If there is an exciting player currently on the Baltimore Ravens roster that must be do-it-all defender Kyle Hamilton.
The second-year man, coming off a rookie season in which he manned (mostly) both the corner and safety spots, is about to enter his sophomore campaign while carrying the "cornerback" designation in principle but by no means locked into that position.
Gilberto Manzano and Matt Verderame of Sports Illustrated crafted a list of 32 players, one per NFL franchise, that they consider "Breakout Players to Watch" in 2023. The Ravens' choice, you guessed it, was Hamilton.
"Hamilton flourished as a versatile defensive back, but he struggled at times as a free safety in his rookie season. He now may get an opportunity to improve at the position after the team traded Chuck Clark to the Jets in the offseason. Hamilton, a 2022 first-round pick, was at his best playing in the box and covering from the slot position. He also earned an impressive defense grade of 87.6 from Pro Football Focus while recording 62 total tackles, two sacks and one forced fumble. Hamilton has earned comparisons to Derwin James for his versatility, but he’ll need to improve his coverage as a center fielder."- Gilberto Manzano, Matt Verderame, SI
The authors are right in pointing out that while Hamilton "flourished" as an overall, versatile player on defense, he still "struggled at times as a free safety."
That's nothing to worry too much about, though, considering the demands of the position and the fact that Hamilton was playing his first professional snaps last year at the ripe age of 21--one of the youngest defenders, let alone safeties, in the whole league.
Even though Hamilton "struggled," the experts from Pro Football Focus still considered the rookie the absolute best grade at the position with an 87.6 mark. You read that right.
Back in June, when PFF ranked the top 32 safeties for the 2023 season, they slotted Hamilton in 13th position saying that he "exceeded his lofty expectations" and that he "was easily the NFL’s highest-graded safety."
With those flattering comments, it is truly hard to see Hamilton as a breakout candidate anymore because all signs indicate the sophomore has already broken all barriers and expectations just one year into his pro career.
However, with the Ravens poised to rely on him as a legitimate leader of the secondary entering 2023, the sky is the limit for Hamilton and we can wait to see him take on an even larger role and put the clamps on opposing offense on a weekly basis come September.