Notre Dame football's NFL Draft preview: Where will Kyle Hamilton & Company land?

SOUTH BEND — The headliner for Notre Dame when the 2022 NFL Draft commences in Las Vegas Thursday night is no secret. 

All-American safety Kyle Hamilton is projected as the top guy available at his position and is expected to be the only Irish player selected in the first round.

The mystery is where. Top three? Perhaps.

Top five? Very possible.

Top 10? Likely. 

► NFL Combine:Despite slow 40-yard dash time, former Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton manages to impress

► Spring practice:Brandon Joseph working on and off the field to make an impact for Notre Dame

But there are some who believe that the knee injury that knocked the 6-foot-4, 220-pound Atlanta native out for most of the second half of his junior season, could slide him down to the mid- to late-teens.

Notre Dame’s Kyle Hamilton (14) on the sidelines during the 2022 Playstation Fiesta Bowl Saturday, Jan. 1, 2022 at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.

Hamilton also struggled in the NFL Combine and Notre Dame's Pro Day workouts when he ran the 40-yard dash.

"It is what it is," Hamilton said after running a 4.59 last month.

Notre Dame’s Kyle Hamilton (14) during the Notre Dame-USC NCAA college football game on Saturday, Oct. 23, 2021, at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend.

Looking beyond a stopwatch, it's Hamilton's size, quickness, intelligence and impressive compilation of on-field highlights that have NFL executives licking their chops.

"Notre Dame’s Kyle Hamilton is one of the most physically impressively prospects in this entire class," said former NFL scout Brentley Weissman, now with The Draft Network. "He offers rare size, length and fluidity and the versatility to wear multiple hats in the backend of the defense."

Weissman went of about Hamilton's range, toughness and man-to-man cover skills. Those were evident in Notre Dame's 2021 opener at Florida State in which he had two picks.

The first interception Hamilton was in coverage against the slot receiver, undercut him, and made the play. For the second interception, he was on the opposite side of the field, read the quarterback's eyes, and sprinted across the field for the sideline snag. 

"He is a player," Weissman said, "you take high and feel great about day one." 

Regardless of his 40-time, he believes he is the best player in this draft.

"Of course I believe that," Hamilton said after his Pro Day sprints. "I feel like everyone should believe that whether you are predicted seventh round or first round. Without that mindset, you are not going to get very far."

HAMILTON'S TALE OF THE TAPE

NFL Projection: First round; anywhere from 2nd-15th overall.

NFL Comparison: NFL Analyst Lance Zierlein believes that Hamilton mirrors former Seattle Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor.

2021 stats: 34 total tackles, two tackles for loss, three interceptions, four passes defended

NFL.com strengths:

⦁ Above-average fluidity for a really big safety.

⦁ Potential to press and cover premium pass-catching tight ends.

⦁ Enormous safety with frame for more muscle mass.

NFL.com weaknesses:

⦁ 40-time has been brought into question.

⦁ Height is a natural barrier for change of direction.

⦁ Open-field mistakes led to a couple of long runs in 2021.

What the experts are saying:

"Kyle Hamilton is the best safety in the draft. His 40 time was a little slow at the combine but he plays with good game speed on film. He was always around the football in college and the type of player that could develop into a defensive leader. I really believe he’ll be a top 12 pick. The Washington Commanders, who own pick No. 11, seems like a good fit for him." — USA Today's National NFL Reporter Tyler Dragon.

***

"You talk to people in the NFL when you're doing mock drafts, that's what we do, and the consensus was he could drop just a bit. (No.) 11 to Washington would be a great centerpiece of their defense. It's exactly what they're looking for, that kind of player. I said he was unique I've said that through out the process." — ESPN Draft Analyst Mel Kiper Jr.

***

"He's my fifth player. I couldn't pass on him at that point in time. Whatever the knocks are, this is just too good of a value." — NFL Network Draft Analyst Daniel Jeremiah.

