Apr 062022
 
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Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame Fighting Irish (September 5, 2021)

Kyle Hamilton – © USA TODAY Sports

SAFETIES

90+ All Pro Projection

85+: Pro Bowl Projection

81-84: 1st rounder – Should be able to play right away

79-80: 2nd rounder – Should be able to rotate right away – Year 2 starter

77-78: 3rd rounder – Should be able to rotate by end of rookie year – Year 2/3 starter

74-76: Early Day 3 – Special Teams – Future backup/possible starter

71-73: Mid Day 3 – Special Teams – Future backup / gamble starter

68-70: Late Day 3 – Back end of roster / Practice Squad / Development guy

65-67: Preferred UDFA

60-64: Undrafted FA

1: Kyle Hamilton – Notre Dame – 6’4/220

Grade: 85

Summary: Junior entry from Atlanta, Georgia. Two-year starter that earned 2nd Team All American honors in 2020, 3rd team in 2021. Despite playing in just 7 games because of a knee injury that did not require surgery, Hamilton was a finalist for the Bednarik Award. The tall, long, and fast-reaction defensive weapon was manufactured in a factory that specializes in creating products to defend the offense-dominant NFL. His impact on the game can be felt in so many situations from so many different places. He is the queen-chess piece to a defense. Start him anywhere, move him anywhere, have him perform any role, and he will produce. The length and speed can match up against some of the best the league has to offer at both wide receiver and tight end. The intelligence and reaction time can be put into centerfield with credible sideline-to-sideline range. Hamilton is not a very stout or powerful defender; thus he shouldn’t be put in the box often, but he can still perform well as an outside blitzer. The awareness and play-speed will get him involved in the action often, and he is a well-proven finisher. Hamilton is a lock to be a versatile, playmaking defensive weapon.

*The good thing? There really isn’t a safety in the league quite like him. The bad thing? There really isn’t a safety in the league quite like him. The opinions on Hamilton when it comes to his value at #5 and/or #7 will be all over the place. Simply put: Yes, he is worth one of those spots. The new defensive scheme will use him effectively and whatever his ceiling is, he will get there. The problem that some have (his 40 time) is a credible concern. He may be more of a weapon against tight ends than he is against receivers in man coverage. All the talk about his speed is overblown, however. If he was a corner, it would be more worrisome. But you rarely hear the naysayers discuss how big this kid is. You rarely hear them discuss how smart and instinctive he is. Those two attributes, along with the superb ball skills, more-than make up for a forty time that you wish was 0.2 seconds faster. He is in play for 5 and 7.

2: Daxton Hill – Michigan – 6’0/192

Grade: 82

Summary: Junior entry from Tulsa, OK. Three-year starter that earned 1st Team All Big 10 honors in 2021. The brother of Ravens running back Justice, Daxton was a 5-star recruit that evolved into one of the most versatile defenders on the Michigan squad. He played several roles and could realistically project to multiple positions in the NFL. He excels in zone coverage where he gets to look downhill at the action and trust his instincts and closing speed. For a defense that wants multiple looks on a constant basis on the back end, Hill can be viewed as a key component. The play speed and ball skills can make up for a slight frame, but there are certain roles he needs to be kept out of. He lacks power presence and can struggle against smaller, quicker slot receivers in man coverage.

*Hill is a more athletic version of what NYG has in Julian Love. Julian Love is a cheaper and younger version of Logan Ryan. College defensive backs that played more cornerback than safety, but are ideal fits for nickel packages. Teams play nickel and dime more and more, but it is always nice to have a guy that can wear multiple hats. Hill is a little smaller than you want out of a pure safety, but there might not be a better short-area mover than in the draft than him. The quickness to explosion is one of the best I’ve seen. If he is there in round 2 and NYG wants to prep a Love-replacement (FA in 2023), Hill is a guy worth remembering.

