Not much went well for the Dallas Cowboys in 2020, but they found out about several players on their roster that will continue to be a part of this club moving forward. One of those is Safety Donovan Wilson, who further proved why the Cowboys needed to find a way to get him on the field. As good as Wilson is, he's more of a strong safety type, doing his best work within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. With Xavier Woods heading to free agency and unlikely to return, the Cowboys need to find someone to pair with Wilson at the safety position that compliments what Wilson does well. One such player that could fit with what Dan Quinn would like to do in cover-3 is University of Central Florida Safety, Richie Grant.
Grant had an incredible career for UCF. He played 46 games over four seasons, hauling in 10 interceptions, including six in his sophomore season.
Grant is a durable safety with the ability to play in single and two-deep high safety looks and provide coverage in the slot. He shows a willingness to come up in run support to make the tackle and is willing to stick his nose into the play. Grant shows good range and good instincts. On crossing routes generally shows good awareness to sift through the traffic to stick with his guy in man coverage.
On a run play against Memphis in 2020, he worked off the edge to his contain, but as the play went up the middle, he was badly out of position, as was the rest of the defense. The Memphis runner was gone with no one in sight to bring him down. Richie Grant recovered and chased him down from behind, forced a fumble, which UCF recovered in the end zone for the touchback.
In that same game, Memphis had a second and goal from the two-yard line, and the running back was tackled but looked to have enough momentum to get into the end zone until Grant came up and lowered his shoulder to keep him out.
In the third quarter against the Cincinnati Bearkats, with UCF down 19-17, Grant made four straight plays that show off just what he could be for the Dallas Cowboys.
First, he's playing up near the line of scrimmage on first down, and the Bearkats run a dive play up the middle. Grant works inside and makes a sure, wrap up tackle for just a two-yard gain.
Then on second down, UCF is in a single-high, what appears to be Cover-3 look, but Grant is lined up in the slot as the strong safety and on the snaps drops to cover the curl-flat zone. Desmond Ridder rolls right after coverage takes away his first couple of reads, and Grant rolls with him in the zone. As he notices Ridder looking back to the middle, Grant flows against the grain with Ridder and can elevate to get both hands on the football en route to a tight end attempting to sneak behind him in the zone. It's a near interception but shows impressive discipline to stay committed to his zone with the athletic Ridder rolling out.
On third down, Grant is in a two-deep safety alignment, which turns into a Tampa 2 drop. Ridder doesn't have anywhere to go with the football and scrambles. He picks up the first down and more as he's heading for the end zone. Grant reacts from the other side of the field and comes up and makes the tackle to prevent Ridder from crossing the goal line.
On the ensuing 1st and Goal play, Grant is lined up off the left end in the goal line formation. Cincinnati runs out shotgun away from Grant, and he's able to dart into the backfield to bring down the ball carrier for a loss.
UCF holds the Bearkats to a field goal after getting first and goal from the one and then score a touchdown to take the lead on their ensuing drive.
At the moment, it seems a lot of the draft community has him in the third round or so. It wouldn't surprise me to see him go as high as the second. Safeties with range and playmaking ability are valued in that 50-75 ranges. Before the Senior Bowl, Grant was ranked number 89 on Dane Brugler's Top 100. With his performance in Mobile, Alabama, there's a good chance Grant works his way up many draft boards. If he's available for the Cowboys in the third round, they should be running to the virtual podium with his card.
Here are some of Richie Grant's highlights from Senior Bowl Week.
I counted 38 @seniorbowl prospects in my top-100.
Five personal favorites who played big-time in 2020 and could continue to rise in Mobile:
– OT James Hudson, CIN
– WR D'Wayne Eskrdige, WMU
– DS Richie Grant, UCF
– CB Ifeatu Melifonwu, SYR
– EDGE Payton Turner, HOU https://t.co/3B5UCGD6zi
UCF’s Richie Grant (@rgrant1525) had a breakout performance today at practice. He was making plays early and often. Just like Jeremy Chinn last year, he’s making the most out his opportunities at the @seniorbowl #TheDraftStartsInMobile pic.twitter.com/UakfopUVTt