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Opinion

2021 NFL draft prospects: Deep class of talented safeties

(Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
Roar Guru
28th May, 2020
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My series looking ahead to college football’s top 2020-21 prospects brings the defensive side of the ball to a close today with a preview of a deep and enticing group of safeties.

Jevon Holland – junior, Oregon
6’1″, 200 pounds
Holland returns to a loaded Oregon secondary as one of only three returning players in all of college football with four or more interceptions in each of the last two seasons. He started all 14 games in 2019, splitting time between both safety positions, amassing 66 tackles (second-most on the team), 4.5 for loss, four interceptions and four passes defended.

Holland’s nine interceptions across the last seasons are the third-most in the nation over that time span, while the standout Duck was also a finalist for the Jim Thorpe award, bestowed upon the nation’s best defensive back. Holland also brings potential as a return specialist, with his 244 punt return yards ranked tenth nationally, with an average of 15.3 yards per return. Holland is the next great Oregon ball-hawking defensive back.

American Football players line up Canadian football. CFL. Image: Wikicommons generic

(Wikicommons)

Andre Cisco – junior, Syracuse
6’0″, 206 pounds
Cisco was an instant impact player on the end of the Orange’s defence as a true freshman in 2018, tying for the most interceptions in college football, with seven on his way to becoming Syracuse’s first true freshman to be elected first-team All-American. He enters his junior season in 2020 as college football’s interception leader, with 12, and second in passes defended per game, with 1.27, behind only Stanford’s Paulson Adebo.

Cisco is a two-time All-ACC selection, with 125 tackles, 28 passes defended, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery in 22 appearances. Syracuse have not had a defensive player selected in the first round of an NFL draft since Chandler Jones in 2012. The playmaking Cisco should change that with another exceptional junior season in New York.

Trevon Moehrig – junior, Texas Christian University
6’2″, 208 pounds
Moehrig enters season 2020 as one of the hottest safety names across all of college football. He finished his sophomore season in 2019 as Pro Football Focus’s highest-graded safety prospect and with the third most valuable season in the PFF College era (since 2014). He totalled 62 tackles, four interceptions, 11 passes defended, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery while allowing just 17 contested targets to be caught in 2019.

He tied teammate and 2020 Minnesota Vikings first-round pick Jeff Gladney for second in the big 12 in passes defended, with 1.25 per game. He will form arguably the best safety combination in college football with teammate Ar’Darius Washington this season and is in contention to be the number one safety prospect come seasons end.

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Richard LeCounte – senior, Georgia
5’11”, 190 pounds
Returns to Georgia for his senior season to lead what should be the nation’s most-watched secondary, having appeared in 38 games through three seasons for the Bulldogs. He started all 14 games at safety in 2019, finishing as the team’s third-leading tackler with 61, 4.5 tackles for loss, five interceptions, seven passes defended, two forced fumbles and three fumbles recovered. He led the SEC with three fumbles recovered last season while finishing second in interceptions.

He’s an enforcer from the back end who possesses an elite level of awareness and football instincts. He has great experience playing both safety positions and plays with a reckless abandon coming downhill that can lead to missed tackles at times. LeCounte finished strongly with two interceptions in Georgia’s Sugar Bowl victory over Baylor.

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Caden Sterns – junior, Texas
6’1″, 205 pounds
Sterns became the first Texas freshman defensive back to start in 13 games in ten years in 2018, where he led the team with four interceptions. He also tallied 62 tackles, with three tackles for loss, one sack and four pass breakups as well as a blocked kick in a tremendous first year for the Longhorns. He was banged up slightly last season, causing Sterns to miss four games. In the nine games Sterns did appear in he helped himself to 58 tackles, four tackles for loss, a sack and one pass defended.

He is generally thought of more highly than teammate Brandon Jones, who was a third-round pick of the Miami Dolphins in 2020. With two contrasting seasons to assess, it will be interesting to see which Sterns the Longhorns get in 2020.

Other players to watch
Florida State’s Hamsah Nasirildeen, USC’s Talanoa Hufanga, TCU’s Ar’Darius Washington, UCF’s Richie Grant and LSU’s Jacoby Stevens.

Best non-draft eligible player to watch
Notre Dame’s Kyle Hamilton