3: Jaquan Brisker – Penn State – 6’1/199

Grade: 79

Summary: Fifth year senior from Pittsburgh, PA. After a two-year stint in junior college, Brisker transferred to Penn State and started for three seasons. Two time All-Big 10 selection, first team in 2021, and a first team All-American in 2021. Brisker has the ideal blend of speed and toughness that promote an incredibly versatile contribution to the defense. He can line up all over the secondary as well as creep up into the box for extra support. Brisker’s ability to cover man to man could even open some eyes as a potential nickel corner at the next level, a growing role of importance against the league’s pass-happy attacks. His quick and agile footwork combined with elite-level speed will show up in several ways. Brisker is a little slight-framed for the way he plays, and it would be ideal to see him add some muscle mass in time. His growing knowledge and ability to read the offense will help him position himself better and combined with the tools he has should create big plays and multiple options for the defense. A do-it-all safety with the kind of elite level speed and toughness respectively to factor all over the field in any situation.

*Brisker still figuring some things out. When he does truly play to his speed, stemming from confident decisions and quality instincts, he is a pretty close player to Hill. Why the significant gap? There is a shoulder issue here that I think will be an issue with how violent he plays. I also see some lateral tightness in coverage. Not nearly as natural – but I do think the physical upside warrants top of round 2 discussion.

4: Lewis Cine – Georgia – 6’2/199

Grade: 79

Summary: Junior entry from Cedar Hill, TX. Two-year starter that earned first team All-SEC honors in 2021, playing his best football of his career down the stretch for one of the best defenses in program history. Cine, the Bulldogs’ leading tackler, shoots downhill toward the action like a missile with a finisher’s mentality. Unlike many safeties with this play style, he brings reliable form tackling to the contact point and rarely misses. He is the kind of kind of guy you want in there as the last line of defense. While Cine does not show some of the more natural skills in coverage, he is no slouch in that department. He plays fast and showed the extra gear when needed. There is value to an adrenaline-stick on the back end like this as long as the defense does not put him in too big of a coverage responsibility. If he continues on the progression curve he put himself on down the stretch in 2021, watch out.

*If NYG Is looking for more attitude and physical play for the complementary role next to their potential budding star in McKinney, keep Cine on your short list. This may actually be the best day two fit AND best overall safety fit for the guy in this defense. It would allow Love to bounce around in sub packages while providing extra run support and defense against tight ends. Cine does not always know what he’s doing in coverage, but he is an excellent see-ball, get-ball defender that won’t miss tackles.

5: Jalen Pitre – Baylor – 5’11/198

Grade: 78

Summary: Fifth year senior from Stafford, TX. Four-year starter that finished off his career earning first team All-Big 12 and All-American honors respectively in addition to winning the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year Award. Pitre has played all over the Baylor defense throughout the course of his career. He has seen as much time at linebacker as he has defensive back. His frame will undoubtedly move him to a hybrid nickel/safety role in the NFL. Pitre’s lack of size almost never shows up when it comes to physical impact and presence. He plays strong, aggressive, and physical far beyond what his body suggests. Pitre also shows the mental capacity to handle multiple roles in a defense if a role can be carved out for him. Where his lack of size shows up is when he is left on an island against tight ends. He can be overshadowed easily, and it turns into him either getting beat or too grabby with his hands. There are a few injury concerns from Pitre’s past that will need to be considered and investigated prior to drafting him. In the right role, he can be a valuable nickel defender that will impact the game in multiple ways but there are some situations he will need to be protected from.

*There seems to be a lot more interest in this kid than what I thought there would be. I always had a round 3/4 outlook on him, but some of the guys I’ve read and spoken with say he is going day 2. Just watching the Baylor defense the past two years, I thought a lot of the production came from the role he was put into. Meaning, anyone would have had it. End of the day he is small when it comes to the reach/radius game and there isn’t a ton of feel in coverage. I could see the round 3 fit, but round 2 is really rich. I don’t see the high ceiling and there are some durability concerns.

6: Bryan Cook – Cincinnati – 6’1/206

Grade: 77

Fifth year senior from Cincinnati, OH. One-year starter for the Bearcats after transferring from Howard University where he spent his first two collegiate seasons. Earned first team All-AAC honors in 2021. Cook had to wait his turn, as he sat behind two safeties that were draft picks in 2020. He took advantage of the opportunity, proving that his skill set caught up to his ideal blend of tools for the position. If safeties were made in a factory, they would come out looking like Cook. He is athletically thick, shows elite burst and acceleration, and is equally impactful as a cover man and tackler. Cook’s versatility was on full display in 2021, as the former cornerback lined up all over the secondary and seemed both comfortable and able across the board. His upside is as high as any safety in the class if he can continue the path he took from the start of 2020 to his current state. He just needs to prove he can play fast in deep coverage and forecast more naturally.

