2021 NFL draft prospects: Syracuse S Andre Cisco

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Eric Edholm's criteria for grading NFL draft prospects. (Albert Corona/Yahoo Sports)
Eric Edholm's criteria for grading NFL draft prospects. (Albert Corona/Yahoo Sports)

Syracuse S Andre Cisco

6-foot, 209 pounds

Yahoo Sports draft grade: 5.80 — potential starter

TL;DR scouting report: Freelancing, ballhawking safety who could turn out to be the best in this class if he can play with more discipline

Games watched: Liberty (2019), Maryland (2019), North Carolina (2020), Pitt (2020)

The skinny: A 3-star Rivals recruit, Cisco was overshadowed at IMG Academy but landed with the Orange and made himself into a three-year starter. He was fantastic as a true freshman, earning third-team AP All-American honors and being named ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year with an FBS-best seven INTs, 18 passes defended and 60 tackles in 13 games (11 starts). As a sophomore in 2019, Cisco hauled in five more picks, 10 passes defended and made 65 tackles in nine games. In 2020, he played only two games, making 11 tackles and one INT before declaring for the 2021 draft.

Upside: Absurd playmaking ability — a whopping 13 INTs, 29 passes defended, two forced fumbles in 24 games. It was hard to turn on the tape and not see him make some kind of impactful play in a game.

Tremendous athleticism — runs and moves extremely well. Great physique with natural bulk that doesn’t hinder his movement skills. Quick-twitch mover. Reaction times both in run and pass support are plus-plus. Good upper-body strength and lower-body explosion. All the physical traits you’re looking for in a modern post safety.

Outstanding range — covers as much ground in a hurry as any safety in this class. Tracks the ball from a deep safety spot and can traverse half the field to make a play on the ball.

Comes in ready to send a message against the run or vs. middle-field catches. Lays some absolute licks on those who dare to enter his zone (see Pitt 2020 game, on back-to-back plays). A “juice” player who can impact the game from the top down. Sees the field well and arrives at the ball in a hurry. Asked to handle high-safety duties in aggressive defense — they ran a lot of Cover 1, trusting he’d close off the top.

Turns 21 in March, so there's ample room for growth and development.

SYRACUSE, NY - SEPTEMBER 22:  Andre Cisco (back) of the Syracuse Orange breaks up a pass intended for Aaron McLean (front) of the Connecticut Huskies during the fourth quarter at the Carrier Dome on September 22, 2018 in Syracuse, New York. Syracuse defeated Connecticut 51-21. (Photo by Rich Barnes/Getty Images)
Syracuse safety Andre Cisco was a consistent playmaker for the Orange. (Photo by Rich Barnes/Getty Images)

Downside: Injury risk who has missed parts of two seasons. Cisco has played the equivalent of one full season over the past two years. Torn ACL early in 2020 season could limit his offseason participation and put him behind as a rookie. Physical style could lead to a shorter career.

Riverboat gambler who rides as many cold streaks as he does hot ones — too much freelancing. Will guess wrong and get burned. Bites on play action and will be manipulated by quarterbacks’ eyes. Needs to be schooled more on being patient and not trying to make a pick every single pass play.

Tackling can be an issue as Cisco takes poor angles to the ball, doesn’t wrap up or flies in chaotically. PFF charted him with 27 missed tackles in 24 games. Can he be trusted as the last line of defense?

Coverage skills when singled up on receivers was spotty. Some quicker receivers might be too much for him to handle in the slot. Will battle with bigger targets at the catch point but can get bodied up.

Has box-safety skills but isn’t always as effective down there. Still learning to read his keys in reduced space and diagnose from tighter quarters. Was caught fighting through traffic in that role. Needs to have his head on a swivel and use his peripheral vision better.

Best-suited destination: Projects as a post or split safety in the NFL who can patrol the middle and seek opportunities to make plays on the ball. He can work in the slot and in the box, but it’s not yet what Cisco does best.

Did you know: Cisco was high school teammates with Alabama linebacker Dylan Moses and Cleveland Browns safety Grant Delpit.

Player comp: Marcus Williams-Anthony Harris mold.

Expected draft range: Round 2