General manager Joe Douglas is up to his old tricks again.
Remember when the New York Jets boss was able to draft cornerback Bryce Hall at a premium fifth-round value because he was recovering from injury? Meet former Florida State Seminoles safety, Hamsah Nasirildeen.
In college, Nasirildeen had 233 total tackles, nine passes defended and seven turnovers forced (four interceptions) in 35 games. 33 of those games came before a torn ACL ended his junior season, but the gifted athlete fought his way back for the final two games of 2020.
The Jets selected the defensive back in round six of the NFL draft, but they have much bigger plans for the prospect than that late-round status suggests. For starters, Nasirildeen won’t play safety, he’ll join fellow-rookie Jamien Sherwood in the transition over to 4-3 outside linebacker.
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NFL ‘Transitioning Into Space Game’
The GM explained that the Jets needed to get longer, quicker and more athletic at linebacker if they want to keep up with the way the league is changing, citing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers LBs as a group to try and emulate. Sherwood and Nasirildeen are two of the prospects that Douglas hopes to achieve this with.
The FSU star nicknamed “Ham” has the size and physicality to make the shift into the box, blended with the flexibility and coverage skills to hold up against tight ends and pass-catchers.
Joe Marino of The Draft Network called Nasirildeen “a versatile defender [who] forecasts best as a positionless sub-package defender in the NFL.” He added that the rookie can “serve the role of tight end neutralizer, play in an overhang role, play in man coverage against running backs, and play in the box and operate from deeper alignments.”
Marino and others have also frequently described Ham as someone with “rare physical gifts.”
In terms of tackling, Nasirildeen told the media that “playing in the box is the best part of [his] game.” Ian Cummings of Pro Football Network also described the 6-foot-3, 215-pound prospect as an “explosive run defender who squares into tackles and easily brings opponents down.”
The Jets new linebacker expressed his playstyle as “fast and physical” and “hard-hitting” in the interview above, a perfect fit for what Douglas and Robert Saleh have planned.
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Saleh Can Bring the Best out of Nasirildeen
Nasirildeen stated that he believed he was a first-round talent prior to the injury.
Before you think to yourself, well that’s arrogant, the former Seminole’s first two “strengths” according to NFL analyst Lance Zierlein were that he was a “team leader who faced down adversity” and a “high football character” player.
His third was that he “worked exceptionally hard” rehabbing his way back from the ACL tear.
Another thing Zierlein highlighted was Ham’s situation at FSU. The safety played for three different head coaches and defensive coordinators during his time at the college. The scouting analyst noted that Nasirildeen “could benefit from having one consistent teacher who is able to smooth out the wrinkles.”
Saleh can be that guy, being that he has a history of developing football players and getting the most out of athletes.
Opportunity for the Taking
Although Ham is fully recovered, don’t necessarily expect him to start right out of the gate. The youngster is taking on a brand new position after a major injury, making this a wait-and-see type of draft pick for Douglas.
Even so, the high-ceiling hybrid linebacker has a chance to become a crucial member of this Jets core moving forward. Gang Green doesn’t have all that much depth at linebacker behind C.J. Mosley, Jarrad Davis and Blake Cashman.
Aside from Sherwood, who probably has a better chance of making an immediate impact, the rest of the Jets linebacker core includes Noah Dawkins, Del’Shawn Phillips, and undrafted rookies like Milo Eifler and Brendon White.
For what it’s worth though, I see Sherwood as the WILL and Nasirildeen as more of a coverage SAM linebacker.
The opportunity is ripe for the taking if the FSU star can impress this coaching staff during the preseason. After all, the league is changing and Nasirildeen certainly fits the mold that the Jets are looking for to change with it.