'Heat-seeking missile' Kyle Hamilton to Lions? Combine, value raise concerns


The top of the NFL draft may have been altered Tuesday when the Jaguars slapped the franchise tag on left tackle Cam Robinson. As in, the very first pick.

The Jags have long been seen as a landing spot for one of the draft's top two offensive tackles -- NC State's Ikem Ekwonu and Alabama's Evan Neal -- as they try to insulate QB Trevor Lawrence. But with Robinson back in the fold, Jacksonville might be thinking defense with the first overall pick.

Which could have a big impact on what the Lions do one pick later.

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Most experts have mocked Michigan edge rusher Aidan Hutchinson to Detroit second overall. He has the talent and attitude to fit seamlessly in the Lions defense. But in Todd McShay's latest mock, released Wednesday in the wake of the Robinson news, Hutchinson goes No. 1 to the Jags.

Which leads to the Lions taking Notre Dame safety Kyle Hamilton at No. 2.

Hamilton would be the first safety drafted in the top two since Eric Turner went second overall to the Browns in 1991 and just the third safety in the last 30 years to be drafted in the top five. It's generally not viewed as a premium position in the NFL.

But Hamilton is said to be different, even if he disappointed at the combine where his 40 time was tied for last among 15 safeties and ranked second to last among all 46 defensive backs. Speed kills, and Hamilton (who did test better in other drills) hardly blew anyone away. McShay brushes that aside.

"No, the 4.59-second 40-yard dash doesn't bother me," he writes. "Hamilton plays fast on tape, and you don't come across 6-foot-4, 220-pound safeties with his range, explosion and ball skills very often. ... Hamilton closes like a heat-seeking missile, and his playmaking would be welcomed in Detroit."

It would be, no doubt. The Lions allowed the second most yards per attempt and the third highest passer rating to opposing quarterbacks last season. If they re-sign fellow safety Tracy Walker, he and Hamilton could form quite the tandem in the secondary.

Still, this would be a gamble for the Lions with edge rushers like Kayvon Thibodeaux and Travon Walker still on the board. Detroit needs a game-breaker with the No. 2 pick, and safeties typically don't fit that description.

But again, Hamilton could be the exception. NFL.com draft expert Daniel Jeremiah said before the combine that if Hutchinson goes No. 1, he'd have "no issues whatsoever with (the Lions) taking Hamilton and saying, 'This is a plug-and-play guy who’s going to give us something we desperately need, which is somebody that can make a play.'"

He added, "I think Kyle Hamilton stacks up really well with everybody in this draft."

Back on the clock at No. 32, the Lions could be thinking wide receiver -- or quarterback. But McShay says receivers Garrett Wilson, Drake London, Chris Olave, Treylon Burks, Jameson Williams and Jahan Dotson will be off the board, and so will Kenny Pickett, Malik Willis and Matt Corral.

So McShay has the Lions addressing another position of need on defense with Minnesota outside linebacker Boye Mafe.

"We expected a big-time workout from Mafe (at the combine), and he didn't disappoint," writes McShay. "He ran a 4.53 in the 40 and sprung 10-foot-5 in the broad jump at 261 pounds. Mafe's game is raw and needs development, but he has one of the fastest takeoffs I've seen on tape in this class. The arrow is pointing way up on him, and the Lions are searching for a consistent pass-rush presence."

Of course, that's why it would hurt to see Hutchinson go first overall; the Lions have been searching for a consistent pass-rush presence since injuries derailed Ziggy Ansah. But they could certainly do worse than Mafe. And with Hamilton already in tow, they've leave the first round with a much-needed influx of talent on defense.

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