Size: Hamilton is listed at 6’3, 209 pounds and he certainly looks like a big receiver on film. His size makes him an attractive red zone target and he has the leaping ability to give him a large catch radius.
Speed: Hamilton is a track athlete so he has speed, but I believe he has build-up speed rather than explosive/burner speed. On the field he looks like a 4.48-4.5 40 yard dash guy which is definitely impressive for his size, but it’s not elite. He is a long strider so when he runs vertical routes he can cover some ground and has deceptive deep speed, but he’s not going to be the next Randy Moss by any means.
Quickness: This is one thing I wonder about with Hamilton, his quickness is inconsistent. This is evident in his route running and also when he’s changing direction. I don’t think he has a lot of burst which makes him a less explosive athlete than you might expect. He flashes this coming off the line of scrimmage or after he makes a reception, but it is very inconsistent.
Release: This is one of Hamilton’s inconsistencies. He looks like he is moving at one speed at all times and isn’t a sudden athlete that will accelerate quickly and blow by you. He FLASHES (can’t emphasize that word enough) the ability to get off the line of scrimmage with some explosiveness and that can get him a step on the corner when he is running a vertical route, but he doesn’t have an abundance of acceleration to go from 0-60 as quick as true burners. He hasn’t dealt with an abundance of jams at the line of scrimmage, but he is big and strong enough to fight them off and work either an inside or outside release. He could certainly improve in all aspects of his release though, because he flashes some burst off the ball but it is not often there, and most college receivers need work beating jams at the LOS.
Route Running: This is one of the more frustrating aspects of Hamilton’s game. His route tree is very underdeveloped at this point, and the majority of his routes are vertical or “9” routes which don’t demand anything beyond running in a straight line and looking for the ball. The other routes they will have him run are crossing routes or drags and curl routes. Teams respect his ability to threaten them deep, so at times they will give him significant cushion and that enables him to create separation when he runs a curl route, but it isn’t necessarily because he runs good routes. He rarely, if ever, sinks his hips when he is running routes and rounds off his breaks when he is running a deep in or a post. It was almost sad watching him try to separate from Alabama’s corners because without crisp route running and burst in and out of your breaks you aren’t going to get them out of position. They were always in his hip pocket and if not for a fantastic touchdown reception he made over Dre Kirkpatrick on a 50/50 ball he would have been held without a reception for the entire game. That is a credit to Alabama’s defense but also to Hamilton’s struggles with creating separation with his route running. Arkansas’ offense under Bobby Petrino used a lot of crossing routes, 4 and 5 wide receiver sets and other route designs to help his receivers get open. I’m afraid Hamilton hasn’t had to improve his route running for this reason, and that means he will likely be one of those receivers who doesn’t break out until his 3rd season once he has worked on his route running.
Hands: Hamilton has good hands, it is rare to see a ball hit him in the hands and fall to the ground. Only on the toughest possible catches did I ever see the ball hit him in the hands and not come down with it for a reception. Hamilton is going to need to be a Larry Fitzgerald type in the NFL, running great routes to create separation and being able to win jump balls and make difficult catches in traffic. I tend to call difficult 50/50 ball receptions “Fitzgerald catches” because they are plays that Fitzgerald would make, and Hamilton flashed the leaping ability to high point jump balls and come down with them. He isn’t on Fitzgerald’s level, but he has the ability to make those catches, just not as consistently as you would expect from a true #1 like Fitzgerald. That is why I believe Hamilton will be a reliable #2 in the NFL once he can improve his route running. But Hamilton shows the ability to make the catch, secure it and then run with the ball, and I haven’t seen him have any “concentration drops” which is very encouraging. He has also shown that he can make catches that are behind him and does a good job catching the ball with his hands away from his body. That really improves his catch radius.
