Chip Vaughn v. Michael Hamlin - YOU DECIDE 2009

Next in the YOU DECIDE series on DBs is a comparison of Chip Vaughn and Michael Hamlin.  Both players have sparked the interest of the Colts and Colts fans.  Additionally, both players seem to be potential fits not only as SS depth for Sander but also as potential Cato June type players at LB in the strong nickel packages.  One is more adept at pass coverage while the other is better against the run so the Colts will have a choice to make about which attribute is more important.  If Vaughn and Hamlin are both available late in the 3rd, which player would you select?

Chip Vaughn - Wake Forest

Draft Prospect
Combine Video

6'2", 221 lbs.
4.42 40 Yard Dash, 4.12 20 Yard Shuttle, 7.03 3-Cone Drill
37 Inch Vertical Jump, 21 Bench Reps

87 Tackles, 28 Assists, 2.5 TFL, 2 INTs, 6 PBUs, 2 FR

2007: Suffered a concussion in the North Carolina State game in November.


Strengths: Looks the part. Rare size and upper-body development for the position. Aggressive defender that attacks in run support. Reliable open-field tackler. Heavy hitter that can separate the ballcarrier from the ball, resulting in forced fumbles and passes broken up. Appears to have at least adequate straight-line speed, good balance and a low backpedal. Good leaping ability to battle for the ball. Has developed a reputation for game-changing plays over his career. Came to Wake Forest as a wide receiver and is still an ascending player.

Large, forceful safety who displays good awareness in centerfield. Effectively diagnoses the action, plays disciplined football, and stays with assignments. Works well with cornerbacks, and displays solid ball skills as well as coverage abilities between the numbers. Forceful up the field and squares into tackles, bringing ball handlers down at the point of attack.

Chip Vaughn is a fierce defender and lays crushing blows on his opponents.  He is arguably the best run defender amongst the safeties in this draft and has the vision and awareness in a zone coverage scheme to whack the receiver just as the ball is arriving, separating him from the ball.  In my mind, Vaughn looks more Bob Sanders-like than any safety I've seen in the draft since Sanders was drafted.  He'll probably not get many interceptions, like Sanders, not only because he's not often asked to do so in the scheme but also because he tends to stay in space tracking the ball than spend his time in man-coverage. 

Weaknesses: Better in run support than against the pass. Questionable instincts. A step slow in recognizing the action and has a hitch in his turn. May lack the agility to mirror routes. Better facing the quarterback. Loses track of the ball and has only marginal hand-eye coordination for the interception. Surrounded by a great deal of talent at Wake Forest.

Lacks great speed to the sidelines and usually a half-step late arriving on the scene, trying to make plays out to the flanks. Shows minimal quickness and explosion to his game. Has off-the-field issues that may raise red flags.

The biggest concern for a team like the Colts will be Vaughn's off-field issues.  What I cannot find is particulars about Vaughn's issues and it seems whatever the problem was it was minor as his punishment was only to sit out the first half of the 2008 season-opener.  Otherwise, Vaughn's strengths and weaknesses play right into what is typical of SS for the Colts.  With time to develop, and he does still have upside, he could become an even stronger player with a year behind Sanders/Bethea.  Until then, he has all the tools ,the nose for the football and the field-vision to be a solid special teams contributor.


Monday Practice Notes:  Vaughn struggled in one-on-one pass cover drills but looked real good in centerfield.  He has terrific sideline-to-sideline range and covers a lot of area on the field.  Vaughn also made several nice plays helping out cornerbacks on the deep throw.

Tuesday Practice Notes: The more you see Vaughn the more you like him.  He's not flashy or explosive just very steady in centerfield and does a great job constantly putting himself in a position to make plays or help out the cornerbacks.

Wednesday Practice Notes:  Vaughn has shown steady improvement all week.  During drills he did a great job battling the quicker Mike Thomas to defend the pass.  

Thursday Practice Notes: No notes.

Analysis:  When Vaughn was used as a traditional safety he performed well.  When asked to play man coverage he struggled.  Overall it was a good week for the Wake Forest safety who likely moved into the third round.

Vaughn's performance at Senior Bowl practices supported what most knew about him from watching his tape at Wake Forest already.  He is not an overly effective pass defender in coverage.  He is strongest in space in a zone but can support over the top when he is needed and covers a lot of ground.  Additionally, Vaughn showed the ability to be coached and to develop quickly when asked to make adjustments by NFL level coaches.


