The "Triple Take" team, the Steelers Radio Network trio of Matt Williamson, Dale Lolley and Mike Prisuta, provides updates on their breakdown of the top safety prospects in the 2021 NFL Draft. If you want to hear the audio version of "The Triple Take" click here.
The opinions of these Steelers Radio Network personalities do not reflect the views of the Steelers organization.
Matt's Second Take on the S position ...
Who's stock has risen and why?
Divine Deablo, Virginia Tech (6-3, 227 lbs.) - First off, Deablo is a huge safety, and some have projected him to move to linebacker at the next level. The reality is that he will probably do both in the NFL, but there were some questions if he was athletic enough to pull that off. Well, Diablo's Pro Day was just outstanding should have answered that question. As mentioned, he is huge for a safety at 6' 3" and 226 pounds with very long 33" arms. This all stands out on tape of course. But at 226 pounds, Deablo ran his forty-yard dash in 4.42 seconds. Then added to his resume with a 34" vertical and 126" broad jump. His change of direction drills was not as impressive and Deablo is somewhat of a linear, yet explosive, athlete. But his Pro Day is going to help his cause of being a jack of all trades defender at the next level with a superb special teams profile as well.
Who's emerged and why?
Christian Uphoff, Illinois State (6-3, 195 lbs.) - At his level of competition, Uphoff was a man amongst boys. But he showed very well at the Senior Bowl to build on the momentum from what he put on tape at Illinois State. Then at Uphoff's Pro Day-on a day that was rainy and very cold for their outdoor workout mind you-he ran in the high 4.5s with a 7.01 3-cone drill. However, he reportedly has run sub 4.5 at the EXOS facility and racked up 23 reps on the bench press. He has very good size with burst and change of direction skills to succeed at the next level.
Other Notes: There probably isn't a safety in this class whose draft stock has climbed more in the last year than Central Florida's Richie Grant. He has really proven to be an excellent all-around football player and a safety that can pretty much do anything asked of him-an incredibly important trait in today's NFL. Grant stood out at the Senior Bowl and solidified his all-around profile at Central Florida's pro day. At 5' 11 5/8" and 197 pounds, every one of Grant's drills were positives for him, which is similar to everything he does so well on the actual football field. Grant is very decisive and quick to diagnose against run or pass. He is physical and aggressive, coming downhill with pop against the run. Grant covers a lot of ground and while he might not jump off the tape in one specific area, he brings an awful lot to the table for a modern-day safety.
Matt's First Take on the S position ...
#5 - Andre Cisco, Syracuse (6-0, 209 lbs.) - This guy is a real wild card. His high moments on the field are extremely high. Cisco makes a lot of splash plays. But his lowlights are equally as worrisome. Cisco tore his ACL this past fall but before that put up eye-popping production numbers. He certainly has size, stature and speed. Cisco is extremely aggressive, but that also works against him at times.
#4 - Jevon Holland, Oregon (6-1, 208 lbs.) - The last time we saw Holland on a football field was 2019, when he had an excellent season mostly handling the slot duties for Oregon. Before that, he played a more traditional safety role and also did that very well. So, there are some unknowns with Holland and he will be a bit of a projection. Last we saw, he wasn't an overly physical player and didn't stand out in run support, but Holland processes the game around him quite well and he gets his hands on the ball.
#3 - Richie Grant, Central Florida (5-11 1/2, 199 lbs.) - Early in his college career, Grant mostly played a single high role and did it very well. But he has shown great versatility since and is a complete safety. He handles himself very well in one-on-one situations in coverage and can be asked to play man coverage regularly. He is also very adept vs. the run. Grant has an excellent understanding of the game and you see that in all facets.
#2 - Elijah Molden, Washington (5-10 1/2, 194 lbs.) - Molden might best project to slot cornerback in the NFL, but he really can be a jack of all trades type defensive back that has become coveted in the league. He doesn't have elite speed, but Molden is very quick and shows excellent balance and body control. His father played in the league and Molden has a great understanding of the game as well as a very competitive nature on the field. He's a good tackler with very good ball production. Molden is just a good football player no matter how he is used.
#1 - Trevon Moehrig, TCU (6-2, 208 lbs.) - Moehrig does it all. He isn't an elite prospect, but he plays the run well, has good range in coverage, can play man or zone, has blitzing skills and excellent safety size. He has very impressive physical traits, including his speed, and is an excellent tackler. Moehrig can play the deep middle or half as well as some dime linebacker. Moehrig has gotten his hands on the football quite a bit and will be an important piece to whatever NFL defense he lands on.
