The Buffalo Bills’ defense prides itself on fielding dominant game-changing players from front to back. Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde arguably form the best safety tandem in the NFL. But as they age, ability will naturally begin to decline and eventually both will be faced with retirement. It’s a scenario none of Bills Mafia longs to consider, a reality all have accepted.
So, too, have the Buffalo Bills. During the current draft cycle, One Bills Drive has done their homework on five safety prospects total, including Sacramento State S/LB Marte Mapu. While not all research has involved an official top-30 visit, Mapu was one of Buffalo’s pre-draft official visitors.
Last month, the Sacramento Bee reported that Mapu was to officially meet with the Bills as part of a tour involving 14 NFL teams. Buffalo’s focused scouting of Mapu has likely involved in-depth investigations into the injury that’s sidelined him since February. While engaged in pre-draft bench-press training, Mapu suffered a torn pectoral muscle that required surgery and relegated him to the sidelines during Sacramento State’s pro day.
Prior to that training injury, Mapu was viewed by scouts and analysts as a mid-round prospect likely to be drafted later during Day 3 of the NFL Draft.
Mapu is a large prospect as a safety, measuring 6’2 1/2” and 217 pounds, with 33 3/8” arms and 9 3/8” hands at the Senior Bowl. As a linebacker, however, Mapu is very undersized — and there’s enough history involving the struggles of undersized NFL linebackers to question his efficacy in that role. Additionally, Mapu turns 24 in November, and is a redshirt prospect who played six seasons in college. Mapu lost a season due to COVID-19, then chose to return to the Hornets for his redshirt senior season in 2022.
In six seasons with the Hornets, Mapu played in 41 games, making 165 tackles (13 tackles for loss), one sack, seven interceptions, one forced fumble, and defended 22 passes.
Some scouts and analysts believe Mapu needs to develop a more clearly-defined role to be successful in the NFL. Will he be asked to add weight to adequately function in a 4-3 defense? Can he improve where needed to be a more well-rounded traditional safety? Not all teams will require this of him, instead hoping to deploy him as a hybrid defender whose football IQ should allow him to exploit offensive weaknesses at all levels of the field.
Does Marte Mapu fit the Bills? Mapu is a scheme-versatile defender who likely profiles as a nickel defender and hybrid safety/linebacker. His injury is unfortunate (as is the pandemic situation for so many collegiate players), but a torn pectoral muscle and age shouldn’t derail his potential as an NFL player. Mapu will reportedly be ready this summer by the opening of training camps. At Hawthorne High School, Mapu starred as a quarterback, wide receiver, outside linebacker, and defensive back. It’s certain that head coach Sean McDermott likes Mapu’s versatility and foresees ways to utilize his best attributes within specific schemes and alignments. As a developmental prospect, Mapu could make a lot of sense for the Bills in the later rounds of the NFL Draft.