Michael Hamlin - Clemson

Draft Prospect

6'2", 214 lbs.
4.57 40 Yard Dash, 4.42 20 Yard Shuttle, 7.14 3-Cone Drill
37.5 Inch Vertical Jump, 17 Bench Reps

110 Tackles, 36 Assists, 3 TFL, 1 Sack, 10 PBUs, 2 QB Pressures, 6 INTs

2006: Suffered a fifth metatarsal bone fracture in his left foot during fourth quarter action vs. Boston College in September, missing the next three games.
2007: Left the Chick-fil-A Bowl with an undisclosed injury.
2009: Suffered a hamstring pull working out nine days prior to Pro Day.


Strengths: Rangy player with the frame to add an additional 10-15 pounds of mass.  Quick to come up in run support.  Willing to take on blocks to get to the action.  Reliable tackler in the open field who flashes hitting ability.  Wrap-up tackler who looks to punch or rip the ball out to create a turnover.  Instinctive in coverage. Reads the quarterback's eyes and gets a good break on the ball due to his feel for the game.  Natural hands for the interception.  Competes for the ball and can time his leap to catch it at its highest point.  Good vision and elusiveness with the ball in his hands.  Cerebral player who lines up the Clemson defensive backfield and was voted a permanent team captain as a junior.

Large, athletic safety who is a force on the field when he applies himself. Moves well on his feet, works well with cornerbacks, and gets vertical to defend the pass. Forceful up the field in run defense, and jars opponents with hard hits. Solid tackler when he squares into ball handlers and wraps up. Displays a closing burst of speed, and plays with a good degree of explosion. 

Michael Hamlin's strong suit is his pass coverage.  He excels in zone coverage and reads the offense well, making strong breaks on the ball by reading the QB.  He flashes big hit ability, similar to Antoine Bethea, and is not afraid of stepping up to make an impact defending the run.  One could say that Hamlin is a bit more of a well-rounded S prospect while Vaughn is more of a physical run supporter with the ability to help over the top but without the ball skills a lot of teams look for from their safeties.  His taller/leaner frame keeps him from being more physical on the field but he could bulk up if asked to without losing much of his quickness or agility.

Weaknesses: Questionable straight-line speed.  Much better with his eyes pointed toward the quarterback, as he lacks the deep speed most teams want as the deep safety.  Reliable open-field tackler, but lacks bulk and explosive hitting ability to be an intimidator over the middle.  Durability red flags: broke both feet in his career, missing three games in 2006 after breaking one against Boston College and undergoing postseason surgery after the 2007 season with a stress fracture in the other.

Inconsistent on the field, and his statistics are a bit misleading. Late arriving on the scene in coverage, slow getting to the sidelines, and he does not always play to his size. 

One of my biggest worries about the film on Hamlin is that it is dominated by his interceptions.  That gives me the impression that he can make big plays but may not be consistent on the field in all aspects of the game.  You always want to get a guy who will be consistent and not one who will only show flashes if you have a choice.  It is this attributes of the differences between Hamlin and Vaughn that makes me feel a little more confidence in Vaughn's ability to have a successful career in the NFL.  However, if he has superior ball skills and stands 6'2" tall, he could be a deep zone answer to the larger receivers with smaller cornerbacks on the outside.


Monday Practice Notes: Hamlin was unimpressive to us.  He does not think quickly on his feet and is very hesitant to make a decision in pass coverage.  He very much looks the part but must pick up his awareness when the ball is in the air.

Tuesday Practice Notes:  Hamlin was smooth moving about the field yet for the most part was non-existent when it came to making plays.

 Wednesday Practice Notes:  No notes.

Thursday Practice Notes:  No notes.

Analysis:   Looks like Tarzan- plays like Jane.....

Not a shining review of Hamlin to say the least.  Hopefully the majority of Hamlin's problems were scheme related.  He seems more suited for a zone scheme and it's rather possible that the Senior Bowl practices focused more on man-coverage and took Hamlin a bit out of his game.  For that reason, the Senior Bowl reports are good for certain insights but weaker for others.



While both Hamlin and Vaughn are big compared to our current safeties, they have different games.  Hamlin seems more of a finesse player who excels in zone coverage but flashes the ability to make plays against the run and punish opponents.  Vaughn is more of a pass support guy, with the ability to get deep and help but not much by way of ball skills.  However, Vaughn is a punishing tackler and excels stopping the run.  He too is a product of a zone scheme who will excel playing in space.  Which player do the Colts need more?  A great coverage safety with the ability to bulk up more, or a head-hunting punishing tackles who will excel in run defense and play a deep support role for the CBs?



This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of Stampede Blue's writers or editors. It does reflect the views of this particular fan though, which is as important as the views of Stampede Blue's writers or editors.