Using the Next Gen Stats NFL draft model, Mike Bend of NFL.com designated what would become the Falcons second-round pick in Richie Grant to be a starting-caliber talent that would be available after the first round.
Production Score: 90
Athleticism Score: 75
OVERALL DRAFT SCORE: 89
STARTER PROBABILITY: 70%
PRO BOWL PROBABILITY: 9%
Playmaking ability is one of the most predictive traits when it comes to projecting the NFL success of a safety prospect, and Grant was a turnover machine. The rangy safety generated 15 takeaways (10 INTs, five forced fumbles) over his last three seasons with the Golden Knights. The three-time first-team All-AAC, and Thorpe Award finalist (awarded to the nation’s top defensive back), enters the draft with a 90 production score, third-highest among safeties in this year’s class behind only LSU’s JaCoby Stevens (95) and Indiana’s Jamar Johnson (92). Grant also finished top-five among safeties in the three-cone (6.78 seconds) and the broad jump (10-feet, 9-inches), helping him earn an above-average 75-athleticism score.
Though this piece was pre-draft, it still holds true that Grant will be a starter in this league for a long time to come. SportsTalkATL has been a fan of Grant since the pre-draft process, specifically me. Back in March, I wrote a piece titled, Falcons: Taking Richie Grant with the 35th pick could satisfy both a need and best player available. Terry Fontenot ended up trading back in the second round but still selected Grant with the 40th pick in the draft; here are a few words from that article:
Grant can play any role in any coverage Dean Pees decides to deploy. He possesses sideline-to-sideline range with explosive acceleration, which allows him to take tight ends and running backs in man coverage, not just cover ground as a single-high or split-zone safety. Grant has incredible ball skills but packs a punch as a run-defender. He’s likely a free safety at the next level, but with that said, he can comfortably work in the slot. He can even play in the box when needed due to his efforts in run defense and physical nature.
There are limitations to his game, such as his age and weight. A hair under 200-pounds and 24-years-old, Grant is easily handled by blockers and might not have the same longevity as younger prospects. These are normal concerns, but nothing ground-breaking that can’t be overlooked. His playstyle is aggressive, so he occasionally misses tackles as well as bites on play-action, but he’s a clean prospect with a ton of upside — a future “do-it-all” safety that Pees can move around like a chess piece.
Given the Falcons personnel at safety — Duron Harmon and Erik Harris — and Dean Pees’ tendency to deploy nickel packages, Grant should see the field immediately. Even before Bend knew which team Grant would go to, he pegged him as a starter, which he will be in Atlanta for many years to come.