Adrian Hamilton, Prairie View DE/OLB is an interesting prospect who absolutely dominated the Southwestern Athletic Conference this past season, accounting for a record-breaking 20.5 sacks; breaking the record formerly set by Robert Mathis, who has gone on to become a pro bowl player with the Indianapolis Colts. The thing that is most intriguing about Hamilton is that before enrolling at Prairie View A&M he was a highly coveted high school prospect coming out of well-known Dallas Carter High School, where he played alongside 49er’s WR Michael Crabtree. After initially enrolling at Oklahoma State out of high school, Hamilton was asked to grey shirt on account of the coaching staff handing out too many of their allotted 25 scholarships. Forced to make a decision, Hamilton chose to move on from Oklahoma State and walk on at Texas Tech to play alongside his former high school teammate Michael Crabtree, and under then head coach Mike Leach.
Hamilton played sparingly during his first season with the Red Raiders in 2008, however academics and a lack of finances forced Hamilton to drop out of school and once again give up his dream of playing for a major division one college football program. From Lubbock, Hamilton hit the books and worked hard to get his academics back into priority to re-establish his football eligibility while at Dallas Community College. Looking for just one more opportunity to show he belonged, Hamilton got his chance when Prairie View A&M Head Coach Gabe Northern, who was a former 2nd round pick by the Buffalo Bills in the 1996 NFL Draft took in Adrian Hamilton, giving him a full scholarship and chance to compete in the game he loves so much.
With two years of eligibility remaining, Hamilton found it hard to find the field in 2010, where he was trapped behind a pair of talented defensive ends in Quinton Spears and Jarvis Wilson. Nonetheless, despite very little playing time Hamilton was still able to create some splash plays and make an impact by accounting for 5.5 sacks, 8 tackles for a loss and a blocked punt return for a touchdown. However, it was in 2011 where Hamilton finally made his name known, while getting him back on the radars of NFL scouts and personnel men, with a performance that we haven’t seen out of a defensive player in the SWAC since the legendary Robert Mathis. In 2011, Hamilton was able to earn Defensive Player of the Year honors where he continuously wreaked havoc in the backfield and made enough noise to get his name back into the mix. Every journey is different and unique, but Hamilton has overcome quite a bit of adversity to become the player he is today and this perseverance and never give up kind of attitude is the type of thing that endures you to an athlete and person. Here is what I saw when I broke down multiple games of Adrian Hamilton from his performances in the midst of his record-breaking season.
Size: Adrian Hamilton participated in the HBCU Bowl in early December where he measured in at 6-2 246 lbs. His hands were an impressive 10 1/8′, while his arms measured out 32 1/2′ with a 77 3/4′ wingspan. Hamilton possesses just average length for the position in the NFL and will likely be forced to move to outside linebacker in the NFL due to his less than ideal frame and size to stick at defensive end. Hamilton would be best served to add 5-10 lbs. to his frame in the NFL, without sacrificing too much of his timed speed (4.76, HBCU Bowl).
Pass Rush/Quickness: Adrian Hamilton possesses an above average first step but is likely to just be average at best in the NFL. He also has some dip and bend ability, showing adequate flexibility to drop his pad level around the corner without sacrificing the ability to stay on his feet and get knocked off-balance. Hamilton’s foot speed and change of direction ability is good and it allows him to consistently beat the heavy footed offensive lineman he faced at the collegiate level on a normal basis, as he executes a pretty effective up and under move thanks to his superior athleticism. This outside-in pass rush move is one of his favorites as he times that up with an equally effective spin move that is quick and sudden, leaving offensive lineman off-balance and unable to recover. Despite all this, Hamilton seems to be lacking in the pass rush department at this point and I can’t help but think he will struggle at the next level where NFL caliber offensive lineman will be able to match his athleticism and strength. The number of sacks Hamilton was able to put up this season were impressive but film analysis shows that many of these sacks came on missed assignments and simply poor foot speed/technique by his competition. In the NFL, Hamilton will likely struggle with longer limbed offensive lineman who can match his foot speed and change of direction ability. Hamilton seemed to get by on sheer athleticism by simply running the arc, which will not translate to the NFL in my opinion. The reason I say this is because Hamilton routinely struggles with hand placement and doesn’t use his arms well enough to create space/separation and room to work for himself. Hamilton shows good to great upper body strength and has some bull rush ability but nothing stands out that makes me think he can become a premier pass rushing terror off the edge to this point. Hamilton also lacks many counter moves that can keep him in the play after his initial up field rush has been neutralized.
