Reflecting on the 2021 NFL draft, the New York Giants elected to trade back with the Chicago Bears, adding a first-round selection for 2022 and acquiring Kadarius Toney at 20th overall.
Toney had an inconsistent season, dealing with a number of injuries and incompetent offensive schematics deployed by coordinator Jason Garrett. With a lack of aggression and poor concepts, the Giants hope to revolutionize their approach, modernize the system, and get more creative with their playmakers.
The offensive line stands out as an immeasurable need, but there’s one star defender who could slip to the 7th overall pick, putting new general manager Joe Schoen in a tough spot.
Notre Dame star safety Kyle Hamilton stands out as one of the best players in the 2022 NFL draft. He finished with 34 tackles, two tackles for loss, three interceptions, and four passes defended over seven games this past season.
Hamilton possesses elite physical attributes, standing at 6’4″ and 220 pounds. Comparably, Xavier McKinney, the Giants’ starting free-safety stands at 6’0″ and 201 pounds. Hamilton has a massive frame, capable of moving up into the box and attacking running backs with unbelievable force and quickness.
Many are coining Hamilton as a unicorn player, capable of executing in a variety of different roles and responsibilities. Allowing him to be versatile with his playstyle is preferable, something that new defensive coordinator Wink Martindale could likely extrapolate on.
You could make the argument that Patrick Graham’s system would’ve been more advantageous for Hamilton, given his desire to play zone coverage and disguise looks for opposing quarterbacks. Martindale’s system relies heavily on man coverage and blitz-heavy schematics. Putting Hamilton in that type of role with his big frame could unearth a portion of his capabilities that weren’t explored at the collegiate level as frequently.
However, when looking at Hamilton as a plug-and-play option, he’s not only an impact player in coverage, but he can settle in the box, roaming around the line of scrimmage and reading the quarterback’s eyes. He can feature in a nickel role and as part of pressure packages. The question is, how would the Giants utilize McKinney and Hamilton together in a heavy cover 1 scheme?
During the 2021 draft, the Giants passed on Micah Parsons and Rashawn Slater, two players they would’ve loved to have as building blocks for the future. However, they bet on the 2022 draft, in which they can still land a premium prospect and commence their rebuild in a strong way.
Packaging McKinney and Hamilton together could provide Martindale with another element in the defensive backfield. McKinney showcased sideline-to-sideline speed last year, picking up five interceptions, tied for the most at the safety position. With SS Jabrill Peppers preparing to hit free agency and coming off a torn ACL, Hamilton could replace him and offer above-average play on day one.
When looking at the Baltimore Ravens defensive roster, they had three safeties listed, with only Chuck Clark receiving starts throughout the season. Suppose Martindale doesn’t use a strong safety in his system but prefers to deploy more corners/linebackers. In that case, Hamilton might not be the best selection for the Giants, but building a system that incorporates him could be beneficial. Remember the term “money-backer,” Hamilton could be used in a similar fashion as a de-facto linebacker who can drop into coverage but also play the run effectively.
There’s also a legitimate argument to make that a pass rusher would be more productive in a system like Martindale’s, who depends on a great pass rush to force quarterbacks to make impulsive decisions, equaling more mistakes.
Being the unicorn that Hamilton is, Martindale wouldn’t have any problem utilizing him in creative ways, but they’re more pressing issues than a luxury safety who could end up being an All-Pro. Nonetheless, they may regret passing on him if available with the 7th overall pick.