Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton has seen his name gather a lot of hype over the last few months, primarily as the best safety prospect in the upcoming NFL Draft. His recent 40-yard dash performance at the NFL Combine took a little luster off that glowing review, unfortunately.
Possibly the best safety in this class, @kyledhamilton_ lays down a 4.59u on his first attempt.— NFL (@NFL) March 6, 2022
: #NFLCombine on @NFLNetwork pic.twitter.com/vumLmRIrnl
Viewing this through the eyes of a former track star, what jumps out here is an overall body language/posture that doesn’t speak to all out effort. It seems Hamilton hits his top speed, runs out of throttle about two thirds of the way through his run, and puts it into cruise control to get across the line. There is no visual evidence of that ‘little bit extra’ or ‘force of will to go faster’ you see with so many others who run the 40.
Perhaps Hamilton wasn’t feeling well? Or maybe the big stage pressure of the Combine got in his head? It’s hard to answer those questions from afar, but chances are NFL scouts and general managers are asking the same questions.
Don’t take this wrong: A 4.59 40-time is still incredibly fast, just not “top of the class” fast. For example, from the 2018 NFL Combine:
Top five 40-yard dash times among safeties:— LastWordOnNFL (@LastWordOnNFL) March 5, 2018
1. Troy Apke (Penn St) 4.35
2. Natrell Jamerson (Wisconsin) 4.40
2. Justin Reid (Stanford) 4.40
4. Dane Cruikshank (Arizona) 4.42
5. Tre Flowers (Oklahoma St) 4.45
5. Godwin Igwebuike (Northwestern) 4.45#NFLCombine
Fortunately, the safety position isn’t entirely about elite speed. With Hamilton likely projecting as a strong safety based on his 40-time instead of his collegiate free safety role, a solid NFL coaching staff should still help Hamilton achieve his potential. Hamilton’s other Combine stats didn’t paint a Justin Reid-esque picture either.
- Vertical Jump: 38.00”
- Broad Jump: 131”
- Shuttle: 4.32
- Three-Cone: 6.90
Of those, the broad jump and three-cone might provide better insight into his NFL future. Hamilton’s broad jump, near the top of this Combine class, speaks to his ability to create major inertia with his body, potentially translating to his hitting ability. The three-cone, also near the top of the class, offers a glimpse into Hamilton’s ability to change direction and get back to top speed in the blink of an eye; it indicates a potential to read and react to opposing running backs, wide receivers, tight ends, etc.
However, as always, people tend to apply too much weight to the straight line speed of the 40-yard dash. 4.59 is more linebacker territory than defensive back land. It’s nowhere close to elite wide receiver speed, which is seen here:
WOW. JUST WOW.@BUFootball WR Tyquan Thornton might've just broken the all-time 40 record with a 4.21u.— NFL (@NFL) March 4, 2022
: #NFLCombine on @nflnetwork pic.twitter.com/WvR8FfKv6M
Des that mean an elite 40-yard dash time equals NFL stardom? Well, based on this list it does...10% of the time.
CBS Sports NFL All-Time Top 40-Yard Dash Times
- No. 1: John Ross, 4.22 seconds in 2017
- No. 2: Kalon Barnes, CB, 4.23 seconds in 2022
- No. 3: Chris Johnson, RB, 4.24 seconds in 2008
- No. 4: Rondel Melendez, WR, 4.24 seconds in 1999
- No. 5: Dri Archer, RB, 4.26 seconds in 2014
- No. 6: Tariq Woolen, CB, 4.26 seconds in 2022
- No. 7: Jerome Mathis, WR, 4.26 seconds in 2005
- No. 8: Marquise Goodwin, WR, 4.27 seconds in 2013
- No. 9: Stanford Routt, CB, 4.27 seconds in 2005
- No. 10: Henry Ruggs III, WR 4.27 seconds in 2020
Not exactly a list of guaranteed first ballot Hall of Famers there.
Sporting News as a table showcasing the top 40-yard times overall and in each position group here. As of last night, Kyle Hamilton isn’t in the top 33 players, all of whom are at 4.40 or less. As of their latest update, there are eight defensive linemen who outran Hamilton. All eleven linebackers on their list did as well. Of the safeties, Hamilton placed 14th so far. Some may find it hard to get behind the notion that your last line of defense is the 14th fastest option among all potential rookies..
What does this mean in real time? Well, it likely put a halt to Hamilton’s rise up the draft boards - with some having put him as high as the Texans’ pick at No. 3 overall. It also means he’s likely not a surefire, immediate, top level replacement for Justin Reid should the Texans decide to let Reid walk, or run, in free agency.
Justin Reid improves with a 4.40 on his 2nd attempt. Stock up. pic.twitter.com/XlE2G00eQ9— Cameron DaSilva (@camdasilva) March 5, 2018
When you think of elite NFL safeties, names like Troy Polamalu, Earl Thomas, Ed Reed, Rod Woodson, Ronnie Lott and others come to mind. .Troy Polamalu ran the 40 in 4.33 seconds. Rod Woodson in 4.33 seconds. Earl Thomas in 4.43 seconds. Ed Reid in 4.57 seconds. It’s not as easy to find verified 40-yard times for old school great safeties like Lott, Jack Tatum, John Lynch, or others.
Does this mean Kyle Hamilton will never be a great NFL player? No, it doesn’t. Does it mean he may have lost a large chunk of change come draft day? Absolutely.