Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame
Notre Dame’s Kyle Hamilton might just be the best player in this class, regardless of position. For one thing, he’s absolutely massive, standing at 6’4 and 220, good for 99th and 92nd percentile among safeties throughout history. Not to mention, Hamilton is smart, rangy, and quick to get to the football. He’s a player who can play centerfield, but he’s even better when he’s trying to take your head off playing downhill. “Hammy” hits like a truck, and still has more room for muscle mass. He’s everything you want in a safety, both as a tackler and a centerfielder. You can stick him in the box and let him break stuff on offense, but that’s the best part. You don’t have to.
I don’t have much negative to say about Kyle Hamilton. The biggest gripe on why he might fall in the draft is that he plays safety, and that’s not a premium position. That tells you all you need to know.
Comparison: This dude was made in a lab. Think Kam Chancellor, but with the range and coverage skills of Derwin James.
Lewis Cine, Georgia
Hey, what do you know? Another Georgia defender. Some people like Daxton Hill over Georgia’s Lewis Cine for the draft’s second best safety, but I have Cine by a comfortable margin simply because of how well he knows the game. Cine is extremely smart as a football player, and I like when my safeties know exactly what they’re doing out there. You rarely ever notice Cine blowing a coverage because it’s simply something he doesn’t do. He always knows what he’s supposed to be doing on any given play, and that’s more valuable than you might think. The athleticism backs it up, but the football IQ comes first for me.
Though he has stellar athleticism, my concerns with Cine stem from his body sometimes not being on the same page as his mind. His brain is a lightning fast processor, but his body is a bit slow to the punch at times when he tries to tackle. He’s not the biggest dude around, and that might affect his tackling at the next level. Overall, I think Cine is a great player who should be a first round pick, but his average size and the rare misuse of his athleticism have me just a bit worried. Fortunately, I think his shortcomings can be coached out of him. At least, the ones that don’t have to do with him being a bit skinny.
Comparison: There’s a bit of Anthony Harris in Cine’s game, but I’ve also heard some Kenny Vaccaro comparisons, which I don’t hate.
Daxton Hill, Michigan
One of my favorite names in the draft, Daxton Hill rounds out the top group of safeties before a (frankly very steep) drop-off. Hill can fly, running a 4.38 second 40 yard dash. He uses this speed to be extremely explosive and versatile, which is exactly what the NFL is looking for at the safety position in the modern game. When Hill is coming downhill at a ball carrier, you can pretty much wave goodbye to any significant gain. He’s not an exceptional tackler or anything, but he’s fast enough to get to the ball carrier, stall his momentum, and wait for somebody stronger than him to eat him up.
On the other hand, Hill needs to stop trying to play hero ball. A common complaint I see with him is that he needs to let the game come to him, and I couldn’t agree more. Hill isn’t a “true safety,” he’s more of a safety and cornerback hybrid, and that’s fine. The NFL will always have a market for that. But Hill seems to think that he’s something he’s not. Being a tweener is great and the NFL needs those, but Hill’s body type means he will never be a full safety at the next level. Some coach is gonna need to teach him that.
Comparison: I was scratching my head for a comparison for Hill by myself, but I agree with the Devin McCourty comparison from The Draft Network.