Draft Analyst Q&A: DaeSean Hamilton

Chris's picture

Chris Tripodi

Draft Analyst Writer

DaeSean Hamilton left Penn State as the university's all-time leader with 214 receptions and finished behind only Bobby Engram with 2,842 receiving yards. The 6-foot-1, 202-pound receiver parlayed a strong week at the East-West Shrine Game into an invite to the Senior Bowl, where he continued his impressive start to the draft process.

Draft Analyst caught up with Hamilton to talk about his career with the Nittany Lions, his experience on the All-Star circuit and his preparation for the NFL Draft.

DA: You came to Penn State, hurt your wrist and redshirted in 2013. James Franklin was announced as head coach, and there was a feeling he was going to rely on a more run-heavy offense. How concerned were you about that?

Hamilton: I wasn’t necessarily concerned. My main concern was, with Coach Franklin and his staff coming in and redshirting my first year, that I didn’t really have any game film in college and my last time playing football was in high school. I was more concerned with leaving a good first impression with the new coaching staff coming in because they’re going to bring in their own recruits and they’re just going to know guys they’re comfortable with that they met through the recruiting process when they were with Vanderbilt. I wasn’t necessarily worried about the whole run-heavy concept scheme. I knew that they ran a pro-style offense and they had Jordan Matthews down at Vanderbilt, so I knew they had successful receivers. I’d say I was more concerned about making sure I could at least make a name for myself, and I didn’t even get off my redshirt injury until two days before the spring game. That was my first practice, so that’s the only thing I was really worried about, just making sure I was able to come in there and just hit the ground running instead of playing catch up with a lot of other guys.

DA: You ended up leading the team with 82 catches as a freshman. How quickly did those worries dissipate once you got on the field and started to prove yourself?

Hamilton: They went away pretty fast; I played well in the spring game and obviously did the amount of reps that a projected starter would do. After that I carried that momentum into summer camp, and once I really got my football legs underneath me and was comfortable playing football again, and once the game of college football itself got comfortable to me, all those worries went away and I could go back to being the natural football player that I was.

DA: Scouts stamped you as a free-agent prospect before the season began. Were you aware of this and how did it affect you heading into the season?

Hamilton: I was more than aware of that. I was losing hours of sleep thinking about how I could end up being in a free-agent situation; it’s not the end of the world but it’s not an ideal spot with my goals. It just made me work a lot harder than I did in the past just because I know where my talent is at. Throughout my entire life I’ve been overlooked on my talent or football ability for whatever reason. No matter how well I played beforehand, I just happened to be overlooked by someone else. I’ve always had that chip on my shoulder and always used that as my motivation to make sure I play to the best of my ability at all times. I’m not in the position to have any bad games, bad seasons or bad practices, so I take that mentality with everything that I do.

DA: Your yards per reception increased every season and you caught a career-high nine TD passes this year. What was the biggest part of that improvement through the years?

Hamilton: As my years went on, I improved as an overall receiver. In my first year I had all the catches, all the Big Ten awards and Freshman All-American, but I wasn’t my best football player yet. I just happened to hit the ground running and made a big splash my freshman year. The numbers may not show it, but I got better as a receiver and as an overall football player as the years went on. I got smarter and started learning a lot more, and we had the talent on the team that we did and that’s why my numbers dipped for that specific reason. I might have had my best stats my freshman year, at least until this year, but I became the best football player I was this past season.

DA: In 2015 and 2016 you played a lot with Chris Godwin, Tampa Bay’s third-round pick last year. What did you learn from watching and playing with Chris before he left?

Hamilton: We learned from each other. Chris is a lot of fun, and I helped him get accustomed to being a college football player. From that point on he obviously learned quickly; he had a pretty decent freshman year, and then his sophomore and junior year he exploded. It was more of us learning from each other -- not necessarily competing with animosity but pushing each other to bring the best out of one another at all times. That’s really what contributed to the success both of us had.

DA: What kind of advice has he given you about the draft process and transitioning to the NFL?

Hamilton: We talk every week, probably a good 3-4 times a week. It’s funny because I gave him advice when he came to college and now he’s giving me advice on how the whole draft process is going to work out. He’s told me where my mind should be and what my mentality should be like going into workouts and the combine, so he’s helped me out in a lot of ways like that.

DA: What were your goals heading into Shrine week, and did any of them involve earning a spot in the Senior Bowl?

Hamilton: I wanted to go to the Senior Bowl from when I started my senior season; that’s one of the goals I had for myself was getting invited to the Senior Bowl, so I could showcase what I can do since I’d been overlooked my entire football career. I wanted to go to the Senior Bowl and then I got the East-West Shrine invite, so obviously I accepted that. I just wanted to compete with the guys people considered some of the best players in college football this season and prove that I was one of the better receivers and that I was a lot better than what they projected me as. I went in and did what I normally do. I didn’t try to do anything extra or spectacular -- just stuck to my basics, relied on my fundamentals and technique and tried to play as best as I could.

