It’s Week 11 and the Falcons have an upcoming divisional matchup with the hated Saints on tap for Sunday. How Atlanta fares in that game will carry a lot of meaning for the rest of the season: if they can avoid getting swept by the Saints and continue their run of good play, they could potentially rally in the second half and flirt with an 8-8 record. If they drop this game, it’s likely they’ll wind up around 6-10.
At the moment, Atlanta is currently 10th in the projected draft order. They’re likely to stay fairly close to that range, barring a disastrous collapse or huge late-season win streak. That puts them in contention for some top players in the 2021 NFL Draft, in both the 1st and 2nd round. One of the biggest needs on the team next season is likely to be safety, where 2 out of 3 “starters” are free agents and the third—Ricardo Allen—could be a cap casualty.
Here are four safety prospects to keep an eye on for the Falcons.
Andre Cisco, Syracuse
Projected: Day 2
The most gifted ballhawk in all of college football, Syracuse’s Andre Cisco is a turnover machine at the safety position. He’s got great size at 6’0, 203 and pairs it with standout athleticism. Cisco is an all-or-nothing player who makes his mark with aggressive plays, and those tendencies can also get him in trouble. He’s prone to biting on fakes and can be manipulated by opposing QBs. Cisco is also not the most sound when it comes to technique or tackling. He’s one of the biggest boom-or-bust prospects in the 2021 class, and is also coming off a major injury, but Cisco has the ceiling of a dominant NFL safety in the right scheme.
Paris Ford, Pitt
Projected: Late 1st Round
If the Falcons are looking more for a box safety type who has the traits to develop into a more versatile defender, Pitt’s Paris Ford fits the bill. At 6’0, 190, Ford is a little on the small side for a full-time strong safety role at the NFL level, but his physicality absolutely jumps off the tape. He’s a terrific tackler with outstanding range and athleticism, with impressive zone coverage instincts. Ford needs more experience in deep coverage before he can be played reliably there, but he’s got more than enough athleticism to make it work. He’s the full package and can eventually take on just about any role in the secondary, making Ford a fit for just about any defense.
Richie Grant, UCF
Projected: Day 2
UCF’s Richie Grant could likely have been a late Day 2 pick in this year’s draft, but chose to return to school for his redshirt senior season. Grant is a high-end free safety prospect with excellent range and instincts in single high coverage. His ball skills are impressive and he’s also shown the ability to matchup in man coverage from the slot. While Grant isn’t overly physical, his tackling technique is sound and he rarely misses. Much like Cisco, Grant can be over-aggressive with trying to jump routes and reading the QB—leading to some mistakes in coverage. Grant looks the part of a starting NFL free safety and could be good fit for the Falcons on Day 2.
Richard LeCounte III, Georgia
Projected: Day 2
One of the most commonly mocked safeties to Atlanta, Georgia’s Richard LeCounte III obviously makes a ton of sense for a Falcons team that needs immediate help on the back end. LeCounte actually reminds me a lot of Ricardo Allen: a bit undersized for the position and not the flashiest athlete, but very technically sound and exceptionally instinctive. LeCounte does have better size than Allen at 5’11, 190, but isn’t quite as good a tackler. For a team lacking leadership in the secondary, LeCounte could be exactly what the Falcons need: he’s the one who handles the defensive calls for Georgia and is a vocal leader. LeCounte isn’t as flashy as the other prospects on this list, but he’s an instant starter who could come in and provide some much-needed stability for Atlanta.
What are your thoughts on these safety prospects for the Falcons? Who are some other prospects you’ll be watching for Atlanta?