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Opinion: Damar Hamlin will become the new Dean Marlowe

The rookie from Pitt is exactly what Buffalo covets at the position

As part of their draft day trade down deal with the Houston Texans, the Buffalo Bills’ second of two extra sixth-round picks resulted in the 6’1”, 200-lb Pittsburgh Panthers safety Damar Hamlin.

Head coach Sean McDermott and defensive coordinator/assistant head coach Leslie Frazier have a few qualities they clearly desire out of their safeties: intelligence, versatility, and ball skills. With five seasons under his belt—Hamlin was granted a fifth year of eligibility from the NCAA—and 48 total games played, Hamlin may be the most experienced safety in this year’s draft, doing all of the little things well in coverage. From his tape, you can just tell he takes to coaching. As for versatility, Hamlin’s collected six career interceptions and broken up 21 passes, and he clearly isn’t afraid to come down and play the run, as evidenced by his high amount of tackles throughout the past three seasons. As an added bonus, and what probably helped sell him to the Bills’ coaches and scouts, Hamlin was a team captain during the 2020 season.

The knocks on the young man include his average athleticism—he ran a 4.60 40-yard dash at his pro day—and explosiveness for the position, as well as a rash of injuries he suffered for three straight years. Similar to Buffalo’s own secondary defender Taron Johnson, Hamlin isn’t afraid to throw his body around and be physical when making tackles.

While the Bills have two strong starters at the safety position in Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer, both players are now 30 years of age and are only signed for the next two years. Meanwhile, following the departure of Dean Marlowe, the only true depth at safety for the Bills is third-year player Jaquan Johnson. The coaches are likely looking for Hamlin to step in immediately and compete with Johnson to take Dean Marlowe’s spot as the primary backup at safety. With some additional seasoning and professional development, perhaps he can even break into a starting role a few seasons from now.