NFL Network's Jeremiah has no issues with Lions taking Irish safety Hamilton

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

There are a few things former college scout and current NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah has been consistent about when discussing the upcoming NFL draft. 

First, it's not a great year to be looking for a quarterback. As part of his most recent mock draft, Jeremiah included just two QBs in his first-round projection, with Pitts' Kenny Pickett the first off the board, going to the New Orleans Saints at No. 18. 

In fact, Jeremiah doesn't believe the top of this draft comes anywhere close the talent from last year's class. He estimates up to 10 players who entered the league in 2020 would be the first pick this year. 

Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton watches during warmups before a game against Navy in South Bend, Ind.

That said, of the players available this year, Jeremiah has made it clear he sees Michigan defensive end Aidan Hutchinson as the best available. That's also who he has the Lions drafting No. 2 overall in that mock draft posted earlier this week. 

But what if Hutchinson is gone? What if the Jacksonville Jaguars opt to take an edge rusher in the first round for the third time in four years instead of building up the offensive line in front of last year's No. 1 overall pick, quarterback Trevor Lawrence, as many observers currently expect?

Well, if that's how things play out, Jeremiah would have no issue with the Lions bucking prevailing wisdom and selecting Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton with the second pick. 

Detroit's previous front office didn't hesitate to take an outside-the-box approach with their top-10 choices, snagging a tight end and a cornerback much earlier than we had seen in recent memory. Would current general manager Brad Holmes also challenge conventional thinking by making Hamilton the first safety taken in the top-five since Eric Berry in 2010, and the first selected at No. 2 since Eric Turner in 1991?

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Jeremiah wouldn't fault the Lions for going that direction. 

"I'm a little more biased in favor of them, calling the Chargers games (as a color commentator) the last four years and seeing every game Derwin James has played there and the impact that position can make," Jeremiah said during a Friday conference call. "And I think back to my time with the Baltimore Ravens (as a scout) and seeing what Ed Reed could go."

Jeremiah's assessment isn't strictly based on positional value, but the aforementioned lack of overall talent at the top of the draft, as well as Hamilton's profile specifically. 

"I think the kid's pretty unique," Jeremiah said. "He's so tall and long and rangy, (with) the ability to make plays from the deep middle as well as to drop down and play down low and be a physical player. He can erase tight ends. The interception he had against Florida State is as good as it gets. And from a makeup standpoint, I haven't got all the background information on him, but when you watch him cover punts as a gunner and see how hard he plays, I think this guy checks all those boxes.

"...Hutchinson is my top player, but if Hutchinson is off the board and he's gone, he goes one, I would have no issues whatsoever with (the Lions) taking Kyle Hamilton and saying this is a plug-and-play guy that gives them something they desperately need and that's somebody that can make a play."

Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton celebrates an interception in the end zone against Purdue.

The Lions did make some positive strides generating turnovers last season, finishing with 19, seven more than the previous year. Still, the team continued to rank in the bottom half of the league. Meanwhile, the 6-foot-4, 220-pound Hamilton intercepted eight passes in 31 games across three seasons for Notre Dame. 

As for another player presumably in the mix at No. 2, Jeremiah gives Hutchinson a clear nod over Oregon edge rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux. 

"First of all, I think Hutchinson just has more ways to get to the quarterback," Jeremiah said. "I think he's got more tools, in that regard. I also think he plays a lot harder on a consistent basis. I think that's a little bit of that knock on Thibodeaux is there's times where the effort kinda comes and goes a little bit. You don't every see that with Hutchinson."

Even two months out from the event, there are seemingly few options at the top of the draft who make sense for Detroit. The conversation is much more broad with the final pick in the first round, No. 32 overall, which the Lions picked up from the Los Angeles Rams as part of the Matthew Stafford trade last offseason. 

Jeremiah presently projects the Lions to add Georgia's behemoth run-stuffing nose tackle Jordan Davis at that spot, a player Jeremiah believes offers a better ability to collapse the pocket than he showed in college. 

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Previously, Jeremiah had the Lions taking Liberty quarterback Malik Willis at the end of the first round. But after a strong showing at the Senior Bowl, the analyst bumped the small school dual threat up the board a bit, having him going to Pittsburgh with the No. 20 pick. 

Still, there are plenty of draft gurus who believe the Lions could be in the market for a QB at that spot. Among them, both of ESPN's analysts, Mel Kiper and Todd McShay, recently slotted North Carolina's Sam Howell to Detroit in their mock drafts.

But Jeremiah doesn't see the value for a rebuilding team like Detroit rolling the dice on the position at the end of the first round, unless it's specifically for Willis. 

"There's risk involved with any of these quarterbacks, but he provides the upside to warrant taking the risk," Jeremiah said. "If you're going to take a 'flyer' on a quarterback at the bottom of the first round, I'd sure as heck like to have a big payoff, at least as a possibility. He's that guy. When you look at the quarterbacks in this draft, he's the one with all that upside. 

"You could look at some of the other guys and say, OK, they've got a chance to be starters, but I don't know that anybody is saying they've got a chance to be high-end starters," Jeremiah continued. "I think Malik Willis, while there's obviously plenty of risk, and it's why he could be there at the end of the first round, there's also the potential of a big pay off. That's the one I would kind of target if he was there."

Twitter: @Justin_Rogers