Once considered a possible top-three pick, former Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton did not have to fret too long at the start of the NFL draft on Thursday. The Baltimore Ravens selected Hamilton with the 14th overall pick in the first round. Fittingly, Hamilton wore No. 14 at Notre Dame.
Heading into the NFL draft, most projections suggested Hamilton would hear his name somewhere in the 9-11 range, but a few trades threw some chaos into the process, as teams sought receivers in a draft where that is considered among the strongest position groups.
Missing half the 2021 season to a knee injury did not help Hamilton’s draft case, but that was likely not the reason he fell from the top slots in early projections. Hamilton’s 40-yard dash times were relatively meager, running a 4.59-second dash at the NFL combine in early March and then a questionable 4.56-second showing at Notre Dame’s Pro Day to end the month.
“I did alright,” Hamilton said after that latter dash. “I still didn’t do as well as I wanted to do, but it was faster than the combine, so I’ll take it.”
Hamilton said then he had hoped to run as fast as 4.47 seconds, but even the generously-clicked hand times at Notre Dame did not help him near that want.
Nonetheless, he becomes the first former Irish defender selected in the first round since defensive tackle Jerry Tillery was selected No. 28 in 2019, the first former Irish defensive back selected in the first round since safety Harrison Smith went No. 29 in 2012 and the highest former Irish defender selected since defensive tackle Bryant Young went No. 7 to the San Francisco 49ers in 1994.
Per Spotrac.com, the salary slotted to the No. 14 pick totals $16.3 million with $9 million of that coming as a signing bonus.
Despite his knee injury in 2021, Hamilton became a two-time All-American, at least in part because of his loud opening to the season, making two interceptions at Florida State with the entire nation watching the only game on that particular Sunday night. He finished his Irish career with eight interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown on his very first snap at Notre Dame Stadium in 2019.
He amassed 138 tackles across 31 games, with 7.5 for loss, and he broke up 24 passes.
Irish forever ☘️
— Notre Dame Football (@NDFootball) April 27, 2022
As a captain in 2021, Hamilton stayed involved with the Irish defense despite his injury. In particular, safety reserve-turned-starter Ramon Henderson regularly credited Hamilton for in-game coaching and pointing out coverage assignments before the snap from the sideline. Without him, Notre Dame now turns to a trio of veterans in fifth-years Houston Griffith and DJ Brown along with Northwestern transfer Brandon Joseph.
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Hamilton arrived at Notre Dame and immediately impressed, dominating his freshman preseason camp with repeated practices of multiple interceptions. That came after he developed late in the recruiting process, going from a lightly-regarded three-star when the Irish first started chasing him to the No. 75 player in the class, per rivals.com, by the end of the cycle.