Falcons: Expect second-round pick Richie Grant to see the field immediately

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Even with Duron Harmon and Erik Harris assuming the starting safety roles, Falcons fans can expect to see Richie Grant on the field from day one. This isn’t me saying he will take over Harmon’s free safety spot or Harris’s strong safety spot, but rather Dean Pees will deploy three safety personnel packages more often than not. During the 2018 season, the Titans dialed up a nickel personnel package on 73% of defensive snaps — ninth-most in the NFL, according to Football Outsiders. With offenses only becoming more difficult to defend, I would expect that number to only increase.

The below quote is from an article two summers ago describing the Titans’ “switching” defense.

Safeties Kevin Byard and Kenny Vaccaro are both big and physical enough to play in the box or blitz while also having the range and cover chops to play deep or man up on athletic tight ends..

The Titans regular nickel, Logan Ryan, brings a safety’s skill set to the position. He’s an outstanding tackler and run defender along with being excellent as a blitzer.

Grant is the ideal safety for Pees to use in any way he sees fit. If the Falcons are struggling in single-high, in the box, or in the slot at the safety position, Grant will be able to come in and give Pees adequate play at any alignment — as I pointed out in a pre-draft article calling for Terry Fontenot to take Grant with the 35th pick:

Grant can play any role in any coverage Dean Pees decides to deploy. He possesses sideline-to-sideline range with explosive acceleration, which allows him to take tight ends and running backs in man coverage, not just cover ground as a single-high or split-zone safety. Grant has incredible ball skills but packs a punch as a run-defender. He’s likely a free safety at the next level, but with that said, he can comfortably work in the slot. He can even play in the box when needed due to his efforts in run defense and physical nature.

There are limitations to his game, such as his age and weight. A hair under 200-pounds and 24-years-old, Grant is easily handled by blockers and might not have the same longevity as younger prospects. These are normal concerns, but nothing ground-breaking that can’t be overlooked. His playstyle is aggressive, so he occasionally misses tackles as well as bites on play-action, but he’s a clean prospect with a ton of upside — a future “do-it-all” safety that Pees can move around like a chess piece.

The only limitation I mentioned — Fontenot squashed any concern about his size and pointed towards a safety’s instincts, anticipation, and ball skills as more important attributes.

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