+By the standards of 6’2 wide receivers, changes directions like Tavon Austin
+Awesome route runner
+Major YAC threat, something rare out of bigger receivers
+Plays hard, good blocker
-Really tiny hands
-Will trap passes against frame
-Reckless ball carriage makes him fumble prone
-No sideline awareness
Arkansas wide receiver Cobi Hamilton is one of the most underrated prospects of the 2013 NFL draft. If nothing else, his combination of size and quickness makes him as tough to cover as any wide receiver in this draft class, using his size to get into good position to make a play on the ball along with his quickness to create tons of separation. On top of that, he can create a lot of yards after the catch. He has his problems (hands), but he still should be a good NFL player.
Hamilton had average measurables. He has above average size at 6’2, 212lbs, and solid speed with a 4.56 40 at the NFL combine. His arm length was average for a guy his size at 32 1/2 inches. Everything else went poorly. His hands were some of the smallest at the combine at 8 3/4 inches, which explains some of his drop issues, and his vertical jump (29.5 in) was terrible. When I think about it, I can’t recall ever seeing him jump at the college level, so it’s not a surprise. Still, it’s not the whole story for Hamilton. He has always looked faster on tape than in shorts (could pass for a 4.45), and his change of direction skills are elite.
Hamilton has phenomenal stats. He was pretty much the only player on Arkansas that played better in 2012 compared to 2011. On the season, he had 90 catches for 1335 yards in 12 games, ranking 5th in the NCAA in yards per game. He’s had at least some form of playing time since his freshman year, but, with Arkansas losing Joe Adams, Greg Childs, and Jarius Wright in 2011, Hamilton was finally given the playing time he needed to breakout in 2012, and did he ever. Those numbers are impressive.
Hamilton is a really good route runner. Normally, your prototypical slot receiver is a guy who uses elite quickness to run phenomenal routes and make tons of catches (Wes Welker). Typically, they’re short, because players with short strides often have very quick feet. Guys like Wes Welker, Randall Cobb, etc. Their footwork sets them apart from other receivers. They have great burst and short area quickness. Hamilton, however, is an exception to the notion that only short players have quick feet. By the standards of 6’2 receivers, Cobi Hamilton looks like Tavon Austin. He has very loose hips, great burst, gets a good jump off the line of scrimmage, and change directions with remarkable ease. His fluidity is off the charts for a guy his size, and he just explodes out of cuts. And, as a result, he is among the best route runners of this draft class. If there is is one flaw with his route running, it’s that he isn’t experienced with, or at least doesn’t incorporate, deceptive head fakes and double moves into his game. The speed at which he cuts is phenomenal, but you’d like to see him occasionally try to use a head fake or a double move to try to get a defender off balance. The footwork for double moves isn’t easy to master, but, if anyone has the feet for it, it’s Hamilton, and if he learns how to use his eyes to deceive defenders, he could be a scary good route runner at the NFL level. On top of that, he is very physical in his routes, and knows how to use his size and strength to get into position to make a play.
Hamilton is really good at creating yards after the catch. Again, he is a complete exception to the notion that big receivers aren’t quick. He’s very quick, and knows how to change directions to simply break the ankles of opposing defenders. On top of that, his balance is absolutely incredible. I can’t recall a guy who gets hit near the sideline but finds a way to stay in bounds as often as Hamilton. It’s pretty cool. He also has tremendous core strength and a low center of gravity, so it’s really difficult to tackle him by the shoestrings, and his vision is phenomenal. The best evidence for his abilities after the catch are actually in his stats. Hamilton had 1335 yards in 2012. Obviously, impressive. But he only had 5 touchdowns, a small number given all the yards he had. But what’s even more surprising is that he had 14.8 yards per catch. That’s very good, and it should translate to more than 5 touchdowns. But there’s really only one explanation for how a guy can get so many yards, maintain a high yards per catch, and not score. Make guys miss (see Antonio Brown’s, who is maybe the best YAC receiver in the NFL, 2011 statistics). Hamilton rarely catches a throw downfield, but makes lots of short to intermediate catches (tons of crossing routes) and turns all of them into nice gains. He doesn’t have the Cordarrelle Patterson-esque long speed to turn a crossing route into an 80 yard touchdown, but he does have the moves to break at least two tackles and make it into a 15 yard gain. And that’s invaluable, because these sort of high percentage, short to intermediate throws that go for long gains when Hamilton is on the field are the definition of efficiency.
As a nice little bonus, Hamilton’s on field intensity and toughness appear to be well above average. I can only speculate on his intangibles, simply because I have never met the guy, but, if nothing else, he is more than willing as a run blocker, and isn’t afraid to make catches in traffic, although he occasionally looks a bit tentative making catches over the middle.
Hamilton’s biggest issue is his poor hands. And there really bad, across the board. One, they’re tiny. As stated before, 8 3/4 inches at the combine, a real problem. It’s really surprising, given that a guy his size shouldn’t have such tiny hands, but, at the same time, it’s not surprising, given all the problems he had catching the ball at the collegiate level. He also has looked a tad reckless with his ball carriage at times, sometimes losing control without being touched. Like many small handed receivers (Torrey Smith), he traps lots of passes against his frame, and honestly, it’s often more effective than letting his hands try to make the catch, though, of course, it’s very ineffective in traffic. There is one thing I can’t help but find to be interesting with Hamilton. Every ball that hits his hands seemingly has the same probability of being caught, whether it’s thrown behind him, in traffic, etc., because he is really good at adjusting to the football and getting into good position. He makes enough spectacular catches the average receiver wouldn’t make to atone for at least some of the drops he has on catches the average receiver would make. And that helps.
I love Hamilton. Guys who are 6’2 aren’t supposed to be able to explode out of cuts like Hamilton can. It’s a nice ability. Throw in his ability to create yards after the catch, and you’ve got a solid player.
NFL Comparison: DeVier Posey without the character issues (Hamilton will be picked by Houston). Maybe Dwayne Bowe, except Hamilton is less of a threat downfield but a bit better after the catch. Both of them, however, have elite burst and quickness by the standards of 6’2 receivers, have inconsistent hands, and are very good at adjusting to and tracking the football.
Grade: 89 (worthy of a an early second, maybe late first round pick)
Projection: 80 (will be a late second to early third round pick)