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Focusing in on Hamsah Nasirildeen

NCAA Football: Alabama State at Florida State Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports

This week we've focused in on some of the newest members of your New York Jets and you can read the reports by clicking on the names below:

Tristen Hoge

Kenny Yeboah

Jason Pinnock

Today we're going to be turning our attention to former Florida State safety and 6th round selection by the Jets, Hamsah Nasirildeen. During the 2019 season, there were media outlets projecting Hamsah as a 1st round selection. Fast-forward through the 2020 season and the Jets are sitting here having spent just a 6th round pick on him.

Going into the 2021 NFL draft I personally had a late 2nd, early 3rd round grade on Hamsah. So I'm absolutely pumped to have him on the roster and as we go through his journey, I think you'll see why. After the draft had concluded Hamsah made his feelings clear about what he believed the Jets were getting:

"The Jets just got a first-round talent with myself...The way I'm coming to work, I feel like they got a dog mentality. I just want to go out and show everybody what I can do, what type of player I am, what type of man I am, and let everything play out the way it's supposed to"

How the Jets use Hamsah is going to be interesting. Although he was moved around the formation at Florida State, playing deep, in the box as a slot corner, he's likely going to be seen as a safety/linebacker hybrid and when asked about the selection of Nasirildeen and 5th round pick Jamien Sherwood, Jets head coach Robert Saleh spoke around the scheme fit for both players:

"In our scheme, with the chaos we create up front, our guys are more run and hit, more lateral players. We look at them, these young men, they're down safeties, which is basically linebackers...What can we see from those guys? We can see their ability to read, diagnose the run, hit, play coverage and understand the rough concepts in front of them. We feel like they would be able to translate to linebacker easily"

But we're getting a little ahead of ourselves with the Hamsah Nasirildeen story so let's take it back a lite bit and focus on how his journey led him to New York and the Jets.

Hamsah grew up in the suburb of Concord, just north of Charlotte North Carolina. As a high school athlete he excelled at both basketball and football, and was a 4-year-varsity starter in both. As a high school football player, Nasirildeen was a wide receiver early on before becoming a safety during his junior year. At 6'3 and 200lbs, Hamsah often looked like a man amongst boys in high school. He was instantly a star at the safety position posting 80 tackles and 4 interceptions. A year later during his senior season he racked up 108 tackles and 3 interceptions. He was already on the radar of some of the top college programs in the country before his senior season and committed early to South Carolina, but the offers would continue to roll in following his impressive performances.

Hamsah was ranked as the 109th best player, 14th best safety in the class of 2017 and the #1 recruit in North Carolina. In total he received 20 offers from programs spread across the country, from Clemson and Alabama to Florida, Georgia, Michigan and Notre Dame. Despite being a verbal commit to South Carolina, Hamsah changes his mind two weeks before signing day and decided to take his talents to Florida State with the Seminoles where he was recruited by running backs coach Jay Graham who was also a native of Concord North Carolina.

Nasirildeen played straight away as a true freshman, appearing in all 13 games (starting 2) for the Seminoles as they went 7-6 under Jumbo Fisher with Charles Kelly running the defense. His ability to play the run and sniff out the football got him on the field early, and his 6'3, 200lb+ frame helped him stand up to the physical demands of the college game.

Florida State hired Willie Taggart in 2018 and he brought in a new defensive coach in Harlon Barnett. Under the tutelage of Barnett Hamsah continues to improve his game and although his coverage skills were still a work in progress, the other areas of his game were quickly advancing. He led Florida State with 91 tackles which includes 0.5 tackles for a loss, he also brought down his first collegiate INT and had 3 passes defended.

NCAA Football: Alabama State at Florida State Melina Myers-USA TODAY Sports

However, it was in 2019 that Hamsah made the significant jump that vaulted his name into first-round consideration. Not only did he continue to dominate at the line, but his coverage came on leaps and bounds. He was playing with better leverage, using his body move and using his long arms to get into the face of receivers.

In one game against Boston College he had 22 tackles, this came the same week the Florida State players had been informed that head coach Willie Taggart had been let go. Earlier in the season Nasirildeen had 3 passes defended and an incredible interception against Trevor Lawrence and the Clemson Tigers. He was growing in confidence and he was growing in stature as a leader of this talented Seminoles team.

He played in the box (239 snaps) as a free safety (297 snaps), as a slot corner (124 snaps), and a handful of snaps at other positions. He was named ACC defensive back of the week on three separate occasions and finished the season with 101 tackles, 2 tackles for a loss, 1 sack, 5 passes defended, and 2 interceptions, all of this while allowing just a 47.6% completion rate and 0 touchdowns into his coverage.

Hamsah was well on his way to securing that future first-round draft selection, and then his trajectory shifted.

In the 2nd quarter of their week 12 games against Florida, Hamsah hit the turf holding his left knee, he didn't bounce back up like he usually did, his grimace said that this was serious. When he had to be carted off the field with an air cast on his knee, you knew it was serious. He waved to the crowd as he exited the field, at that point he wouldn't have known the extent of the injury and how he wouldn't be suiting up until the final two weeks of the season. A torn ACL was the diagnosis and Hamsah would spend the best part of the next year rehabbing his knee.

He missed the first 7 games of the 2020 season before returning for the final 2 games despite the season being lost. Without Hamsah (and others) the Seminoles would finish the 2020 season 3-6 under new head coach Mike Norvell. Nasirildeen would enter the 2021 draft and with little tape to work on following his 2019 ACL injury, his stock plummeted.

When he dropped out of the 3rd round I was sure he'd be gone by the time the 4th was done and dusted. When he continued to fall I questioned whether the medicals had raised some red flags. After all here stood a tall, long athletic safety who was a downhill thumper, a player who was a quiet but respected leader, a player who has made strides in coverage and led the team in tackles for two straight years. When the Jets selected him in the 6th round, I messaged a friend to say that the Jets may have just had the steal of the draft...again (I'd sent a similar message after Michael Carter fell to the top of the 4th)

So here we are. Hamsah Nasirildeen is a New York Jet, and we had to spend a 6th round pick to get him. At his pro day, his arms came in at 34.50" (100th percentile). Throughout his college career, he missed just 22 tackles on 233 opportunities, elite numbers for a player who meets his opponent in the open field. Over the course of his career he's taken the following snaps at each position:

Inside LB - 242

Slot CB - 307

Free Safety - 631

Strong Safety - 316

If Robert Saleh is looking for some versatility on defense. I think he may have found it. When I watch Nasirildeen I see a player that can do it all. Play deep when needed, excel in the box, cover running backs and tight ends, sift through traffic and make plays on the ball. Jets have got a good one.

Head on over to my Twitter account to vote on who you’d like to see in focus next.