Kyle Hamilton, Lewis Cine, and more: Breaking down the analytics of the New York Jets’ top safety targets in the 2022 NFL draft
It’s time to continue our series that compares some of the top 2022 NFL draft prospects at each position in a few different advanced metrics. After looking at edge rushers, wide receivers, and cornerbacks, it’s time to do the same for the safety position, which is another spot where the New York Jets are expected to look for help early in the draft.
Here are the seven prospects we’ll be comparing today:
- Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame, age 21.0 (#5 overall prospect on NFL Mock Draft Database’s consensus big board)
- Daxton Hill, Michigan, age 21.5 (#32)
- Lewis Cine, Georgia, age 20.5 (#34)
- Jaquan Brisker, Penn State, age 22.9 (#35)
- Jalen Pitre, Baylor, age 22.8 (#51)
- Kerby Joseph, Illinois, age 21.3 (#89)
- Bryan Cook, Cincinnati, age 22.6 (#90)
These are the seven safeties who rank among the top 100 overall players on the consensus big board at NFL Mock Draft Database.
Before diving into each player’s production, it’s important to get an idea of how they were used.
Safeties may all have the same label attached to their name, but comparing one safety against another is not always an apples-to-apples proposition. There is a ton of variation in how safeties are utilized. Some safeties live in the deep part of the field. Some live in the box. Many are constantly rotating all over the field.
The way that a safety is utilized plays a huge role in determining what his production looks like. Box safeties are placed in a position to rack up tackles-for-loss and sacks whereas deep safeties will not get many opportunities to make those plays. Deep safeties will get more chances to record interceptions and pass breakups than box safeties.
Based on tracking from Pro Football Focus, here is a breakdown of where each safety lined up in the 2021 season:
- Kyle Hamilton: 26.0% free safety / 19.9% box / 51.8% slot / 0.9% edge / 1.3% wide cornerback
- Daxton Hill: 9.6% free safety / 15.9% box / 69.8% slot / 2.4% edge / 2.3% wide cornerback
- Lewis Cine: 65.0% free safety / 18.9% box / 14.4% slot / 0.5% edge / 1.3% wide cornerback
- Jaquan Brisker: 21.0% free safety / 55.1% box / 19.5% slot / 3.6% edge / 0.9% wide cornerback
- Jalen Pitre: 1.5% free safety / 13.4% box / 66.1% slot / 16.8% edge / 2.1% wide cornerback
- Kerby Joseph: 61.5% free safety / 22.9% box / 8.9% slot / 5.7% edge / 1.0% wide cornerback
- Bryan Cook: 32.3% free safety / 41.1% box / 21.8% slot / 2.1% edge / 2.7% wide cornerback
Without further ado, it’s time to see how well these prospects performed in 2021. All rankings below are among 304 qualified FBS safeties (400+ snaps).
Overall Pro Football Focus grade
Since all of these players handled such different roles, Pro Football Focus’ overall grade is a solid metric to help us compare them all on the same plane. PFF calculates its overall grades by grading every player’s performance on each snap.
Here is a look at how the group fared when it came to overall PFF grade:
- Kerby Joseph: 90.4 (100th percentile)
- Jalen Pitre: 88.6 (99th)
- Bryan Cook: 87.6 (99th)
- Jaquan Brisker: 82.4 (96th)
- Lewis Cine: 82.4 (96th)
- Daxton Hill: 76.2 (88th)
- Kyle Hamilton: 76.1 (88th)
2021 FBS safety average: 64.5
All seven of these prospects were among the absolute best safeties in the nation. However, what really stands out is the fact that Hamilton – by far the most hyped prospect of the bunch – actually had the worst grade of them all.
Three of PFF’s top-five qualified FBS safeties from the 2021 season are in this draft class. Joseph’s 90.4 PFF grade led the nation. Pitre ranked third at 88.6 and Cook placed fifth at 87.6.
Allowed passer rating
This statistic tells us the passer rating that opposing quarterbacks generated when targeting the player.
