From now until the 2021 NFL Draft takes place, we hope to showcase as many prospects as possible and examine both their strengths and weaknesses. Most of these profiles will feature individuals that the Pittsburgh Steelers are likely to have an interest in, while a few others will be top-ranked players. If there is a player you would like us to analyze, let us know in the comments below.
#3 Damar Hamlin/S/Pittsburgh/6’0”, 201 Lbs
-High IQ football player from the back end
-Physical presence when in the box; plays the run well and reads keys quickly
-Sound, consistent tackler who rarely misses tackles
-Loves to roll downhill in run support
-Possesses necessary range for the position and has good reactionary athleticism
-Good ball skills overall and flashes hands late to disrupt catch point
-Versatile defensive chess piece
-Small, slight frame for the position
-Functional strength is below average; will need to add mass at next level
-Needs to finish off plays on the ball on a more consistent basis, considering how often he’s around the ball
-Lacks overall top-end speed and could struggle to recover on routes at the next level
-Appears indecisive in coverage and is slow to trust his instincts
-Played in 48 career games at Pittsburgh, starting 40 for the Panthers
-Finished five-year career with 290 career tackles, 10.0 sacks, six interceptions, 27 pass breakups, and one fumble recovery
-Named All-ACC Second Team in 2020
-Voted Team Captain by Panther teammates ahead of 2020 season
-Competed in the 2021 Reese’s Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama
-Pittsburgh native who starred at Pittsburgh Central Catholic High School
In a relatively light safety class in the 2021 NFL Draft, Pittsburgh’s Damar Hamlin provides quite a bit of experience and production at half the value that some of the top safety names have at the moment.
As a five-year starter at Pittsburgh under head coach Pat Narduzzi, Hamlin was an integral defensive leader for the Panthers.
Though he has a slight frame overall for the position and isn’t as athletic as other safeties available in the draft, Hamlin brings the necessary mentality to the position, finishing consistently downhill against the run and the pass.
Hamlin is a smart player overall and reads his keys well, allowing him to fire downhill quickly to get in on plays.
Against North Carolina State in 2020, Hamlin showed off his range and physicality to roll downhill and make a play.
He reads the bubble screen quickly and clicks to close downhill, stays square to the ball carrier and drops his shoulder to wrap and make a play near the line of scrimmage.
Hamlin flashed the same ability later in the season on the road against Miami (Fl.).
Prior to the snap, you can see Hamlin rolling downhill to be on the move to slip the tight end’s block on the bubble screen. This goes back to film study for Hamlin, who knows what’s coming based on the formation and the motion.
While I do have some concerns about Hamlin’s abilities in coverage due to his tendency to sit on his heels and react late, I love Hamlin’s motor and mentality.
Here against Miami (Fl.) Hamlin is clearly beat, but he never gives up on the route and throws his hands late to get his right hand into the catch point, breaking up the potential explosive play for the Hurricanes.
Here in man coverage against Clemson late in the 2020 season, Hamlin flashed the ability to recover quickly and jump the route.
The thing I like about Hamlin’s play here is that he never peaks into the backfield to Trevor Lawrence, instead reading the receiver, which allows him to make a play. By reading the receiver it takes him to the ball, jumping the route.
I’d love to see him finish plays like this, which could have resulted in a pick-6.
When he does finish plays on the ball though, it looks like the above.
He does a fantastic job passing off the Louisville receiver and sitting into his zone, reading the quarterback’s eyes, which takes him to the spot to cut off the ball for the pick.
In zone, he has a great feel for what’s around him and reads the QB’s eyes well, allowing him to be in position to make plays.
Overall, I think Hamlin has the necessary range to play some single high, and I think he can provide some snaps in man coverage against tight ends and slot receivers. I love the way he plays against the run and fires downhill on plays in front of him.
He feels like a solid depth safety that can play in nickel and dime, and can thrive as a special teams demon. Though the testing numbers aren’t quite there, Hamlin is more than worthy of a mid-Day 3 selection.
Projection: Mid Day 3
Games Watched: Louisville (2020), NC State (2020), Boston College (2020), Miami (Fl.) (2020), Notre Dame (2020), Florida State (2020), Virginia Tech (2020), Clemson (2020)