Run Defense: As I said before, Hamilton would seem to have exceptional upper body strength as he simply over-powered and practically bench pressed a player off of his body at one point in my film study. This type of upper body strength is extremely important and a nice tool for Hamilton as he is able to set the edge and use his big hands to control his man at the point of attack. However, Hamilton must work on his hand placement as he consistently fails to get inside positioning with his hands and will struggle in the phone booth and thus be washed out of plays on more occasions than you would like to see. His inability to stack and shed is concerning as he is unable to slip blocks with great frequency to find the ball carrier. At times Hamilton will simply fly up field and underwhelms with his hand to hand combat skills, exposing his chest and doing a poor job to create space and room to operate/disengage. Hamilton has some natural ability and tools to work with as he is also an absolutely ferocious and violent hitter who knows how to find the football and dislodge it from his target (6 FF in 2011). However, he also has a lot to work on, especially in terms of his hand placement and overall technique to disengage from offensive lineman who are easily able to latch on to his body and take control from the word “go”.
Recognition/Awareness/Instincts: Probably one of Hamilton’s best physical traits is his ball awareness skills as he always seems to know where the football is and work his way back into the play. His six forced fumbles last season are a testament to his ability to find the football and punch it out when he has an opportunity. This is an extremely effective skill to possess as it shows he understands the importance of turnovers and how to create them by going for the football. Adrian Hamilton also shows a good amount of discipline as he rarely crashes down and plays out of control, leaving backside containment open. Instead, Hamilton shows football smarts and trusts his eyes, as well as displaying the ability to break down in space and pursue to the ball even if he is simply in chase or pursuit.
Motor/Toughness: Just as persistent as he is off the field, Hamilton also shows a good amount of persistence while giving chase on the backside in pursuit. With that said, I do think Hamilton could be more physical at times and I am not sure if he gives his best effort from snap to snap. Hamilton’s motor is good, but I personally like to see smaller school players leave it all out on the field and having an unquestioned/great motor is something that either flashes or doesn’t; and in this case I didn’t see it from Hamilton consistently enough to catch my attention. Hamilton has the tools to be good but he needs to flash that mean, nasty, violent temperament that makes prospects stand out from the competition, especially if it is at a lower level. I also think this mean streak and relentless attitude would do wonders in terms of his ability to disengage and fight his way off blocks as he lacks that violent punch to jolt his defender.
Intangibles: Look, I really want to believe in Hamilton and he is certainly an intriguing player, but he has some issues he needs to clean up first. Hamilton deserves a chance and his story and remarkable perseverance and determination to make it this far despite the adversities he has faced is inspiring and something that will surely be a positive quality scouts will take note of. Having listened to Hamilton speak and talk while participating in radio interviews makes me believe he is a well spoken and grounded young man who is also humble and appreciative. The fact that he is making the effort to participate in many draft related events is a positive sign and shows me he is serious about getting his name out there in hopes of catching someone’s attention. I can’t wait to follow this young man’s journey, as it has already been one of many ups and downs, but this is the type of guy we all want to root for as he exudes the type of determination, drive, and attitude we are all seeking to find.
Hamilton is an inspiring young man who I could see going in the later rounds, but will likely be a priority free agent type player. He is a worthy, low risk player, whose greatest impact and chance to stick on a roster could lie in his ability to make an impact on special teams due to his violent hitting style and athleticism. I can see Hamilton being a practice squad player who could continue to develop while making his impact on special teams early on. Very rarely did Hamilton drop into coverage so it is hard to get a feel for how well he operates in space and how tight his hips are to stick with receivers coming into his area. This position change, along with his handwork are two of the biggest obstacles Hamilton will need to overcome to become a player at the next level. However, if his past is any indication, I wouldn’t bet against this kid making a roster down the road.