Kyle Hamilton could break the mold for safeties at the 2022 NFL Draft.
The Notre Dame safety could be the 10th man at his position to be taken within the top 10 of the draft since 2000. Even more so, he could very well be the first safety taken with a top-four pick since the Cleveland Browns took Eric Turner second overall in 1991.
Now, this is the part where you’ll hear a collective groan hanging over New York City and the Meadowlands as the Jets could be the team to break that drought.
Safety isn’t considered a premium position at the draft where a bona fide gamechanger could be found in the first round. That’s why a top four, five, or 10 pick used on that spot is so infrequent — and why the career paths of the likes of Jamal Adams serve a cautionary tale.
The Jets made Adams one of those nine safeties taken in the top 10 (sixth overall) in 2017, but he lasted only three seasons in New York before forcing his way out in a trade to the Seattle Seahawks.
General manager Joe Douglas shares the belief that safety isn’t that high-premium position, which is why a big-time contract wasn’t agreed upon with Adams — prompting for a trade request out of town.
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While that likely is his thinking again, despite saying that he’ll take the best talent available at No. 4, Jets head coach Robert Saleh isn’t going to write off such a possibility of Hamilton trading shades of green from Irish to Jets.
“Depends on how good he is. I call them unicorns,” Saleh said last week while reminiscing about his time at the draft while working with the San Francisco 49ers. “I would never want to take a linebacker in the first round, but Tremaine Edmunds was sitting there and I wore his jersey to the draft. He’s a unicorn in the linebacker world.
“Same thing with a safety. I remember there was a hard discussion on Derwin James and the guy is phenomenal. You never want to say no to any position group.”
The 49ers ultimately passed on James, who was picked up by the Los Angeles Chargers where he now stars.
“Obviously there are premium positions,” Saleh said. “But you can never say no to a unicorn and someone who has a tremendous talent and clearly the best possible player you can take at that time.”
Hamilton certainly appears to be worthy of that title.
“He’s a 6-foot-4 and 220-pound ball magnet who can play deep middle, box, and slot, and would give the Jets the interceptor they haven’t had since early Kerry Rhodes, circa 2007,” ESPN’s Rich Cimini wrote of the Notre Dame product. “Hamilton is, according to some talent evaluators, a unicorn.”
But the Jets have other pressing needs elsewhere that they could certainly use their No. 4 and No. 10 picks for — whether that be on an edge rusher, the offensive line, or even a big-time playmaker for Zach Wilson.
Good thing they have seven weeks to figure it out.