The New York Jets’ 2021 NFL Draft class started with a bang as they made Zach Wilson the number two overall pick and the top player behind the vaunted Trevor Lawrence.
After getting Wilson, the New York Jets made a number of other home run picks in the first draft with general manager Joe Douglas and head coach Robert Saleh working hand-in-hand. Saleh’s presence, in particular, made any selections on the defensive side of the ball wildly intriguing.
With a ton of work to be done on both sides of the ball, the Jets focused in on the offensive side with their top four picks (Wilson, Alijah Vera-Tucker, Elijah Moore, and Michael Carter). That is understandable considering they drafted a quarterback up top and want to give him the best possible chance of early success.
After four consecutive offensive picks, the final six selections of the Jets’ 2021 NFL Draft class were on defense and five in a row came from the defensive backfield. One player, in particular, that is a fascinating inclusion in this class is of the hybrid variety.
That player is none other than Florida State’s Hamsah Nasirildeen. Unless you didn’t follow the 2021 NFL Draft process at all, you’ve likely heard of Nasirildeen. The former Florida State star was generating some serious hype as a potential day two selection.
As a matter of fact, very few people thought he would get out of the third round.
The New York Jets managed to get him in the sixth.
Injuries being the key contributing factor to that, the Jets got themselves a major steal that late in the NFL Draft (186th overall) and a guy who could play for Robert Saleh immediately.
Nasirildeen is a physical player on defense who racked up nearly 200 tackles between 2018 and 2019 prior to an injury that caused him to miss the first seven games of the 2020 slate.
That physicality showed up in the form of three forced fumbles in 2019 paired with tremendous coverage efficiency (under 50 percent completion rate allowed, no touchdowns) en route to second-team All-ACC honors.
At 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, and built with longer than 34-inch arms, Nasirildeen is a physical specimen who ironically doesn’t have a clear position fit at the next level. The Jets are listing him as a linebacker, but on base downs, can he hold up at that weight with his long frame?
It will be fascinating to see how Saleh uses him, but this is a defensive coach that has routinely gotten the best/most out of his players. Saleh’s ability to find fits for players in his defense and specifically for someone like Nasirildeen should not be in question, and a clear case in point is Saleh’s work in Jacksonville with fellow former Florida State alum Telvin Smith who came into the league listed at 6-foot-3, 218 pounds and wound up averaging 124 tackles per season in his career.
Nasirildeen may not be an exact replica of Smith, but certainly, you can see what Saleh might be envisioning. That, and perhaps more, given Nasirildeen’s versatility.
The versatility to play all over the formation certainly helps, but being strong in coverage as a linebacker is what NFL teams are looking for, not necessarily just the ability to line up anywhere.
Nasirildeen obviously can do that and do it well, making him one of the top day three steals in the entire 2021 NFL Draft class.