DA: What were those All-Star experiences like for you?

Hamilton: Those experiences were really fun, just getting out there and playing with the best of the best. I enjoyed all the coaching I got and all the knowledge I gained from the pro staffs that I worked with and I enjoyed competing. I love football, and that’s the main reason I accepted invites to go to both. Football is what really drives me, and football is something I can just let come naturally to me. I had no second thoughts or doubts about going to the Senior Bowl and trying to go in there and compete and earn what I believe I deserve.

DA: Who was the best corner you faced in practices?

Hamilton: I’d say the best corner was M.J. Stewart. He did really well; he had his fair share against me, during the game at least, and I had my fair share against him. He did a really good job throughout the week from what I saw and what I read, and he also did well during the game.

DA: At the Senior Bowl, observers were most impressed by your route-running. What kind of pride do you take in being able to beat defenders by mastering the technical aspects of your position?

Hamilton: The fundamentals of the route are something I’ve studied so much. I watch film of guys all the time -- some of the better college player and a lot of NFL players. I watch film of them and try to implement what I see from them into my own game. The whole route-running aspect just makes the job easier when the ball is finally coming your way. If you run a good route and you’re in the right spot and do all the fundamentals, techniques and details right, everything else is going to take care of itself. I really focused on a lot of that before I do anything else, making sure I’m running routes to the right depth and to the exact detail. A lot of that comes from my college coach, [Josh] Gattis -- he stresses a lot on route-running and made sure that once guys are always doing the details right, the ball will find you, so that’s really what I carried into the Senior Bowl and East-West Shrine Game.

DA: What part of your game do you feel is underrated when people talk about you as a prospect?

Hamilton: My game speed is up there with anybody else’s. The 40-yard dash is what people are going to knock me on because they don’t know how fast I’m going to run, but really my game speed is just as fast as anyone else’s. I’d also say my consistency. A lot of people don’t necessarily harp on that on that, but I take pride in just making sure I’m consistent and productive in every single game I’m playing in.

DA: As we head towards the combine, a lot of people will be looking at that 40 time, as you said. Scouts estimated you were a 4.57s guy before the season; is that accurate? What time do you honestly think you can run?

Hamilton: Anywhere in the 4.5s is accurate. That’s obviously a main goal of mine, and hopefully cracking the high-4.4s is a major goal for me as well.

DA: Outside of speed, what’s the one thing about your game you want to improve the most?

Hamilton: Blocking is going to be a big thing. Obviously I had Saquon Barkley in the backfield and had to block a lot in college, and that’s another thing not a lot of people talk about. I do take pride and put as much effort as I can into blocking. With me being in the slot I’m blocking linebackers so the majority of the time it could be a mismatch, but other than that I’m obviously going to do my best to put effort into blocking. You see some guys on film taking plays off; that’s not really something that I do, but obviously any receiver can improve on blocking.

DA: Do you yourself as more of a slot receiver, or do you think you can succeed on the outside in the NFL?

Hamilton: I honestly believe I can do both and I have zero problem with doing both. I played slot for the majority of my career and I played on the outside the first two years of my career. I’m able to do both; I played outside at the East-West Shrine Game and in the Senior Bowl and inside for both as well. Either way I have zero preference where I am projected to play at or where people see me playing at. Playing in the slot is more comfortable and more of an advantage for me because I’m going against guys who aren’t used to covering wide receivers, but I feel I can do both very well.

DA: Where are you training for the combine, and are there any other well-known wide receivers training with you?

Hamilton: I’m training in Fort Lauderdale at XPE with Matt Gates and Tony Fellaini. I’m with J’Mon Moore and Courtland Sutton -- he’s training with the same company but at a different facility in Boca Raton. Quadree Henderson is also down here training where I am, and Auden Tate is down here as well.

DA: You played with Moore at the Senior Bowl, did you have the chance to interact with him at all?

Hamilton: Me and J’Mon are pretty close; I talk to him a lot and obviously we train at the same facility, so we talk every day about other receivers, the draft and helping each other get better. Me and J’Mon have a pretty close relationship, doing drills and extra stuff on top of our speed workouts and lifts.

DA: What are you goals for draft day? There’s Day 2 talk floating out there; is that where you’re hoping to go and what do you think is your realistic draft ceiling?

Hamilton: I want to be a Day 2 guy -- hopefully an early Day 2 guy -- so that’s obviously a big goal for me. Obviously I have zero control where I get drafted and I have no problem where I get drafted. I know whichever team gets me, I’m going to work as hard as I can to earn that roster spot. Day 2 is really something that I’m pushing for, and I’m going to do everything in my power that I can do. Hopefully my film and postseason can help propel me in that direction.