In the 2017 NFL Draft, the Cowboys thought they were getting the answer to their safety question with the selection of Xavier Woods in the sixth round that year. Though he was drafted late and played at a small school, he was highly thought of as a player who could play various roles. That was evident early on as the Cowboys dealt with injuries in their secondary, and Woods was forced to play a lot in the slot as the nickel cornerback. He did a nice job too, which provided the promise that he could be the answer to their safety questions.
After a couple of solid seasons in 2018 and 2019, seasons in which the Cowboys flirted with the idea of trading for an All-Pro safety in Earl Thomas or Jamal Adams, Woods fell back to earth a bit in 2020 and looks like a long-shot to rejoin the team this offseason.
And so here we are, once again, needing to prioritize safety in the NFL Draft. Thankfully, it appears to be a draft that is deep at the position. That bodes well for the Cowboys. There may not be a name that is a top 20 pick in this year’s class, but there are several starting-caliber safeties available in the second and third rounds.
One of these players is Hamsah Nasirildeen, from Florida State. Bleacher Report’s Tyler Brooke published a piece focusing on one player that each NFL team should prioritize from the Senior Bowl.
Here’s what he had to say about Nasirlideen.
“Perhaps no safety in this year’s draft has the athletic profile Hamsah Nasirildeen possesses. He has great size for the position at 6’3″ and 213 pounds, which allows him to be a versatile chess piece for more creative defensive coordinators.”
Nasirildeen has great click-and-close ability to plug up rushing lanes or make contact with receivers at the point of the catch. His length and speed make him an ideal matchup in man coverage with even the most athletic tight ends.”
He isn’t certain to be a reliable deep safety at the next level, but his size, athleticism and versatility inside the box make him the kind of playmaker the Cowboys could use on their defense.”
Tyler Brooke, Bleacher Report
I completely agree that the Cowboys need to take a long look at the safeties from the Senior Bowl and make a concerted effort to get one with a top 100 pick.
Nasirildeen sounds like an intriguing player with his size and athleticism combination, but I don’t think he’s the safety the Cowboys prioritize from the Senior Bowl. It’s that final paragraph above that gives me a bit of pause. “He isn’t certain to be a reliable deep safety at the next level…”
That’s the kind of safety I’m looking for to play in Dan Quinn’s cover-3 defense. Someone who can play in the back end, provide range in coverage, provide run support, and make plays on the football.
The guy they should prioritize from the Senior Bowl is Richie Grant, from the University of Central Florida. Grant is someone they could use as a single-high safety in cover-3. He’s got a lot of athleticism and ball skills as well. Here’s my scouting report on Grant from the other day. While I might prefer Grant to Nasirildeen, the most important thing is they’ll have options if they decide to make safety a priority in the draft.
Over the last couple of drafts, they’ve had opportunities to take a safety and opted not to. They’ve had chances to trade for safeties or sign in free agency (Tre Boston or Tyrann Mathieu) and somehow decided they weren’t a scheme fit.
Well, with so much turnover coming in the secondary this offseason, the Cowboys would be wise to make free safety a priority this year. They need to find a reliable playmaker on the back end to pair with Donovan Wilson. The Senior Bowl had several of those types of players, and the NFL Draft will be littered with them. 2021 is the year to find your free safety for now and the future.