The evolution of the passing game in the National Football League over the last ten years or so has created the need for more pass catchers. Running backs who can catch the ball out of the backfield have become much more important to the overall success of the passing game as a whole. Slot receivers have become a much bigger part of offenses during this time as well, and several drafted in recent years have found success in the league.
Usually, these types of players are drafted in the mid-to-late rounds of the NFL draft, as the position isn’t one that usually demands high draft capital. Players like Jarvis Landry (second round), Cooper Kupp (third round), and Adam Thielen (undrafted) have all become very productive players for their respective NFL teams in the last several years.
One slot receiver who is a candidate to be selected in the mid to late rounds of the NFL draft, and also late rounds of dynasty rookie drafts, is DaeSean Hamilton, WR Penn State.
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Statistics from sports-reference.com.
After redshirting his first season at Penn State, Hamilton burst onto the collegiate scene in his very first game, a win against UCF in Dublin, Ireland – catching 11 passes for 165 yards. He finished a strong redshirt freshman season as the Big Ten leader in receptions (82) and was fourth in yards per game (69.2), and fifth in receiving yards (889). Hamilton was named to several freshmen All-American teams and was named second-team all-Big Ten by multiple publications and the Big Ten media.
Hamilton had major statistical regression during his sophomore and junior seasons, finishing with under 600 yards in each campaign. However, he did see an uptick in touchdowns in his sophomore season. Some of this can be explained by an offensive line that didn’t give quarterback Christian Hackenberg any time to throw and was severely depleted due to scholarship restrictions placed on Penn State by the NCAA. Regression from Hackenberg and the emergence of fellow wide receiver Chris Godwin also played a role in Hamilton’s regression.
Hamilton enjoyed a bounce-back year in his final season at Penn State, leading the Nittany Lions in receiving yards (857) and catching a career-high nine touchdown passes. He re-established himself as a reliable weapon out of the slot and capped off his collegiate career with an impressive showing against the Washington Huskies in the 2017 PlayStation Fiesta Bowl where he caught five passes for 110 yards and two touchdowns.
At 6’1”, 203 pounds, Hamilton is a bigger bodied slot receiver. He is an excellent route runner who shows good rhythm and precision in his routes. He frequently beats defenders on slant routes with enough separation to allow for yards after catch opportunities. While Hamilton doesn’t always high point the ball, he does come down with a lot of contested catches due to his ability to track the ball and make body adjustments in the air. He also has good awareness and a knack for knowing where the chains are and has the strength to get to the sticks in key situations.
While route running overall is one of Hamilton’s strengths, he struggles with long speed and doesn’t show initial burst off of the line of scrimmage. While he posted a respectable 4.52 at Penn State’s Pro Day, Hamilton will never be considered a burner. He also struggles with focus drops occasionally, although this seemed to improve some during his senior season.
Hamilton’s ability to run strong, clean routes in space is reflected in his three-cone drill score (66th percentile). His agility and fluidity in his movements are also confirmed as above average in this score. Hamilton scores in the 67th percentile in the 20-yard shuttle, displaying above average traits in quickness and his ability to change direction.
Other than weight (54th percentile) and hand size (53rd percentile), where he scores just above the mean, Hamilton scores below average in all of the other measurable categories. He doesn’t overly inspire athletically, although the general consensus was that he performed admirably at the NFL Combine (being singled out by former All-Pro wide receiver Steve Smith for his route running and pass catching ability) and at Penn State’s Pro Day, possibly slightly improving his draft stock.
With a dynasty ADP of 195, Hamilton is going somewhere in between rounds 16 and 17 in start-up drafts. His rookie ADP currently sits at 34, and he is the 12th wide receiver being drafted in rookie drafts, usually going late in the third round. The DLF staff currently has Hamilton as the 43rd-best prospect in the 2018 rookie class based on consensus rankings, so the dynasty community seems to be a little higher on him than the staff is. Hamilton benefits from this year’s wide receiver class being a little lackluster in terms of talent, both in the NFL Draft and in dynasty drafts.
Hamilton is never going to be a WR1 or WR2 on your dynasty teams, but he has the skill set to be somewhat relevant as a WR3/4 and as a slot receiver in the NFL. His long-term dynasty value will be determined by what team he ends up landing with, and whether he gets an opportunity to be the slot receiver in that offense.
DaeSean Hamilton enjoyed a productive receiving career at Penn State, breaking the school’s all-time receptions record during his senior season, and finishing second all-time in receiving yards. He was a part of their 2016 conference championship season and played a big role in the Big Ten championship game that year, catching eight passes for 118 yards. His production will surely be missed in Happy Valley, but does he have the tools necessary to be productive in the National Football League?
Hamilton is solid, yet unspectacular athletically, but has been well received by NFL teams that have spoken with him during the pre-draft process. Hamilton will need to find the right fit to stick long-term in the NFL, but his character and intangibles will most likely give him the opportunity to be drafted and make a roster.