As we discussed in the cornerback breakdown, a player’s allowed passer rating is a solid metric for evaluating the quality of his on-ball coverage. It rewards the following four things:
- Allowing a low number of yards per target
- Allowing a low completion percentage
- Allowing a low touchdown rate
- Securing a high rate of interceptions
Here is how the group fared when it came to allowed passer rating:
- Kyle Hamilton: 42.3 (99th percentile) – 14/28 for 176 yards, 1 TD, 3 INT
- Jaquan Brisker: 46.8 (98th) – 12/21 for 105 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT
- Bryan Cook: 51.9 (95th) – 22/37 for 202 yards, 0 TD, 2 INT
- Jalen Pitre: 55.2 (92nd) – 31/54 for 268 yards, 0 TD, 2 INT
- Kerby Joseph: 66.4 (83rd) – 9/19 for 134 yards, 2 TD, 5 INT
- Lewis Cine: 80.7 (70th) – 37/59 for 393 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT
- Daxton Hill: 81.5 (69th) – 48/68 for 456 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT
2021 FBS safety average: 96.1
Despite earning a less impressive PFF grade than the rest of the crew, Hamilton’s raw statistics in coverage were actually the best. Thanks to his 50% allowed completion rate and a 1-to-3 touchdown-to-interception ratio, he allowed a passer rating of just 42.3, fourth-best of any qualified FBS safety.
Brisker placed three spots behind Hamilton with his 46.8 passer rating. He earned it on the strength of his 9.5% interception rate and measly 5.0 yards per target allowed.
Pitre allowed the fewest yards per target of the bunch at 4.96. Joseph starred in the takeaway department with five interceptions on only 19 targets (26.3% interception rate).
Everyone in this group had respectable numbers in coverage. None of the players allowed more touchdowns than interceptions or yielded a high rate of yards per target.
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Missed tackle rate
Tackling is crucial at the safety position. Safeties are often the last man standing between the football and the end zone, so their misses typically cause more damage than misses by defenders at other positions.
Here is how the players fared when it came to missed tackle rate (missed tackles ÷ missed tackles-plus-total tackles):
- Kyle Hamilton: 6.5% (97th percentile)
- Bryan Cook: 7.0% (95th)
- Lewis Cine: 9.3% (87th)
- Kerby Joseph: 9.5% (87th)
- Daxton Hill: 12.3% (73rd)
- Jaquan Brisker: 13.5% (66th)
- Jalen Pitre: 15.5% (53rd)
2021 FBS safety average: 15.9%
Once again, Hamilton leads the pack. Hamilton finished plays with excellent consistency as he missed only two tackles in 2021.
Cook wasn’t far behind. While Cook missed seven tackles in 2021, he made a whopping total of 93 tackles defensively, so his overall efficiency was great.
The two deep safeties of the bunch, Cine and Joseph, both did well.
Nobody in the group was below-average at tackling among FBS safeties, but Hill (10 missed tackles), Brisker (10 missed tackles), and Pitre (15 missed tackles) will need to clean up their finishing ability as they prepare to face better talent in the NFL.
Finally, here’s a roundup of each player’s percentile rankings in the three categories above, listed from best to worst based on their average percentile ranking across the three stats.
|Player||PFF Grade||QB Rating||Tackling||Average|
There’s some solid depth at this position. The seven players in our study tended to perform at an elite level across these three key statistics.
Cook comes out on top as the surprise leader. Widely viewed as a late day-two prospect, Cook’s status as a redshirt senior from a non-Power-5 conference hurts his stock, but his production suggests that he could be a steal.
While Hamilton fares tremendously, there doesn’t appear to be an enormous gap between him and his peers in this talented safety class, at least in terms of 2021 on-field production. Perhaps safety-needy teams like the Jets could find better value by waiting until later in the draft to address the position.
It will be interesting to see how New York attacks the safety position in the draft. Free-agent pickup Jordan Whitehead is penciled into one starting spot, but with Ashtyn Davis and Lamarcus Joyner being the prime competitors to start alongside him, the Jets could still use another upgrade at the position.
2022 NFL Draft Analytical Comparisons:
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