Continuing our Green Bay Packers draft coverage, today we’re profiling Pitt’s Damar Hamlin.
Damar Hamlin – S, Pittsburgh – 6’1, 201 lbs
Damar Hamlin was a high school standout and the highest ranked player in the state of Pennsylvania in 2016.
Despite receiving offers from many college football powerhouses including Notre Dame, Clemson and Ohio State, Hamlin instead decided to stay home in the Pittsburgh area, to play for the Panthers who are now putting together an impressive resumé of defensive NFL talent in that last decade.
Hamlin was one half of a really strong safety duo at Pitt, alongside fellow 2021 Draft prospect Paris Ford. Ford is currently higher on most boards than Hamlin right now but I actually think Hamlin is the better prospect of the two. Here’s why:
Hamlin proved during Senior Bowl week that he can run stride for stride with wide receivers in man coverage. Despite his relatively average speed, Hamlin’s performance in Mobile, AL is likely enough to convince enough scouts that he can play slot CB in the NFL. Hamlin was often tasked with man coverage for Pitt and he performed well.
Hamlin isn’t a superior athlete, but he has flashed excellent short area quickness and twitch in college. His long speed is relatively decent and he had the range to play single high at Pitt, however I feel like this role may be limited in the NFL.
Hamlin does not hold back as a tackler. He loves to get physical and deliver as hard of a hit as possible on his opponent. Granted, this led to occasional whiffs, but for the most part I admire his tackling hustle and ability to lay the boom at just 200 lbs.
Hamlin is an extremely willing run defender. He works hard and plays physical in an effort to force stops. I am a fan of how he can stay disciplined in his gap without becoming overly cagey or inviting the ball carrier to attack.
One particular thing I love about Hamlin is how he defends WR Screens. He is quick to identify the play, and reacts by viciously attacking the line of scrimmage and executing the tackle. A I mention in this tweet, he is reminiscent of Jaire Alexander in this area.
Just found my 2021 draft crush. Hello Damar Hamlin!
• Superb instincts
• Has the range to play single-high
• Outstanding hustle vs the run
• Can man cover any man on the field
• Oh and he morphs into Jaire Alexander vs WR Screens pic.twitter.com/AaXFBzvhMS
— Daire Carragher (@DaireCarragher) March 21, 2021
There’s always a downside, and for Damar Hamlin, it’s his overall indecisiveness in zone coverage. He was often a little slow to react and unable to anticipate potential throwing lanes, preferring to instead sit back and wait for the QB to release the ball. This led to frequent completions surrendered in front of him in underneath zones.
Hamlin’s ability to deflect the ball is good however his catching skills are lacking. He had tons of chances to come up with interceptions, having done the hard work to break up the pass, but his hands let him down consistently.
While Hamlin tackles physically, I would like to see him wrap up more. He is guilty of sometimes performing a head-first dive with his arms by his side, completely missing the tackle, a move patented by Kevin King in Green Bay.
Through my first seven safety profiles, I hadn’t yet found a sleeper pick who I really loved. That all changed when I watched Damar Hamlin.
This guy is so underrated in my opinion and I really think he can become an above average starter in the NFL at a valuable area in the draft. I understand that a lot of people will be turned off by Hamlin’s slightly thin frame and average speed but his football IQ, short area quickness and sharp reactions partly made up for this.
At slot CB, he could continue to play at his natural size, however the lack of “elite” speed may be what holds Damar back from being a superstar in the NFL. Nonetheless, I’ll be dreaming of Hamlin in a Green and gold uniform all the way up to draft day.