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2021 NFL scouting report: Central Florida FS Richie Grant

In need of an instinctual free safety? Central Florida’s Richie Grant can be just that.

Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

The offseason for the Atlanta Falcons was set to be filled with plenty of maneuvering and tinkering when it came to the roster. Obvious cuts and attrition at positions like safety and defensive nd was bound to set the stage for a very important draft cycle for the Falcons. In fact, safety in particular saw plenty of action, with the departures of strong safety Keanu Neal and free safeties Ricardo Allen and Damontae Kazee via free agency.

The Falcons did use their limited free agency dollars to bring aboard veteran Erik Harris. However, the cupboard is still relatively bare for the Falcons at the safety spot. Luckily for them, the safety position in this particular draft class is deep, albeit not top heavy. There is a free safety in the upcoming NFL draft that can provide much needed playmaking ability in the secondary in Dean Pees’ brand new defensive scheme.

Richie Grant Scouting Report

Height: 5’11

Weight: 200 pounds

Career stats: 290 career tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, one sack, 10 interceptions, 17 pass breakups, five forced fumbles, four fumble recoveries

Games watched: 2020 vs. Houston, 2020 vs. Cincinnati, 2020 vs. Memphis, 2020 vs. Georgia Tech, 2021 Senior Bowl

Strengths

The initial read on Grant is that he is a very instinctual free safety that has a knack for seeking and finding the football. Grant ended his collegiate career as a member of the first team All-AAC in three consecutive seasons (2018, 2019, 2020). During his time in college, Grant saw duty in a variety of coverages at the safety position and even saw action as a slot corner on occasion. He led the Knights defense in tackles in 2018 and 2020 also.

His frame is ideal for today’s NFL. Grant shows excellent range and can track the football with ease. His mental processing when diagnosing passing plays is polished and of course, Grant’s ball skills are very sound. In defending the run, Grant is assertive and will commit to making the necessary tackle. Grant does not mind coming downhill when assigned and take down ball carriers. At Senior Bowl practices, Grant was a consistent playmaker and was arguably the best defender on the field.

Weaknesses

Grant’s play speed is okay, at best, and that is a component of his game that may have hit its peak already. While Grant has excellent instincts while in pass coverage, his decision-making can lead to a big play or two due to questionable angles he takes while in pursuit. He can be seen on tape either second guessing his reaction or taking a bad angle, which opens up a clearer running lane behind him. Grant has the ability to improve his tackling overall at the next level.

Conclusion

Some defenders have natural playmaking ability that can’t be taught or coached up. They are not only able to make plays at any given moment, but they are clutch in that manner and make plays at critical junctures of the game. Richie Grant falls into that category.

Grant is not the biggest nor the fastest, but he is very good in many elements of the game. With his instinctual play, he has the makeup to be a very reliable free safety for years to come. The Falcons are desperately in need of having a safety on the back end that can show range to make plays in the deep passing game, and Grant can handle that. His lack of blazing speed and elite athleticism likely keeps him out of the first round.

He makes up for it by having a skill set that can flip a game with an impressive play here and there. Grant has a second round grade, and I believe he has the best ball skills of any safety in the draft. I pushed hard for the Falcons to add Antoine Winfield Jr. in last year’s draft but of course, they went elsewhere. It would be foolish to pass up a prospect like Grant again this year, too, especially with the magnitude of the need at safety.