2021 NFL draft prospects: UCF S Richie Grant

·5 min read
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)

UCF S Richie Grant

6-foot, 200 pounds

Yahoo Sports draft grade: 5.78 — potential starter

TL;DR scouting report: Only so-so size and athleticism, but Grant’s terrific instincts, playmaking ability and experience give him a chance to be an early NFL contributor

Games watched: Stanford (2019), Marshall (2019), Georgia Tech (2020), Tulsa (2020), Cincinnati (2020)

The skinny: A 2-star Rivals recruit, Grant redshirted his first year at UCF in 2016 and was a key reserve in 2017, making 32 tackles (one for loss), a forced fumble and two pass breakups. In 2018, Grant hauled in six interceptions (tied for third in FBS) and made 109 tackles (three for losses), three pass breakups and three forced fumbles in 13 starts. He was all-AAC that year and in 2019, he had 78 tackles (four for losses), one interception (a pick six in the bowl game) and eight pass breakups in 12 starts. Grant made the all-conference first team again as a redshirt senior in 2020, with 72 tackles (3.5 for losses), three interceptions, six pass breakups and two forced fumbles in nine games. He was one of three finalists for the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation's top defensive back. Grant attended the 2021 Senior Bowl.

Upside: Playmaking knack is undeniable — 10 interceptions, 16 passes defended, five forced fumbles and two recoveries over the past three seasons. Big plays tended to come in big moments. Notable piece of UCF team that went 13-0, 12-1, 10-3 and 6-4 in his four seasons.

Excellent work from deep safety spot in Senior Bowl team sessions — unofficially led the week in practice interceptions and displayed a keen knack for breaking on deep and intermediate passes. Plays like a hawk hunts, scanning his prey.

Dependable single-high safety who rarely gets beat deep. Reads quarterbacks’ eyes, sees trends and understands offensive concepts to gain a step. Heady, smart, instinctive player. Nice range to make plays all over the field. Smooth backpedal and good transition skills to plant, drive and close.

Nov 23, 2018; Tampa, FL, USA; UCF Knights defensive back Richie Grant (27) intercepts a pass against South Florida Bulls wide receiver Randall St. Felix (84) during the first quarter at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
UCF safety Richie Grant (27) brings a combination of deep experience and big-playmaking ability. (Photo by Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

Has great versatility to factor as a box safety, deep-halves safety or covering backs and tight ends. Can even match in coverage with some less fleet receivers. Underrated blitzer who was allowed to do that more as a redshirt senior.

Urgent player who brings intensity to a defense. Strong tackler who will square up a ballcarrier and hit them head on. Tough-minded player. Seeks to punch and rip balls out after catches. Solid wingspan (77 5/8 inches) and hand size (9 1/2 inches).

Great experience — 46 career games, three-year starter and more than 3,000 snaps logged on defense and special teams. Came back to school in 2020 after receiving draftable grades. Pro-ready player who could start as a rookie.

Extensive special teams experience all four seasons and on all four major units (coverage and return). Has limited experience as a returner. Practices and prepares hard — strong work ethic. Credited with becoming a leader over time in the program. Pushes and challenges teammates to be better.

Downside: Average size and athleticism. A shade under 6-foot, a lean build (played in the 190-pound range in college) and average arm length (31 1/2 inches). Might have only so much more mass potential to add to his frame. Gives up some length when tasked with handling tight ends. Plays deep (fear of getting beat long?) and can be nickel-and-dimed underneath.

Wasn’t as effective in one-on-one coverage in Senior Bowl drills. Might lack the quickness to handle receivers in man coverage at the next level. Speed is a question as some scouts believe he’s a 4.6 guy. Average athlete for the position and will have to get by based on film study, preparation and instincts.

Move to more of a box role in 2020 came with some coverage slip-ups. Struggles with tracking shiftier players in space. Missed tackles can come in bunches (even though he was improved in that area in 2020). Will fly in over-aggressively or take shaky angles to the ball and isn’t as effective tackling in space.

Played in very talented Golden Knights secondary — teammates Aaron Robinson, Tay Gowin and Antwan Collier are all NFL talents. Captain of defense that allowed a ton of chunk plays last season. Needs to continue working on field communication skills.

Older for a rookie — turns 24 in November. Came into the 2020 season earning some Day 3 grades from scouts.

Best-suited destination: Grant has the instincts, temperament and experience to be a Day 1 rookie starter, but at worst he would be a fine rotational safety early who contributes heavily on special teams. He’d be a great fit for teams that like to employ single-high and two-deep coverages, with Grant able to fill either and also come up in the box on occasion.

Did you know: Grant campaigned UCF head coach Josh Heupel to give him snaps in his final season. In high school, Grant was best on defense, but he also topped the 1,000-yard receiving mark as a wideout.

“I’m an offensive player and I was in high school, so I know I still have got it," Grant said, via the Orlando Sentinel. “I’m on coach Heupel all the time about giving me a few reps over there. I’m just waiting.

I just want to touch the ball, to be honest. I miss that.”

Alas, it was to no avail. Grant never saw time on that side of the ball.

Player comp: Similar in play style and athletic profile to Rams safety John Johnson III.

Expected draft range: Top-75 pick, possibly even early in Round 2