Might the Bucs look up the road to get Todd Bowles a new defensive weapon?
The Buccaneers find themselves in a unique position heading into this month’s NFL Draft, considering they don’t have any obvious holes to fill on either side of the football. The way they’ve been able to keep most of their Super Bowl-winning roster together has been truly remarkable, and it now has them in a spot where they can build some depth through the draft.
As we continue our 2021 draft profile series, we’re taking a look at a talent who played his college ball about four hours up the road at Florida State. Of course, we’re talking about Hamsah Nasirildeen, a tall, athletic and physical defender who projects as a Swiss Army knife-type at the NFL level. When healthy, he’s an absolute weapon for a defensive coordinator to deploy. Could that coordinator be Tampa Bay’s Todd Bowles?
HAMSAH NASIRILDEEN’S COLLEGIATE CAREER
North Carolina’s No. 1 player coming out of Concord High School, Nasirildeen committed to Florida State over the likes of South Carolina, Clemson, Michigan and Penn State. He made an impact right away, playing in all 13 of the Seminoles’ games during the 2017 season as both a reserve defensive back and special teams player. He totaled 29 tackles and two pass breakups as a true freshman before breaking out as a sophomore in 2018. Despite the ‘Noles putting up a 5-7 record on the year, Nasirildeen stood out with 91 tackles, an interception and two pass breakups. That was enough to earn him the team’s “most improved” award, only he was just getting started.
In 2019, the former four-star recruit had his best year yet, posting 101 tackles (two for loss), one sack, three forced fumbles, two interceptions, three pass breakups and a fumble recovery. He earned second-team All-ACC honors and a few ACC Defensive Back of the Week awards throughout the year, but unfortunately his season came to a premature end when he tore his ACL in the regular season finale against Florida. Just when he had made himself a pretty hot name in NFL Draft circles, he was suddenly on the road to recovery.
Nasirildeen impressively worked hard to get back and play at the tail end of the 2020 season, starting Florida State’s final two games. In those two games, he tallied 13 tackles (1.5 for loss), an interception and a pass breakup. His final game with the Seminoles was a memorable one, as he looked fully healthy while finishing with nine tackles (one for loss), an interception and a pass breakup. That earned him ACC Defensive Back of the Week honors, as well as Senior Bowl Star of the Week. It was an impressive return for one of the team’s biggest leaders, as he proved healthy enough to earn a Senior Bowl invite.
PRO DAY DATA AND ANALYSIS
Prior to his Pro Day, Nasirildeen had a nice week at the Senior Bowl. For one thing, it was simply important to see him fully healthy. For him to get back from his torn ACL and finish the 2020 season with the Seminoles and then show up and play well in Mobile was significant. While his coverage ability has been pegged as a weakness of his, he performed well against tight ends and running backs during Senior Bowl week, though he still struggled with some of the game’s top receivers. All in all, he improved his stock in Mobile.
Unfortunately, Nasirildeen wasn’t fully healthy for Florida State’s Pro Day on March 22. Senior Bowl director and draft analyst Jim Nagy noted that there was a hamstring issue that he worked through and, as a result, he didn’t participate in the 40-yard dash or the broad jump. However, he did participate in other drills and obviously got his measurements taken. Looking at his numbers, his size is what jumps out first. He’s 6-foot-3 and has a wingspan of nearly 82 inches, which is incredible. Arm length is something he certainly uses as an advantage in his game, especially considering his versatility and the different roles he can play. His vertical and three-cone time weren’t as impressive, somewhat indicating the lack of explosiveness that he has been knocked for in the past.
NFL trend moving more toward position-less hybrid defenders and @FSUFootball Hamsah Nasirildeen fits that mold. Didn’t run 40-yd or BJ due to hamstring injury during training. NFL scout says he gutted thru” today’s workout.
17 reps pic.twitter.com/pZaYSJ5wXy
— Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) March 22, 2021
WHAT HE BRINGS IN 2021
This is where the state of the Bucs’ roster comes in handy. The team’s draft class will have some time to develop and learn rather than having to make an impact from day one. So, in 2021, Nasirildeen would provide the Bucs with exactly what they’re looking for: depth. The team wouldn’t need him to step in and start right away, and he wouldn’t even necessarily be asked to play a ton of meaningful snaps early on in the season. He would be able to learn Todd Bowles’ scheme early on and then, when the time is right, he could serve as a useful weapon for Tampa Bay’s defense. Perhaps by the second quarter or the midway point in the season, he could really hit his stride.
Getting some time to learn the scheme, adjust to the NFL and prove to himself that he can stay healthy would be beneficial for the young prospect. But after some learning and development, he could quickly figure into Bowles’ plans. Having a positionless, Swiss Army knife-type of defender is something you could just see Bowles going crazy for. And Nasirildeen is that type of player.
While the Bucs’ starting defense is set, Nasirildeen would add something unique to the group. His size and skill set make him an intriguing piece, as he can play just about anywhere. While single-high safety isn’t an ideal role for him, he excels in two-high, works well in the slot and fits perfectly in a big nickel package. He is phenomenal against the run and covers tight ends and running backs well, thanks to his length and strength. And while he didn’t always create turnovers at a high clip in college, he was always around the ball.
Nasirildeen’s long-term outlook depends heavily on his health. If he can stay on the field, the sky is the limit. The NFL has become obsessed with versatile hybrids like him, and if he gets to work with a defensive coordinator like Bowles and a coaching staff like Tampa Bay’s, he could really develop into a star. He has weaknesses here and there, as he could stand to improve on his ball skills, coverage of receivers and blitzing. But it’s not hard to see him developing in those areas and becoming well-rounded in all aspects. As he is, Nasirildeen can be an impact player, especially in the NFC South. The division, while pass-heavy like the rest of the league—has some outstanding running backs who run and catch well. Being able to deploy him against guys like Christian McCaffrey and Alvin Kamara for years to come has to be an interesting proposition for Tampa Bay.
Again, versatility is the key for Nasirildeen. Because he doesn’t have to stick to just one position, there isn’t as much worry about the rest of the Bucs’ secondary keeping him from seeing the field. The team has a lot of youth, especially at safety. So, if Nasirildeen was your standard safety, he wouldn’t be much of a fit for the Bucs, at least not as their roster stands now. But considering he can play a hybrid linebacker/safety role, cover tight ends in big nickel and serve as a strong box safety, it’s easy to see him becoming one of the league’s better utility defenders within a few years.
If Nasirildeen had a clean history with injuries, it’s hard to argue against him being a first-round talent. As it is, he could very well sneak his way into being a late first-rounder and it’s hard to imagine anyone batting an eye. But it’s more likely that he’s a day two pick, and if he can stay healthy, he’ll prove to be a high-value day two pick. His versatility is just so valuable, which is why whoever selects him will be getting a gem.
ON THE CLOCK…
Now, what do you think, Bucs Nation? Is Hamsah Nasirildeen on your radar in this month’s draft? Let us know what you think by voting in our poll and discussing your thoughts in the comments down below.