Dale's Second Take on the S position ...
Who's stock has risen and why?
Jevon Holland, Oregon (6-1, 208 lbs.) - Holland is closing hard on TCU's Trevon Moehrig as potentially the top safety in this class. He opted out in 2020, but it's hard to overlook the fact that he had nine interceptions in his two seasons at Oregon State. He's simply a playmaker. Holland reminded everyone at his pro day why he was so highly thought of entering the 2020 season by running a sub-4.5 40.
Who's emerged and why?
Divine Deablo, Virginia Tech (6-3, 227 lbs.) - Deablo showed that he was more than just perhaps the coolest name in this draft by putting on a show at the Virginia Tech pro day. He ran a 4.42-second 40 and did well on his jumps. Deablo was a wide receiver as a freshman for the Hokies who moved to safety and became a three-year starter. He has the look of a safety with dime linebacker potential who could be a late-round steal.
Other Notes: BYU's safety duo of Kavika Fonua and Zayne Anderson weren't on a lot of radars before their school's pro day. But Fonua measured in at 6-0, 200 lbs., then posted a 39-inch vertical jump and 4.43-second 40. Anderson was a little more highly rated and ran a 4.45 and an outstanding 6.78 3-cone time at 6-2, 210 lbs. … Moehrig, who has long been considered the top safety in this class, did a ridiculous 33 reps of 225 lbs. on the bench press at his pro day. … Purdue's Tyler Coyle also blew up his pro day performance. Coyle ran a 4.36 with a 39-inch vertical jump and had an 11-1 broad jump at 6-1, 209 lbs.
Dale's First Take on the S position ...
#5 - Paris Ford, Pitt (6-0, 190 lbs.) - A former cornerback, Ford's coverage abilities show up on tape. But he plays a very physical game despite his corner background. But he played better in 2019 than he did in 2020 before opting out. Still, he finished with six interceptions the past two seasons to go along with 10 pass breakups.
#4 - Andre Cisco, Syracuse (6-0, 209 lbs.) - Cisco is expected to run in the 4.3s when he has his pro day. That speed shows up on tape. Cisco played in just two games in 2020, because of a lower body injury, so that will have to be checked out. But he had 13 interceptions and 14 pass breakups in 21 career games. He'll gamble at times, however, trying to make the big play. He'll have to scale that back in the NFL, where QBs will take advantage of his overaggressive nature.
#3 - Richie Grant, Central Florida (5-11 1/2, 199 lbs.) - Grant has played deep zone, in the slot and in the box. And he's been productive in all of those roles. In 34 games over the past three seasons, he recorded over 250 tackles, 10.5 tackles for a loss, 10 interceptions and 16 pass breakups along with five forced fumbles. He projects better to free safety in the NFL, which makes him a little more valuable.
#2 - Jevon Holland, Oregon (6-1, 208 lbs.) - A nice-sized prospect who opted out in 2020. But in his first two seasons, he had nine interceptions and 10 pass breakups. Holland also averaged more than 15 yards on punt returns and can play in the slot, as well. He's a nice chess piece who can play multiple positions within a defense. Some teams might even see him as capable of playing cornerback.
#1 - Trevon Moehrig, TCU (6-2, 208 lbs.) - As close to the total package as you'll find in this draft, Moerig can handle playing deep safety and has very good ball skills. Had six interceptions and 20 pass breakups in the past two seasons. His size is rare for the free safety position, but he runs well enough and has the instincts to be very effective despite his strong safety size.
Mike's Second Take on the S position ...
Who's stock has risen and why?
Richard LeCounte, Georgia (5-10, 196 lbs.) - LeCounte didn't necessarily see his stock rise, but it might not have fallen, either, despite a 4.83 40 at the Bulldogs' Pro Day.
Jeremiah called LeCounte's 40 time "unfortunate," but wouldn't go as far as to classify it as a deal-breaker. "Not the time that he would like," Jeremiah continued. "But to me this is still a really good football player who I think plays much faster. He is somebody that relies on his eyes and his instincts to play faster."
