Landing Hamilton would be legit first-round feat for Commanders

Kyle Hamilton

Because of the millions of mocks — that's probably not hyperbole, by the way — and endless pick prognosticating of the last few months, Commanders fans might've grown numb to the talk of this player or that player landing with Washington in Thursday's first round of the 2022 NFL Draft.

But now that we've made it to the eve of the event, it's worth reiterating something one final time, with emphasis: If the Commanders come away with Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton, that'd qualify as a heist. Not just a steal, but a full-on, call-the-police-and-get-the-chopper-in-the-air heist.

In that scenario, Hamilton would be the draft's 11th overall pick. According to many, many pundits, however, he's far more valuable than that slot would indicate.

Pro Football Focus ranks the defensive back as the eighth-best prospect, calling him "a modern hybrid defender who can do whatever is asked of him."

Dane Brugler of The Athletic has Hamilton sixth on his board, describing the Fighting Irish product as someone with "the potential to be a diverse matchup weapon in the NFL due to his rare combination of physical traits and natural football instincts."'s Daniel Jeremiah labels Hamilton as the class' fifth-best rising pro, noting that he owns "all of the tools to emerge as a Pro Bowler early in his career."


And ESPN's Jeff Legwold lists Hamilton third on his Top 100, lauding his penchant for "how-did-he-get-there" plays.

So if Hamilton is so beloved by those who closely study the college game, why could he spill down the order and into Washington's range? The answer lies in how his position is viewed. 

Quarterbacks, offensive tackles and pass rushers are universally coveted across the league, and the 2022 crop, though weak at quarterback, is littered with edge options on both sides of the ball. Despite the QB questions, it's still quite possible Malik Willis or Kenny Pickett hears their name called early. Then there's a group of receivers and a couple of corners who seem destined to dap up Roger Goodell soon after the official clock starts, too.

Safeties, meanwhile, aren't as off-limits in the premium territory of the first round as, say, guards or running backs are, but they have been passed over lately for those whose jobs were covered in the previous paragraph.

In both 2021 and 2020, the first safety was actually selected in the second round at 36th overall, and in 2019, Darnell Savage Jr. didn't go to Green Bay until No. 21. Before him, Minkah Fitzpatrick went 11th to the Dolphins in 2018.

To encounter the last safety nabbed in the single digits, you have to go back to 2017, when the Jets opted for Jamal Adams at No. 6. There's precedent for these guys waiting to find out where pro life will begin, and Hamilton could be the next to do so, regardless of how celebrated he is.

But if he does, the Commanders would be wise to put an end to his slide. 

Now, Hamilton's 40-yard dash didn't have scouts double-checking their watches, and he missed Notre Dame's last six contests with a knee injury. Those are valid shortcomings to mention. Yet scouts believe in Hamilton's anticipation and football IQ, which can offset a lack of long speed, and the knee issue isn't something that plagued him at any other point of his high school or college careers. 

In addition to feeling a bit of overall malaise heading into the draft, some Washington supporters may be underwhelmed by the notion of choosing another defender, period. 

In fact, a source familiar with the situation says that the writer of this very story just spent the better part of a new podcast episode arguing that Ron Rivera better exit the weekend with another seriously-skilled wideout. Terry McLaurin, Curtis Samuel and their understudies have the makings of a solid crew, but solid isn't enough anymore.


Yet that offensive improvement can be accomplished with the club's second-rounder, which is currently at No. 47. Jameson Williams, Drake London, Chris Olave or Garrett Wilson would register as excellent pickups in their own right on Thursday, but Treylon Burks, Jahan Dotson, George Pickens or Christian Watson on Friday represent intriguing possibilities as well.

Maybe Hamilton is scooped up ahead of Washington's turn, which wouldn't be all that shocking. Or maybe Rivera decides to surround Carson Wentz with elite help right away, which is an objective he's touched on before.

Should Hamilton prove to be the selection, though, don't allow the consistent connecting of him and the Commanders to sap the excitement from that outcome. The truly special safeties can transform a defense in a multitude of ways, and Hamilton has the makings of the next truly special safety.