Here is a look at other Notre Dame players who hope to have their named called during the 2022 NFL Draft:

Running back Kyren Williams

Draft Projection: Rounds three through five

NFL Comparison: NFL Analyst Lance Zierlein sees Kyren Williams as similar to former New England Patriots running back Dion Lewis.

► More:NFL Draft: Notre Dame's Kyren Williams and the lost art of the well-placed stiff arm

2021 stats: 204 rushing attempts for 1,002 yards and 14 touchdowns. He also caught 42 passes for 359 yards and three TDs.

Notre Dame’s Kyren Williams (23) runs for a touchdown during the Notre Dame vs. Stanford NCAA football game Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021 at Stanford Stadium in Palo Alto, Calif.

NFL.com strengths:

⦁ Runs with consistent pace.

⦁ Well-rounded third-down option.

⦁ Exceptional pass blocker, especially when it comes to blitz pickups.

⦁ Experienced lining up and running routes from the slot.

NFL.com weaknesses:

⦁ Lacks power to break tackles and move chains consistently.

⦁ Too many fumbles.

⦁ More quick than explosive.

What the experts are saying:

"I think Kyren Williams is underrated. People are gonna look at that 40 time and it doesn't matter. (Former Dallas Cowboy) Emmitt Smith ran like 4.58 or 4.6 I don't care about 40 times for running backs. The quickness, the instincts, the vision, the breaking tackles, the blocking, the catching Kyren Williams is a good football player, so I'm not going to change my grade on him. I think he should be a fourth round pick." — ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. 

Wide receiver Kevin Austin Jr.

Draft Projection: Rounds three through four.

NFL Comparison: Zierlein is comparing Austin Jr. to Tennessee Titans receiver Racey McMath. He is from LSU and had 33 career catches but was drafted in the sixth round by the Titans.

► More:Can Notre Dame WR Kevin Austin catch on in the NFL? Mel Kiper Jr. likes his chances

2021 stats: 48 receptions, 888 yards, and seven touchdowns.

Notre Dame’s Kevin Austin Jr. (4) runs along the sideline during the Notre Dame vs. Navy NCAA football game Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend.

NFL.com strengths:

⦁ Staggering improvements in-season.

⦁ Upgraded his hand fighting and release quickness.

⦁ Maintaining top positioning.

NFL.com weaknesses:

⦁ Just 54 catches during his collegiate career.

⦁ Missed 2019 season due to reported violation of team rules.

⦁ Two surgeries on left foot, causing him to miss most of 2020.

What are the experts saying:

"I think Kevin Austin Jr. has moved up. He eliminated most of the drops and became much more consistent. ... The consistency is still evolving. But he's a work in progress and he came a long way this year. I think he's a guy early day three you would look." —ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. 

Quarterback Jack Coan

Draft projection: Sixth round to undrafted.

NFL Comparison: Zierlein believes Coan is similar to New England Patriots quarterback Brian Hoyer.

2021 stats: 65.5% completion, 3,150 yards, 25 touchdowns and seven interceptions.

Notre Dame’s Jack Coan (17) throws a touchdown pass during the Notre Dame vs. Stanford NCAA football game Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021 at Stanford Stadium in Palo Alto, Calif.

NFL.com strengths:

⦁ Operates with poise and command from the pocket.

⦁ Pocket mobile with consistent reset to find his platform.

⦁ Gets ankles pointed toward target before throwing.

NFL.com weaknesses:

⦁ Lacks desired twitch for RPO or quick game.

⦁ Ball placement outside numbers needs work.

⦁ Hasn't proven to make consistent back-shoulder throws.

What the experts are saying:

"He's  accurate. He's a steady, steady guy that you want as a backup. He's a career backup in the NFL in my opinion. I think he goes in the 6-7 round area and that's what he becomes."  — ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. 

Defensive lineman Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa

Draft projection: Sixth round to undrafted.

2021 stats: 26 total tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, one fumble recovery.

