No, not after two games, folks.
When the Ravens made Kyle Hamilton the 14th pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, the reactions from draft pundits ranged from, “Amazing value,” to “How do the Ravens do this every year” to “It’s bad value to draft a safety so high” to “He ran a slow 40 time.”
So… varied. Let’s go ahead and roll with “varied.”
What most recognized, however, is that Hamilton was a productive safety at Notre Dame who excelled both playing deep and in the box, and scintillated with his ability to make impressive plays that displayed his anticipation and ball skills. Hamilton hit people hard, turned the ball over and shined with splash plays. The concern by many over the selection had more to do with positional value, and his ability to athletically match up with the freakish athletes of today’s NFL.
Through two games of his NFL career, the jury still seems to be out on Hamilton. But here’s the thing: It should be. He’s played all of two games of professional football.
Hamilton has had some negativity from portions of the fan base hanging over him since the preseason — much of which began after he gave up a long catch to undrafted rookie Bailey Gaither during practice. The negativity volume has only increased since the Ravens’ disastrous loss to Miami last weekend, and the perception that Hamilton blew at least one assignment that resulted in a long touchdown. And possibly two.
Again — two games. And we’re also focusing a lot on one or two or three or four reps out of thousands he’s had since joining the team.
The Ravens would seemingly be happy if the Kyle Hamilton of Week 18 is a much better player than the same guy after two games. Or five. Or 10. It’s a process, and it’s not limited to just this season. Hamilton should be expected by everyone — the organization, fans, observers and himself — to become a better player each of the first several years of his career as he gains experience and begins making his own mental catalog of what he’s seen, and what he anticipates seeing in the future.
I’ve had a theory in my head about Hamilton since watching him practice at training camp, and it’s based around the concept that he is an incredibly cerebral player. Don’t get it wrong: He’s a long athlete who plays with aggression and offers good ability in finding the ball in the air and making a play on it. But he’s also a player who appeared to play with a mental edge to him. He anticipated cuts by receivers in their routes and would get there before the ball, but also bit hard on first moves — or moves he anticipated.
When you swing and miss on a one-on-one rep or when you’re supposed to have deep coverage, well, it looks awful. It just does. You know how people like to say that an offensive lineman had a good game because nobody talked about him? There’s also some truth to that when discussing safeties who have deep coverage responsibilities or are in one-on-one battles. Sometimes it’s best not to stand out.
But as Hamilton progresses and learns more, both about the Ravens defense and NFL offenses, expect some of those educated guesses to pay off — and expect his judgement over whether or not to take those risks are appropriate for the current game situation to improve. Nursing a lead? Play it safe. Needing a play? Jump it. Things like Ed Reed could teach a Master Class on, you know?
There’s no telling what kind of player Kyle Hamilton will ultimately become, but I know it’s too early to write him off or fit him for a gold jacket after two games.