*Cook’s draft prep has been impacted by a shoulder surgery he underwent in January. He did not workout at the combine or the Cincinnati Pro Day. Something to consider even though all signs point to full recovery and him being ready by summer. Cook has limited tape, thus the grade is on the risky side. I project him to start based on tools and versatility. I think the very least you get out of him is a really good special teamer.

7: Nick Cross – Maryland – 6’0 – 212

Grade: 77

Summary: Junior entry from Bowie, MD. Three-year starter that earned Honorable Mention All-Big 10 honors all three seasons. Cross is a do-it-all safety with a slight bias toward downhill run defense. He has the power presence and thickness to support his style that can give the defense extra support in the box. He anticipates and reacts with suddenness and explosion. Cross then has the final gear to play noticeably faster than the opponent. He has excellent catch-up speed in coverage and has proven himself in deep zone to reach the sideline from a Cover 2 role. Cross needs to be kept away from man coverage against receivers as often as possible but his versatility, short area burst, and instincts will create plays for the defense as a starting safety.

*He picked up some steam late in the process with a solid final four games (probably his best stretch over his career) and a really impressive combine workout. Cross size and speed pair well with his play style to create the label of “enforcer” of a defensive backfield. For the teams that want a safety to impact the running game like a linebacker, this is your guy. He is a weapon as a lateral pursuit guy. I have a hard time seeing him as a difference maker in coverage, thus some teams will see day three here. The range in which I see him going is really wide. Again, a nice complement to what NYG has at safety right now and a Wink-fit.

8: Kerby Joseph – Illinois – 6’1/203

Grade: 74

Summary: Senior entry from Orlando, FL. One year starter that made the most out of that one season, earning first team All-Big 10 honors. Joseph was a bit of a late bloomer, as he did not lock down a starting gig until his fourth year. He then went on to be the only player in the nation with five interceptions and three fumble recoveries in 2021. The playmaker brings a near-ideal blend of tools to the table that will work best in a scheme that shows a lot of two-high looks. His easy-moving hips, length, and ability to high-point the football will create for the defense. While he will not offer much as a run defending power presence, he is a solid form tackler and plays aggressive enough. He projects to an eventual starter at the next level.

*I always get a little hesitant about one-year starters unless they come from big time programs and/or they had NFL players in front of them during their non-starting seasons. Neither is the case here for Joseph. That said, Joseph was pretty highly praised by a couple Big 10 coaches that I’ve spoken with and he had a nice education from Lovie Smith. Based on his tape alone, Joseph can play. You may have to be patient with him, more so than others, but there is a lot to like here.

9: Verone McKinley III – Oregon – 5’10/198

Grade: 74

Fourth year junior entry from Carrollton, TX. Three-year starter that ended his career with first team All-Pac 12 and All-American honors. McKinley tied for the national lead in interceptions just two years after leading the Pac-12 in that department as a redshirt freshman. He is a proven playmaker in the secondary that has seen himself lineup all over the defense. His production and tape are solid to say the least, but there are some shortcomings when it comes to speed and size. He falls below the desired height, weight, and length parameters for the position, and it shows up as a tackler. McKinley plays hard and aggressive, but the number of whiffs is alarming. He also struggled against big targets in contested situations. McKinley projects to a nickel role (he arrived at Oregon as a cornerback) that needs to be schemed around to maximize his potential impact.

*Some will look at the turnover numbers and boost him up a bit. He does have a good sense where to go and when to make the breaks in that direction, but we are talking about a guy that isn’t fast or big and he can’t tackle. I don’t want that at safety. Maybe he can find a role as a nickel (former CB, remember) – but the speed concerns could be even bigger there. I think he can be a sub-package guy though. I just don’t see the development into a starter.