Body Control: Hamilton’s body control is difficult to describe. He has the ability to go up, high point a pass and come down with his feet in bounds, but there are times where he just allows his momentum to take him out of bounds. He doesn’t sink his hips when he runs routes either, though I think that his route running can be improved if he wants to improve it. He can be a little shifty and make guys miss at times, but overall his body control is difficult to describe. I would give him an above average grade for this, but Hamilton has proven to be a bit of a tricky player to evaluate.
In Traffic: As I mentioned previously, I like that Hamilton has shown the ability to make “Fitzgerald catches” but he certainly doesn’t come down with every difficult 50/50 ball. He has shown the ability to make a catch, secure it and sustain a hit immediately and not drop the ball. That’s good to see, however I think he could stand to improve his ball security because he doesn’t cover the ball up once contact is initiated and this led to a strip from behind against Texas A&M when a defender punched the ball out from behind.
YAC: Hamilton is sneakily good at creating yards after the catch. I can hardly believe how often he picks up additional yardage given how I have described how his route running leaves plenty to be desired and that he is not an overly explosive athlete. However, particularly on curl routes, he does a very good job of catching the ball with his hands, securing it and turning upfield to the opposite shoulder that the defender is attacking. Then, thanks to his size and strength, the out of position tackler will slide off of him and he will pick up additional yardage. He has a good feel for running with the ball and uses his blockers well when he’s in the open field and like I said earlier he has a bit of shiftiness to him to help get defenders out of position to make a tackle. And when he catches the ball on a crossing route and he’s already picked up some speed he can outrun some defenders that might not take good angles and pick up more yardage. He’s not an elite after catch player, but he is definitely better at generating yards after the catch than I expected him to be.
Blocking: It’s been difficult to evaluate Hamilton’s blocking both because of camera angles and also because of the depth Arkansas had at receiver last year. Hamilton certainly wasn’t on the field every snap on offense, and thus it made it more difficult to evaluate his blocking. I wouldn’t give him much more than an average grade in this area right now, but he will engage the defender and wall them off for a couple seconds. He’s willing to block downfield as well, but isn’t a dominant blocker by any means.
Overall: Hamilton was a fairly confusing player to evaluate for me. He has NFL size, NFL speed, NFL hands and a surprisingly good ability to generate yards after the catch, but his route running, quickness and release left plenty to be desired. He needs to work on his route running first and foremost if he wants to take the next step as a receiver, because right now he is essentially just getting open thanks to Arkansas’ offensive concepts, not because he is running crisp routes. He’s got NFL hands and they are one of his strengths, but I want to see him attack the ball every time he has the opportunity to. He did this at times, but other times he would wait for the ball to come down to him allowing a defender to make a play on it. That may just be a mentality that some receivers have and others don’t, but Hamilton has shown that he will do it so I’d like to see him do it even more. Hamilton looks like a reliable #2 in the NFL to me. He’s not strictly a possession guy because he has deceptive deep speed thanks to his long strides, but he also doesn’t run good enough routes to be the go-to guy on 3rd down when you need a conversion. However, his ability to stretch defenses vertically, his reliable hands and good feel for getting yards after the reception make him an appealing complementary target. I don’t think he will ever be a go-to guy, but his combination of size, hands and speed will make him an attractive #2 in the NFL.
Projection: 2nd-3rd round: Hamilton isn’t a 1st round receiver right now, but I think he has the potential to go in the top 75. 6’3” receivers with impressive hands and the ability to stretch defenses vertically don’t exactly grow on trees, but Hamilton has technique work to do particularly as a route runner. I don’t think Hamilton is going to be as NFL ready as some recent receiver prospects have been, and may need a year or two of NFL coaching before he is truly ready to be a starter. Keep in mind he has been buried on a talent-laden Arkansas’ depth chart his entire career there up to this point, and we really don’t have a good feel for how he will do as one of the go-to guys on a game to game basis. He’s got a great opportunity to improve his statistics and also his NFL prospects now that he should be Arkansas’ #1 receiver, but I’ll need to see improved route running and explosiveness to change my mind about him being a #2 receiver in the NFL, not a true #1.