2021 NFL Draft: Is safety Hamsah Nasirildeen the next Simmons?

    Versatile FSU safety Hamsah Nasirildeen could be the next Isaiah Simmons in the 2021 NFL Draft.

    The Florida State University football team struggled as a whole last season on their way to a disappointing 6-7 record. However, from the darkness and ashes rose some tremendous talent, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Defensive tackle Marvin Wilson is elite, and he is joined by defensive end Joshua Kaindoh and the next great safety/linebacker hybrid, Hamsah Nasirildeen.

    The soon-to-be senior defensive back enjoyed a fantastic breakout season in 2019 and became a real leader for the struggling Seminoles team. Below, I will take a look at this intriguing defensive prospect and analyze what type of player he can become this season for FSU. Could he be the next Isaiah Simmons and enjoy a meteoric rise into the top 20 of the 2021 NFL Draft?

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    Standout from Concord to Tallahassee

    Nasirildeen was an absolute star player as a high school safety from Concord, North Carolina. According to Rivals.com, he was a consensus four-star prospect by most major scouting outlets and the number 63 overall player nationally. As a tall and lean, but hard-hitting safety prospect, Nasirildeen was a quick study on the defensive side of the ball.

    He played receiver until his junior year and then ended up recording some eye-opening stats during his senior season. The two-way star had 45 catches for 751 yards and five touchdowns as a receiver to go along with 108 tackles and three interceptions while lining up as both a linebacker and safety on defense.

    Nasirildeen was hard to miss on film as a 6’4″ high school standout with the ridiculous range and athleticism that allowed him to make plays consistently on both sides of the ball. The number one player in the state of North Carolina ended up as an Army All-American and decided to commit to Florida State before the 2017 season.

    Another Seminole “star” in the making

    This Florida State team has been looking for talented young players to step up and get this team back to prominence. Nasirildeen has done just that since he stepped foot on campus for the 2017 season.

    As a true freshman in 2017, he made an appearance in all 13 games, even earning two starts. Nasirildeen was a special teams ace and made plays all over the field against the mighty Clemson Tigers. He saw the field in sub-packages where the team could take advantage of his athleticism on defense and create mismatches for the offense.

    Nasirildeen’s size and speed allow him to line up at both linebacker and safety. His abilities and attributes made him invaluable to this Seminoles’ unit, even as a true freshman, and assured him a prominent spot heading into his sophomore season.

    Nasirildeen became more of a presence in the starting lineup as a sophomore in 2018. He started five games and led the team with 91 tackles. He also began to become a leader for this Florida State defense and a player to watch moving forward. 

    Nasirildeen finally became a full-time starter as a junior in 2019, recording 101 tackles in 10 starts on defense. He also notched two interceptions, a sack and three forced fumbles in Florida State’s prominent “star” role as a hybrid linebacker/safety.

    This position was a role that former Seminole Derwin James thrived in, allowing him to play closer to the line of scrimmage and blitz on occasion while also covering the middle of the field. Take a look at the video below, which showcases his ability to cover crossing routes and make plays on the ball against slot receivers. 

    Florida State began experimenting with Nasirildeen at the position before the 2019 season. While he played mostly in the defensive backfield in 2019, he showed the ability and willingness to swap between the two positions.

    Nasirildeen has the speed of a starting free safety combined with the size, strength, and hitting ability of an outside linebacker. One reporter even dubbed Nasirildeen a “Create-A-Player” based on his silly video game-like abilities and measurables. Working alongside fellow hybrid and “star” candidate Amari Gainer, Nasirildeen bounced back and forth between the “star” role and a traditional safety role last season.

    Hamsah Nasirildeen, the next great safety/linebacker hybrid?

    With Gainer set to play more of the “stud” role as a linebacker/defensive end hybrid for FSU this season, Nasirildeen could see more work as the “star” closer to the line of scrimmage. This role could have draft fans wondering: is Nasirildeen the next Isaiah Simmons? Simmons was a player that started all over the defense for the Clemson Tigers in 2019. However, he started in the defensive secondary before moving to a more prominent role at linebacker.

    Nasirildeen could be looking at a similar type of role this season with the Seminoles. While safety has been his primary position thus far and no switch was formally announced, this could be a way for FSU to capitalize on his strengths. Nasirildeen does not have the ideal range for a deep safety, so moving up to cover slot receivers and tight ends could better suit him as a college player and pro prospect.

    After watching Nasirildeen the past season, the Seminoles appeared to emulate some things that made Simmons so great for the Tigers. He played both safety spots and as a slot corner, while also lining up as a linebacker in blitzing scenarios. The Seminoles did their best to maximize his athleticism and tackling ability by blitzing Nasirildeen from the slot and off the edge in 2019.

    Because of his size, Derwin James seems to be the most obvious comparison, along with another former Seminole, Myron Rolle. Rolle was another versatile FSU safety/linebacker prospect that was selected by the Tennessee Titans in the sixth round of the 2010 NFL Draft. Former Seattle Seahawks’ safety Kam Chancellor, one of the founding members of the “Legion of Boom” could also be an apt comparison for Nasirildeen. Both players are heat-seeking missiles that have cornerback speed and rarely miss tackles.

    PFN’s own Chris Spooner previously discussed the talented safety as one of the top players at his position entering the 2020 season. One thing the big safety will need to improve on is his eyes at the snap of the ball. There are times he gets caught peeking into the backfield and will occasionally take bad angles to the ball on screen passes. If he can clean up those areas, he will be selected within the top 20 picks next April. 

    Scott Gorman is a writer for PFN covering the 2021 NFL Draft. You can follow him @sgormanPFN on Twitter.

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