Despite only having a year and a half worth of experience under his belt and not a lot of facial hair, Baltimore Ravens star defensive back Kyle Hamilton has established himself as one of the best defenders in the league regardless of position in just his second season.
What the No. 14 overall pick in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft lacks in robust hair follicles on his face, he more than makes up for with his consistently dominant play on the field as he has been a major catalyst for his team’s overall dominance on the defensive side of the ball this year.
“I told you that he was going to be a Pro-Bowl type of player,” Defensive Pass Game Coordinator and Secondary Coach Chris Hewitt said Tuesday. “He does everything; he covers, he blitzes [and] he tackles. There’s nothing that kid can’t do. A lot of things that people don’t realize about him is … Don’t let the babyface fool you. He’ll try to rip your face off. He’s a great player.”
Voting for the 2023 Pro Bowl officially opened up on Tuesday and Hamilton will likely be leading all safeties by the end of the regular season given the incredible impact he has had and the outstanding numbers he has already posted this year. If he keeps balling out as he did in Week 12 in the Ravens’ remaining primetime games, which will likely end up being three due to flex scheduling, he’ll be a near lock to be voted to his first career All-Pro team as well.
Through 12 games this season, the 22-year-old has already matched his career highs in total tackles (62) and forced fumbles (one) and has either already set or is on pace to set career highs in solos tackles (50), tackles for a loss (eight), pass breakups (nine), sacks (three), quarterback hits (four), and interceptions with two—one of which he returned for his first career touchdown.
As a rookie, Hamilton began to emerge in the second half of the season after he transitioned into a hybrid nickel defender role and was the highest-graded safety according to Pro Football Focus by the end of the year.
He has taken his game to an even higher level this season as his role has expanded into incorporating more traditional safety duties while still playing a lot of snaps in the slot. In the Ravens 20-10 win over the Los Angeles Chargers this past Sunday, Hamilton continued to showcase just how much he has grown in his ability to mirror and blanket wide receivers in one-on-one coverage.
He made an incredible pass breakup down the field on a play in which he lined up over speedy slot receiver Jalen Guyton and stayed in phase with him the entire route before batting the ball away when it arrived. According to PFF, he was targeted six times in coverage and only let three of the passes get caught for a mere 26 receiving yards, and allowed an opposing passer rating of just 61.8.
Kyle Hamilton in coverage vs. the Chargers— PFF BAL Ravens (@PFF_Ravens) November 27, 2023
3 receptions, 26 yards allowed
1 forced incompletion
61.8 passer rating allowed
The Ravens coaches and fans aren’t the only ones who have been singing Hamilton’s praises and lauding his awe-inspiring exploits. Several national media analysts have been captivated by his diverse skillset and enthralled with how well he has performed to date.
Retired NFL linebacker Emmanuel Acho, who is now a Fox Sports analyst and co-hosts the popular sports talk show ‘Speak’, called what Hamilton is doing week in and week out “freakazoid stuff” in a Twitter film breakdown of one of his impressively clutch tackles for loss against the Chargers.
More freakazoid stuff by @Ravens budding star, Kyle Hamilton.— Emmanuel Acho (@EmmanuelAcho) November 28, 2023
The Chargers had a scheme advantage here, but when you have Kyle Hamilton, you always have the advantage. #AchoAnalysis #RavensFlock pic.twitter.com/SADWOFmJCn
“When you have Kyle Hamilton, you always have an advantage, especially on outside quick throws,” Acho said. “(He’s the) best nickel back in football right now.”
Acho is absolutely right in his claim that Hamilton is the best slot defender in the league right now. PFF’s Dan Pizzuta has the numbers to back it up as just last week, he highlighted that the former Notre Dame product has been even more elite playing the nickel role this year on a less frequent basis than he did as a rookie.
Updated alignment chart from a post on Kyle Hamilton earlier in the season (https://t.co/AZBPGJG7Xu)— Dan Pizzuta (@DanPizzuta) November 21, 2023
Hamilton was excellent as a slot corner last year. He's even better this year while doing a whole lot more for the defense.
Very fun player! pic.twitter.com/bQCRpunVjO
However, where both of them are still fully grasping the magnitude of Hamilton’s play this season is the ripple effect it has had on the rest of the Ravens’ defensive unit. It has led to far fewer explosive plays and missed tackles because he is just as likely to beat a block and bring a ball carrier down behind the line of scrimmage as either half of their inside linebacker duo. He frees up Geno Stone and Marcus Williams to be the dangerous ballhawks that they have both proven they can be and he can contribute to the pass rush as an edge rusher.
His rare blend of size, length, and athleticism separates him from some of the other hybrid defenders that have come into the league over the past decade who have been jacks of all trades and masters of none. Hamilton is showing that he can actually be a master of all trades and the fact that it’s still just his second season and that he is not even in his mid-20s suggests that he hasn’t reached his full potential yet.