LeCounte was a First-Team All-SEC selection in 2020. He's been seen on tape coming up to tackle Alabama running back Najee Harris, among others, and has demonstrated ball skills while manning the deep middle (LeCounte had a combined seven interceptions over the last two seasons).
NFL Network analyst Bucky Brooks said pro day workouts are for "pole positioning" heading into a draft and that it's whether or not a prospect can actually play that will determine whether he can make the most of whatever opportunity he gets.
Brooks characterized LeCounte as "a talented player that can absolutely get it done on the field."
Other Notes: USC's Talanoa Hufanaga (6-0, 199 lbs.) is as well-decorated and as well-schooled a safety as any. He was a 2020 First-team AP All-American and the Pac-12 Defensive Back of the Year and according to Jeremiah he's demonstrated great timing as a blitzer and has been working out in preparation for the draft with Troy Polamalu … Indiana's Jamar Johnson (6-2, 205 lbs.) emerged as Brooks' No. 3 safety after posting a 4.58 40 and a 35" vertical at the Hoosiers' Pro Day … Pitt's Paris Ford (6-0, 197) ran a 4.90 40 at the Panthers' Pro Day that might limit his opportunities initially. In Brooks' estimation Ford will have to prove himself on special teams to make a team … Texas' Caden Sterns (6-1, 207 lbs.) reeled off a 4.40 40 and a 42" vertical at the Longhorns Pro Day, demonstrating the athleticism that's helped establish him as a free safety capable of handling a centerfielder role.
Mike's First Take on the S position ...
#5 - Damar Hamlin, Pitt (6-0, 196 lbs.) - ESPN analyst Todd McShay envisions Hamlin as a third- or fourth-round pick who will achieve longevity in the NFL because of his smarts, instincts and football intelligence, and because he can cover, play the run and even come off the edge. "I absolutely love him," McShay gushed during Senior Bowl week. "All season long they relied on him to be the guy." Dolphins head coach Brian Flores had this to say about Hamlin at the Senior Bowl: "He's smart, he's tough. The safety position, it's about communication, you're really the quarterback of the defense. He showed a lot of that. He can take in a lot of information and take it from the board to the field. We're impressed with him." Hamlin had a tip-pick in the Senior Bowl after collecting six INTs at Pitt (two in 10 games in 2020).
#4 - Andre Cisco, Syracuse (6-0, 209 lbs.) - In the interest of transparency, Cisco kid was a friend of mine. But in the event you don't know much about him, know this: He had two forced fumbles, 13 interceptions and 14 passes defensed in 24 career games for the Orange. Cisco reportedly suffered an ACL injury in a collision with a teammate during pregame warmups before Syracuse played Georgia Tech and was lost for the 2020 season after just two games, so the medical questions will have to be resolved. Questions about Cisco's ball skills have already been answered.
#3 - Richie Grant, Central Florida (5-11 1/2, 199 lbs.) - NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah offered up a glowing review during Senior Bowl week: "You see him play as the free safety, he can drop down in the nickel, he did a great job in those roles and also split outside to corner and held up well. Got his hands on a lot of footballs and I think very much in the conversation to be a Top-50 pick." Grant had six interceptions in 2018 and 10 in his career at UCF, and two more in one practice at the Senior Bowl, where he also worked some at cornerback.
#2 - Jevon Holland, Oregon (6-1, 208 lbs.) - His opt-out in 2020 prevented scouts from seeing if Holland could build on the success he had in his first two seasons at Oregon. Still, there was plenty on display in 2018 and 2019. Holland intercepted five passes in 2018 even tough he only started two games. And in 2019 he made splash plays on both sides of the line of scrimmage (four more interceptions and four-and-a-half tackles for loss), and on special teams (a 15.3-yard average on 16 punt returns). Holland can play safety or slot cornerback, so he possesses the desired versatility as well as the required play-making ability.
#1 - Trevon Moehrig, TCU (6-2, 208 lbs.) - Moehrig's seven interceptions in three seasons attest to his ball skills well enough, but they're not nearly as impressive as his ability to track the ball and position himself down the field in coverage. He can also be aggressive with receivers in one-on-one coverage without drawing flags, and he's a sure and physical tackler. Whether breaking on the ball in coverage or coming up to attack a sweep or a play in the flat, Moehrig hits the gas and gets there in a hurry. And he does it all seemingly with ease, with an athleticism that suggests he's not even breaking a sweat. And that he knew how the play was going to end all along.