10: Yusuf Corker – Kentucky – 6’0/203

Grade: 73

Fifth year senior from McDonough, GA. Three-year starter and two-time team captain that has a lot of experience under his belt. Corker can impact the game in a variety of ways because of a dependable, ever-present feel for the game and situations. His eyes and instincts consistently put him in the right position within short to intermediate areas. The lack of top end speed and agility can be a liability in serious coverage roles, however. He does not turn naturally and will not show enough range in deep spaces. Corker’s size and inconsistent tackling may keep him in a backup role, but he can be an asset in sub packages and special teams. He is a player that will give you exactly what you expect but be sure you know what to expect.

*Corker has the look and style of a guy that coaches trust. He knows his role, gets to his points in a hurry, and rarely looks confused. He is a kid that belongs, plain and simple. The tools, though, may not be quite good enough and the missed tackles at this position always cause a downgrade on my sheet. Maybe a special teamer and solid backup – but I wouldn’t expect much more.

11: Juanyeh Thomas – Georgia Tech – 6’1/212

Grade: 72

Summary: Senior entry from Niceville, FL. Three-year starter that earned honorable mention All-ACC honors in 2021. Thomas burst on to the scene as a big time a special teamer in 2018. He led the team in special teams tackles and returned two kicks for touchdowns. He also returned an interception for a score in spot duty. Thomas had a lot of hype surrounding him after that point, but he never quite met the expectations. His tools are easy to see. He is big, fast, and physical. The acceleration and pursuit are difference making traits. Beyond the surface level, however, Thomas appears to be a liability in most coverage roles. There is too much tightness in his hips and he shows minimal feel for route concepts and combinations. Thomas is easily fooled by misdirection as well. He should factor on special teams early on, but his only potential role will be a box-safety and one that needs to avoid wide receivers.

*Thomas may get a little overhyped by some. His tools are impressive, and he makes the highlight reel often. He is a fun player to watch, but also very frustrating. I don’t see NYG looking here unless they want to groom him for a special teams-only type role. I even think there is a shot he moves to linebacker where you can almost guarantee he won’t be depended upon to cover receivers. Simplify his role and he may be able to make an impact. There aren’t many safeties better than him in pursuit.

12: Quentin Lake – UCLA – 6’1 – 201

Grade: 71

Summary: Fifth year senior from Irvine, CA. Four-year starter that earned second team All-Pac 12 honors in 2021. Father, Carnell, was an All-Pro linebacker for the Steelers. Quentin plays the game like you would think a former player and coach’s son would. The flow to the action is there weekly. Lake plays the game a step ahead mentally and while it does somewhat make up for some of the athleticism shortcomings, he may not be the guy you want as your last line of defense. He has some issues with his footwork and the top end speed will not catch guys from behind. Lake projects as a backup and potential high-end special teamer.

*NFL lineage means something more for some teams. They love the idea that these kids coming into the league knowing to expect. Lake’s father has some coaching experience too and it is an easy assumption after watching his tape that he will be a quick-learn in the league. That is important for safeties and it could easily boost the outlook in come draft rooms.

13: JT Woods – Baylor – 6’2/195

Grade: 71

Senior entry from San Antonio, TX. Three-year starter that earned Honorable Mention All-Big 12 honors twice. Woods, a former member of the Baylor track team and top-shelf sprinter, will attract teams for two reasons. One, he brings incredible speed and burst to the back end that he does not completely know how to use yet. Two, he has a knack for making a big play in big moments. His nine interceptions since the start of the shortened 2020 season should give a solid glimpse into what he can bring to the table once the ball is in the air. He is a gambler on the back end, but he plays fast and will react in a blink. Woods has some work to do on the mental side and he does not have a stoutness to his game, but this kind of speed and playmaking ability is worth taking a chance on.

*Elite speed and one of the top defensive playmakers in the class when looking at turnovers. That combination alone could easily get him drafted a round or two earlier than this. Woods produced at a high level he still has the look of someone that is still trying to figure things out. He does not see route concepts or combinations well. He does not tackle well. But the talent here is worth the gamble, it is just a matter of when.

