That Victor Hampton has yet to be picked up as an undrafted free agent by an NFL team has perplexed many South Carolina fans. While it's less surprising than it might seem that Hampton has drawn less attention than he expected to when he chose to forego his senior year of eligibility, Hampton does warrant a close look right now from scouts. An NFL team in need of depth at corner could pick up an excellent player at a low price by signing Hampton to a free agent deal.
It's not shocking that Hampton wasn't drafted. As Dion Caputi observes, Hampton is considered undersized by scouts who are enamored with the long corners who formed Seattle's elite passing defense. Hampton's size explains why he's yet to receive a call from an NFL franchise while Jimmy Legree, who was considered less talented than Hampton during their college careers, has been signed by--surprise, surprise--Seattle. Legree's game lacks the polish of Hampton's when Hampton is at his best, but Legree, who is taller with a wider wingspan, more so fits the the athletic prototype NFL teams are looking for right now. The low 40 time Hampton ran at the combine didn't help, either, by producing the impression that Hampton lacks both size and speed. Hampton's character concerns obviously didn't help, but Hampton isn't considered such a character concern that he wouldn't get a call if he had the athletic profile NFL teams covet.
That said, Hampton's athleticism and skill warrant a closer look from NFL teams. When he plays with discipline, his coverage skills are more than adequate to be part of an NFL rotation. Although he occasionally made himself susceptible to pump fakes by jumping routes, Hampton has routinely shown that he can line up across from top-flight receivers and win his fair share of the battles. He makes up for his lack of the size/speed combo possessed by more prototypical corners such as his predecessor Stephon Gilmore with his strikingly fluid hips and excellent agility. While again not as big as a player like Gilmore, Hampton is also well built and powerful enough to hold his own at the line of scrimmage.
In addition to size, Hampton's main flaw as a player is tackling fundamentals. Hampton is more than capable of earning a spot on the nightly highlight reel by laying a big hit, like the one he planted on Wisconsin QB Joel Stave in the Capital One Bowl. But too often, Hampton has shown poor fundamentals in more routine situations, allowing ball carriers to churn out extra yardage. Hampton is physically capable of being an adept tackler in the NFL, so with some coaching, he could take this aspect of his game to the next level.
Are off-field concerns an issue with Hampton? Sure. Hampton had made major strides in repairing his reputation over the past two years, but the recent NYC incident and a local altercation with his sister in which police became involved have cost him some of the trust he had worked hard to build. However, it it clear that he's been on an overall upward trajectory over the past couple of years, as demonstrated by the repeated votes of confidence the ever-candid Steve Spurrier has given Hampton over the past year. Hampton has worked long and hard to repair his reputation and deserves credit for doing so. With the right franchise, he could find a good environment in which to continue on that path. Let's hope he gets that chance. His talent warrants it.