When Pitt safety Damar Hamlin announced that he was seeking a fifth season of eligibility in order to return to the Panthers for the 2020 season, most of the focus was on whether or the NCAA would permit Hamlin another chance to suit up for his hometown Panthers.
But that wasn’t the only decision Hamlin to make this offseason. The star safety could have also decided to turn his focus toward the NFL after his senior season with the Panthers, and even began the draft process by accepting an invitation to the East-West Shrine Game.
Instead, he’ll be returning to prowl the Pitt secondary in 2020, but that doesn’t mean that Hamlin doesn’t have an NFL future. He had a chance to be drafted after going through the draft process in 2020, and with another year under his belt, he could become an even better prospect by the time the 2021 NFL Draft rolls around.
Hamlin, along with his safety secondary-mate Paris Ford, is already getting attention from the draft community in looking at potential 2021 picks.
#2021NFLDraft Safety Group 👀
Kary Vincent (FS)
Verone McKinley III (FS)
— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) April 30, 2020
Damar Hamlin, Safety from Pitt. A name to keep an eye on for the NFL Draft next year. That dude is a dawg!
— Cody Roark (@CodyRoarkNFL) April 29, 2020
My Top 10 Safeties for 2020
1 Jevon Holland (Oregon)
2 Trevon Moehrig (TCU)
3 Ar’Darius Washington (TCU)
4 Paris Ford (Pitt)
5 Richard LeCounte (UGA)
6 Kyle Hamilton (ND)
7 Damar Hamlin (Pitt)
8 Sterling Weatherford (Miami Oh)
9 Kolby Peel (OkSt)
10 Eric Burrell (Wisco)
— College Football Rankings ™ (@CFBRanking) May 14, 2020
The attention comes with good reason. He finished with 84 total tackles last season, second to Ford amongst Pitt defenders. His 10 passes defended were fourth on the team, following Ford, 2020 NFL Draft pick Dane Jackson and starting corner Jason Pinnock.
How good can Hamlin be at the next level? Some prognosticators have him as one of the top available safeties in the class.
Damar Hamlin is my #4 rated safety for this upcoming college football season. pic.twitter.com/bwcSyyNAs8
— 𝐂𝐅𝐁𝐋𝐢𝐯𝐞𝟐𝟒𝟕TM (@CFBLive247) May 14, 2020
In the 2020 NFL Draft, the fourth safety went off the board in the second round. The same thing happened in 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016 and 2015. With some room for variability between now and then, it seems that Hamlin could easily hear his name called on the second day of the 2021 NFL Draft.