Some players’ draft stock could be difficult to predict in the 2021. In a normal year, some teams are perfectly willing to take risks on players who might have some red flags. But in a year in which there is a huge number of prospects with less tape than normal, no NFL Scouting Combine, and almost no direct interaction between the various teams and the prospects, we could see a much more conservative approach from many teams.
That could have a huge effect on players who are coming off of season-ending injuries. Players like Syracuse safety Andre Cisco could be facing an uphill climb in the eyes of the NFL.
Cisco was considered one of the top safety prospects in the draft, carrying a reputation as a big hitter who also generates turnovers at a good clip. But after playing just 11 games in the last two seasons, his draft stock might have taken a serious hit — particularly considering how unpredictable the NFL’s opinion of the safety position is in a normal year.
So what does a healthy Andre Cisco bring to the table?
Prospect: Andre Cisco
Games Watched: vs. Pittsburgh (2019), vs. Clemson (2019), vs. Louisville (2019), vs. North Carolina (2020)
Red Flags: “lower body injury” (2019), ACL injury (2020)
Games Played: 24
Tackles For a loss: 2.0
Forced Fumbles: 2
Passes Defensed: 14
Games Played: 2
Tackles For a loss: 0.5
Forced Fumbles: 0
Passes Defensed: 0
Best: Versatility, athleticism, football IQ
Worst: Tackling, range, injury history
Projection: Primary nickel defender with scheme versatility.
Syracuse safety Andre Cisco has a good blend of size, athleticism, and football IQ to fulfill a number of different roles at the NFL level.
Cisco was used throughout the Syracuse secondary, playing single high safety, deep safety in a two-deep shell, box safety, slot defender, and some pseudo-linebacker, depending on the situation and defensive play called. Cisco shows very good football IQ, not only playing a wide variety of roles and responsibilities, but also being an active communicator during the presenap phase of the play. He frequently helped to communicate the play call to the rest of the Syracuse secondary, as well as help align them before the snap. Cisco also frequently used to disguise Syracsuse’s coverages, often rotating from one alignment to another at the snap of the ball.
Cisco is a good athlete for a safety, with solid range to patrol the deep half of the field in a Cover-2 shell, the foot and hip quickness to stay with slot receivers over short distances, and the speed to pursue running backs. He has solid instincts as a coverage player, with good awareness in zone coverage and generally being able to avoid conflicts schemed by passing concepts. Cisco has good ball skills, with a strong closing burst allowing him to be disruptive or create turnovers at the catch point.
Cisco all but flies downhill as a run defender. He diagnoses and acts on running plays very quickly, triggering hard and fast once the play is declared, and generally takes an accurate first step. He is an aggressive run defender, showing good physicality and play strength taking on blockers. Cisco manages to balance aggression with discipline as a run defender, taking efficient angles to the ball and laying big hits when he arrives, while also playing to avoid penalties or putting his teammates in danger.
That discipline can get him in trouble at times, as he can pull up when he seems to believe his teammates have the play stopped, only to be out of position if they fail to get the ball carrier on the ground. In those instances, Cisco doesn’t quite have the athleticism to make up for lost ground. He is, generally speaking, a good but not great athlete and doesn’t have the range to play a true center field role, nor does he have the quickness, agility, or speed, to stay with athletic receivers in tight coverage.
Cisco will need to improve his tackling at the NFL level. He is prone to relying on shoulder checks to get ball carriers on the ground. Bigger ball carriers, or those with good contact balance, can deflect most of the power behind Cisco’s tackle attempts and pick up extra yardage. Likewise, if Cisco is a bit out of position, he can miss tackle opportunities when he doesn’t use good tackling form.
Teams will also want to do their due diligence with Cisco’s medical reports. He missed three games with a lower body injury in 2019 and had his 2020 season ended after two games by an ACL injury suffered in warm-ups.
Overall Grade: 7.6 - This prospect should be an important contributor as a nickel defender who plays a variety of roles in a nickel personnel heavy defense. Teams will need to double-check injury red flags.
Andre Cisco projects best as a nickel defender for a defense which employs a large number of three-safety packages. Considering how nickel sets are being used to counter modern offenses, this could well classify Cisco as a starter. But whatever his precise designation on the depth chart, Cisco should be pushing for a significant share of the snap count early in his career.
Cisco has a broad scheme versatility and could play a box safety role for a defense which uses a lot of Cover-1 or Cover-3 principles in their secondary, or as a deep safety for a Cover-2 or Cover-4 team. He could even be used as a slot defender against an offense which uses a hybrid tight end or larger receiver as a “big slot” option. However, he doesn’t quite have the athleticism to be a true free safety or a full-time slot defender.
That’s why his best role could be as a “nickel defender”, and a player that defensive coordinators use across the secondary to counter the offense or exploit match-ups.
Cisco has the mental processing and football IQ to handle a relatively large load early in his career. Likewise, he has shown the ball production to be a potentially disruptive force when put in position to make plays.
Cisco’s injury history could knock him down draft boards, but that could make for an intriguing value in a modern defense.