first-year players entering the league before they even take a snap.
With that in mind, the return of my annual realistic expectation article series has arrived.
S Kyle Hamilton
Round 1, No. 14 overall
The former member of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish fell farther than almost anyone anticipated and right into the Ravens’ lap. Many pundits viewed him as one of, if not the best overall prospect in this year’s draft.
Safety was far from one of the team’s top needs after signing Marcus Williams in free agency and bringing back both Tony Jefferson and Geno Stone. However, the opportunity to further fortify the position group and diversify their defense with a generational talent was great of a value to pass on.
While it’s unreasonable to expect him to be the second coming of Ed Reed as a rookie, Hamilton’s arrival will give the Ravens’ defense even more range and flexibility upfront as well as in the backend.
He could find himself in a full-time starting position if veteran Chuck Clark is traded, as recent rumors suggest might be in the works. Even if Clark is retained, Hamilton will see the field early and often as an every-down player and versatile chess piece that can be used in a plethora of ways. His presence would allow the Ravens to deploy multiple-safety sets and take an inside linebacker or two off the field, depending on opposing personnel.
If Clark is dealt, Hamilton would slide right into the starting spot next to Williams and free up Jefferson to play the dime linebacker role on obvious passing downs. Both he and Jefferson are capable of covering tight ends and pass-catching running backs, who create mismatches against traditional off-ball linebackers that aren’t as adept in coverage.
Expect to see Hamilton utilized in a multitude of ways at all three levels, including deep middle and intermediate as a second free safety. He’ll be used to erase throwing windows, defend in one-on-one coverage against athletic big-bodied pass catchers, and near the line of scrimmage disguising or coming on a blitz as an extra rusher.
Hamilton may not lead the team, or rookies league-wide, in any one major statistical category. However, he will likely have a little bit of everything because he will be doing a lot of everything in Mike MacDonald’s scheme. The first-year play-caller/designer was very creative with the way he deployed Daxton Hill at Michigan last year. So, expect to see similar creativity in the way he uses Hamilton in 2022 and beyond.
Expecting Hamilton to be in contention to win Defensive Rookie of the Year is both reasonable and very realistic.