14: Smoke Monday – Auburn – 6’2/207

Grade: 71

Summary: Senior entry from Atlanta, GA. Two-year starter that earned second team All-SEC honors in 2020. Monday was used all over the Auburn defense as a queen chess piece that could move in all directions, align anywhere, and do anything. He skill set fits tremendously for teams that like to interchange their two safeties into different roles. Monday can credibly creep up to the line and defend the run, although he needs to clean up his consistency as tackler. He can drop back into deep coverage, although he needs to improve his turn and run stability. Monday may not have starter potential, but he can provide solid depth and special teams play early on.

*The idea of Monday may be a bit rich compared to what I think he will actually bring to the field. This is a nice safety net (no pun intended) to have behind a pair of starting safeties or a set of guys that rotate in. I do think he can be special teams force too. He sticks his nose into traffic with as much toughness as anyone at the position. The high hips and tight movement in coverage would worry me if he were out there every snap.

15: Tycen Anderson – Toledo – 6’2/209

Grade: 71

Summary: Fifth year senior from Toledo, OH. Three-year starter that earned All-MAC honors twice, first team in 2021. Anderson has been a mainstay within the Toledo secondary since 2018. He has lined up in a variety of spots thanks to a versatile skill set and excellent measurables. He may not have a specific spot to fit in right away, but a creative defensive coordinator should be able to carve out a role for him in sub packages. His size, speed, and closing ability can factor near the line of scrimmage and against tight ends in coverage. He is a chess piece that has not shown natural flow and instincts for an every down role yet, but there is something to work with here. Checks all the boxes when it comes to measurables.

*Anderson will be drafted higher than where I have him. The tools are attractive, and he is a tough kid. This is a guy I think NYG could be looking at to add to the back end of the depth chart. Baltimore has had a few players with this profile and if Wink has the pull I think he is going to, Anderson could easily but the day 3 add. I just don’t want it to be too early. I question the ability in coverage beyond covering a tight end.

BEST OF THE REST

16: Kolby Harvell-Peel – Oklahoma State – 6’0/213: 71
17: Leon O’Neal – Texas A& M – 6’0/204: 71
18: Delarrin Turner-Yell – Oklahoma – 5’10/197: 70
19: Sterling Weatherford – Miami (OH) – 6’4/215: 69
20: Bubba Bolden – Miami – 6’2/209: 69
21: Percy Butler – Louisiana – 6’0/194: 68
22: Dane Belton – Iowa – 6’1/205: 68
23: Tre Sterling – Oklahoma State – 5’11/206: 68
24: Qwynnterrio Cole – Louisville – 6’0/206: 68
25: Greg Eisworth – Iowa State – 5’11/204: 67
26: Markquese Bell – Florida A& M – 6’2/212: 67
27: Daniel Wright – Alabama – 6’0/197: 67
28: Brad Hawkins – Michigan – 6’0/210: 67
29: Nolan Turner – Clemson: 6’1/202: 66
30: D’Anthony Bell – West Florida – 6’1/211: 66

NYG APPROACH

When I look at what NYG has at safety and where I think the direction of this defense is heading, I see spot for a new guy that can come from this draft class. What kind of player are we looking at? I think it will be a guy that leans more toward the safety-linebacker hybrid more so than the safety-corner hybrid. McKinney and Love can handle the coverage responsibilities but I’m not sure either one of them brings what Martindale wants in the run game. In addition, I think both have shortcomings when it comes to defending tight ends in coverage. The trend around the league right now is to make sure you have at least one guy that is designated to that kind of coverage. He does not need to be an every down defender, but you need to have that guy. Because I don’t see that guy on the Giants depth chart right now (which can change via a signing, I know), that role can be added at ANY point in the draft. As high as the top 10 with Kyle Hamilton or Lewis Cine day 2, as low as late day three with a guy like Sterling Weatherford, Tycen Anderson, or Smoke Monday. I would put the odds of a safety being picked very high, more than 80%.

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David Syvertsen

David Syvertsen, aka Sy'56, has worked for Ourlads Scouting LLC since 2013, starting off as a college depth chart manager and now a lead scout for one the most-sold NFL draft guides year-in, year-out. He has been scouting for over 10 years and will compile anywhere from 400-600 scouting reports per season, with that number increasing year by year. He watches and studies game films 20-25 hours per week throughout the entire year with his main focus being NFL Draft prospects.

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