Just weeks away from the 2021 NFL Draft, the potential landing spots for notable NFL prospects are beginning to come into focus. With glaring needs up and down the roster, here’s a player that could help the Detroit Lions continue their defensive renovation.
Prospect: Richie Grant
School: Central Florida
2020 Statistics: 9 games played, 3 interceptions, 72 total tackles, 2 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries
The longstanding argument of whether it is more prudent to draft the best player available or to fill gaping holes on your roster does not seem to be ending anytime soon. Grant seems unlikely to be selected in the first round, but he could certainly be available when the Lions are on the clock for the second time. It just so happens that he could meet both criteria.
Atop the Lions’ current depth chart, there are concerns at the safety position. Tracy Walker is entering a contract year and has yet to take the major leap forward that many have expected. Behind him, Will Harris has looked lost on defense to the point of being a liability. The cupboard is bare after that.
This is a deep draft at safety, and the Lions could look at other options in the later rounds. What Grant offers though could be worth an early selection. He was part of a talented trio of UCF defensive backs along with cornerbacks Aaron Robinson and Tay Gowan last season. All three could hear their name called before Day 2 is complete.
Grant’s strong play as a senior in 2020 helped him be named as a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award as the country’s top defensive back. He was also a standout at January’s Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, as noted by al.com’s Creg Stephenson:
“If there was anyone who ‘made money’ this week, it might be Grant, who dominated in three days of practice. A highly-productive three-year starter at UCF, he led his team in tackles twice and finished second the other time.”
Grant has the versatility and instincts to be a legitimate playmaker in the secondary in the NFL. He makes quick reads on the ball and will not back down from covering tight ends or colliding with running backs in the hole. He’s a natural leader and could be a productive special teamer as well.
It’s hard to find too many shortcomings in Grant’s game, other than his average speed and physical profile. However, safeties that don’t excel in one particular area are not every team’s preference, which could hurt his stock. At 23, Grant is also a little older than many other prospects.
The Detroit Lions need an injection of playmaking at every level of their defense, and Richie Grant could certainly help there with some early defensive snaps. He’s unlikely to last past the second round, however, so it could come down to how much the Lions value the safety position over other possible upgrades.