Terry Fontenot signed Erik Harris last week to presumably start at safety this year, and at the very least, be an integral part of the special teams. With only one other safety — Jaylinn Hawkins — on the roster, Fontenot will have to address the position through free agency or the draft. There is still a healthy free-agent market for safeties — some examples are listed below.
Malik Hooker (one year, $2 million — $2 million AAV)
Kareem Jackson (one year, $6.5 million — $6.5 million AAV)
Tashaun Gipson (one year, $2.75 million — $2.75 million AAV)
Duron Harmon (two years, $12 million — $6 million AAV)
Harris could be the starting safety next year, but Hawkins would be a stretch to start from the get-go; he could make his way onto the field in training camp, but thinking the former Cal Golden Bear is your starter from Day 1 is asinine. If there were a Jamaal Adams-Esque safety in this draft that could warrant the fourth pick, I’d say go that route, but the safety class isn’t top-heavy. Some starting-caliber players will be available on Day 2 of the draft, and Richie Grant could be the best player available with the 35th pick, solving a need as well as sticking to the draft philosophy Fontenot preaches about, BPA.
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.
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