One of the most fun aspects of the NFL in recent years is how much it has influenced by the college game.
College coaches need to overcome both the constant roster turnover inherent in the college game as well as the (sometimes vast) discrepancies in talent thanks to recruiting. That has lead to creative and explosive offenses that look to create explosive plays on every down and score on every play. It also leads to an arms race between offenses and defenses as the coaches on the defensive side of the ball race to play catch-up as well as get their own talents on the field in whatever capacity they can.
It’s lead to a blurring of the lines that have traditionally separated distinct positions between defensive line, linebacker, and in the secondary.
The NFL has followed suit, with offenses becoming much faster and wide-open, while defenses have been forced to become more multiple in response.
The New York Giants fielded a massively upgraded defense in 2020, focusing on multiplicity and versatility. But as improved as they were over previous seasons, there’s still plenty of room for further improvement. The Giants could certainly benefit from adding a player who could wear several hats and plug multiple holes at all three levels. A player, for instance, like Hamsah Nasirildeen from Florida State.
Like fellow FSU alum, Nasirildeen is listed at safety but brings a rare combination of size and athleticism for the position, which allowed him to play all over the Seminoles’ defense.
Could he play a similar role (or roles) for the Giants?
Prospect: Hamsah Nasirildeen
Games Watched: vs. Boise State (2019), vs. Miami (2019), vs. Louisville (2019), vs. Wake Forest (2019), vs. Clemson (2019)
Red Flags: Torn ACL (2019), knee (2020)
Games Played: 35
Tackles For a loss: 4.0
Forced Fumbles: 1
Passes Defensed: 9
Games Played: 11
Tackles For a loss: 2.0
Forced Fumbles: 1
Passes Defensed: 3
Best: Size, athleticism, versatility
Worst: Injury history
Projection: A starting safety/linebacker hybrid in a multiple defense.
Florida state safety Hamsah Nasirildeen is a big, long, athletic and versatile prospect who could fill a variety of roles in an NFL defense. Nasirildeen was listed at safety by Florida State, but aligned as a deep safety, box safety, slot defender, off-ball linebacker, and even as an EDGE defender.
His primary role was as a deep safety, and in that capacity he shows solid range. Nasirildeen is able to cover the middle of the field in a Cover-3 shell, and generally shows a good ability to read the quarterback. He also shows some ability in man coverage, playing some slot corner and holding up well in a short area. Nasirildeen’s rare length allows him to play over or around receivers, as well as slam receiving windows shut from relatively far away. He also shows a strong closing burst from off coverage, arriving fast and hard to jar the ball loose or lay hard hits on the ball carrier.
Nasirildeen is an effective run defender, triggering downhill quickly when he diagnoses a run play. He generally has an accurate first step and shows a willingness to take on contact and fill gaps at the line of scrimmage. Nasirildeen also shows the ability to rush the passer, both as a blitzer through the A or B gaps as well as off the edge as an EDGE or outside linebacker.
While Nasirildeen offers a rare blend of size and athleticism, he doesn’t have stand-out athleticism for a defensive back. His range is good in zone coverage but shouldn’t be mistaken for that of a true center fielding free safety. And while Nasirildeen is capable of taking on and shedding blocks from tight ends — let alone wide receivers — he can be a bit tentative at times. He is also occasionally over-aggressive in his choice of angles to the ball carrier.
Teams will also want to double-check Nasirildeen’s medical evaluations. He suffered a torn ACL late in the 2019 season and struggled with a lingering knee issue throughout 2020, playing just two games.
Overall Grade: 8.3 - Nasirildeen offers rare athleticism and versatility. He should be an important contributor or a starter early in his career. Injuries and long-term health are a concern, however.
Hamsah Nasirildeen projects best as a starting hybrid (safety/linebacker) defender in a multiple defense.
Nasirildeen defies conventional classifications and would likely be viewed as a “tweener” or sub-package player in a more traditional defense. But as NFL offenses continue to emulate college attacks by getting faster and more wide-open, defenses have adapted by creating roles for players who blur the lines between traditional positions. In recent years we’ve seen Derwin James and Jeremy Chinn make waves in the NFL as movable pieces on defense. The modern defense needs players athletic enough to match up with hybrid tight ends, running backs, and even receivers in the passing game while providing enough in run defense to play on base downs.
Nasirildeen should be able to wear a wide variety of hats for a defense, able to line up as a deep safety in a Cover-2 or Cover-3 shell, a box safety in a Cover-1 or Cover-3 shell, an off-ball linebacker on nickel downs, or even as an edge rusher on occasion. While not a strictly instinctive player, Nasirildeen has the football IQ to handle a variety of assignments and play fast while doing so. He is able to get a reasonable break on the ball in zone coverage, triggers quickly in run defense, as well as use his length and burst as a pass rusher. He even looked surprisingly good in man coverage on slot receivers, though he isn’t fluid enough in the lower body to do so often or between the 20’s where he would have to cover for an extended period of time.
Nasirildeen is capable of defeating almost any blocker he would be reasonably asked to go up against, at times stacking and shedding tight end blocks in college. That being said, it would be good to see him play with more consistent aggressiveness when taking on blockers. Teams’ biggest concern with Nasirildeen will likely be with his health. He suffered a torn ACL at the end of the 2019 season and played just two games in 2020. With that in mind, his medical report and long-term prognosis will likely figure heavily into his draft stock. That being said, Nasirildeen should be able to find a home in almost any defensive scheme.