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Notre Dame’s Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa (95) celebrates during the Notre Dame vs. Purdue NCAA football game Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend.

NFL.com strengths:

⦁ Plays with sense of urgency.

⦁ Gets off the ball with good quickness.

⦁ Catches gaps cleanly.

NFL.com weaknesses:

⦁ Doesn't have the desired body type of an edge player.

⦁ Top-heavy build gets knocked off balance.

⦁ Inconsistent hand usage to control the action.

What the experts are saying:

"I think the versatility fits various schemes and if you go to my rankings from a couple weeks ago, I had him in there. (Since then) I bumped him out because I didn't go as deep. ... I think he makes a football team. He could certainly be a rotation guy for you." — ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. 

Linebacker Drew White

Draft projection: Seventh round to undrafted free agent.

2021 stats: 55 total tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, one interception, one touchdown, and two forced fumbles.

► More:How Notre Dame LB Drew White continues to play through a torn PCL in his left knee

Notre Dame’s Drew White (40) after making a tackle during the Notre Dame vs. Stanford NCAA football game Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021 at Stanford Stadium in Palo Alto, Calif.

NFL.com strengths:

⦁ A bit stiff in the hips, but breaks down well and delivers forceful contact, flashing the ability to create turnovers.

⦁ Can slip through gaps quickly. Legitimate NFL-caliber instincts.

⦁ His versatility and commitment could give him a chance at sticking on a roster on special teams.

NFL.com weaknesses:

⦁ Attacks the line but needs work on stacking and shedding blocks.

⦁ One-speed player, lacking dynamic qualities and doesn't look natural in reverse. Lacks the fluidity to be consistent dropping against the pass with unpolished cover skills.

⦁ Loses size battle to many tight ends and is easily pushed away on out routes.

Defensive lineman Kurt Hinish

Draft projection: Seventh round to undrafted.

2021 stats: 28 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, two sacks.

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Nose tackle Kurt Hinish plays his final game - no, really - at Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday against Georgia Tech.

NFL.com strengths:

⦁ Very good snap quickness, first off the ball.

⦁ Heavy, active hands; continual fight on every play.

⦁ Strength to power rush the pocket.

NFL.com weaknesses:

⦁ Not as long as teams desire.

⦁ Came out on obvious passing downs.

⦁ Timing to disengage from blocks.

Offensive lineman Cain Madden

Draft projection: Undrafted free agent.

Notre Dame’s Cain Madden (62) during Notre Dame’s 32-29 win over Virginia Tech in an NCAA college football game on Saturday, Oct. 9, 2021, in Blacksburg, Va.

NFL.com strength:

⦁ Finishes and doesn't quit; competitor with a positive attitude and leadership traits that coaches admire.

⦁ Dips shoulder and moves his feet to get outside leverage when needed. Strong and low coming out of his stance, effective in short-yardage situations.

⦁ Solid positional run blocker who flashes the nasty demeanor and killer instinct scouts covet.

NFL.com weaknesses:

⦁ Flashes the ability to move his man with his hands, but is not yet consistent in this area.

⦁ Whiffs on blocks after beaten initially and lacks range and lateral quickness. Plays too high and without proper leverage, pad level and can be passive.

⦁ Stops his feet after initial contact, relying on length but allowing defender to get the corner or spin inside.

Kicker Jonathan Doerer

Draft projection: Undrafted free agent.

Notre Dame’s Jonathan Doerer (39) kicks an extra point during the 2022 Playstation Fiesta Bowl Saturday, Jan. 1, 2022 at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.

2021 stats: Made 16 of 21 field goals; 52 of 53 extra points.

Safety Isaiah Pryor

Draft projection: Sixth round to undrafted free agent.

2021 stats: 42 tackles, three tackles for loss, one sack.

Isaiah Pryor runs the 40-yard-dash during Notre Dame’s NFL Pro Day event on Friday, March 25, 2022, in South Bend.