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Packers: Andre Cisco would give Green Bay a ball-hawking safety

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In today’s pass-happy NFL a team can never have enough playmakers in the secondary. Would the Green Bay Packers consider selecting Andre Cisco, the active FBS leader in interceptions in the 2021 NFL Draft?

The 2021 NFL Draft class has a lot of talented safeties. Andre Cisco, the safety out of Syracuse could be the best of the bunch. 

The former three-star recruit has a chance to become the first Syracuse Orange player selected in the first round since 2013 when Justin Pugh was selected by the New York Giants.

As a true freshman in 2018, Cisco earned first-team All-ACC. He finished the season with 60 tackles, seven interceptions, and 18 pass deflections. In 2019, Cisco recorded 65 tackles, five interceptions, including one pick-six and 10 pass deflections. Not bad production, considering he only played in nine games. 

“We could go on and on,” Matthew Gutierrez, the Syracuse beat reporter for The Athletic said. “Speed, quickness. IQ and strength. Together these qualities make him one of the best in the country. A First-Team All-ACC selection as a true freshman in 2018, he snagged a nation-leading seven interceptions. He missed three games last season yet still tallied 65 tackles, 10 passes defended, and five picks. Some NFL scouts have told The Athletic they consider him among the top three safeties in his draft class. He’s emphasized adding muscle to his 6-foot frame. Added strength and increased speed will continue to aid in his progression.”

Since arriving in 2018, Cisco has had outstanding ball production. He’s an aggressive, ball-hawking safety. The talented junior is the FBS active leader with 12 interceptions. 

Cisco has outstanding closing speed. His ability to read and react is second to none. His high football IQ with his click and close ability and that’s the reason why he’s had such outstanding ball production during the first two years of his collegiate career. 

“Cisco has a knack for the ball,” Gutierrez. “A true sense for where to be. Start there. But then consider his hands. He has soft hands. He covers a lot of ground and diagnoses plays early, but he combines his athleticism with good hands. He puts himself in a good position with timing and finding good angles to the football. There’s no true one thing. But taken together, Cisco is elite.”

Cisco is more than just an opportunistic ball-hawk. He’s outstanding in man-to-man coverage. He possesses outstanding footwork and is able to run stride for stride with the wide receivers.

“In coverage, Cisco proved to be a legitimate stopper as a freshman,” Gutierrez said. “You can tell he keeps his eyes focused on the receiver’s hips, ensuring he keeps receivers in front of him. He plants his feet well. He runs at the wideouts’ hips. He closes gaps and attacks the ball. His anticipation skills are well above average.”

Cisco’s aggressive playstyle is a blessing and a curse. He’s able to make so many impact plays due to his aggressive nature. However, he also has a tendency to overrun plays and will occasionally take poor angles against the run. He needs to do a better job of breaking down in the open field. His technique as a tackler can be sloppy at times.

The playmaking safety has the versatility to play near the line of scrimmage as a dime-linebacker. He has the coverage skills to be a team’s nickel cornerback. However, Gutierrez said Cisco truly shines when he’s playing deep. 

“Playing deep, so he can use his speed, athleticism, and ability to synthesize, real-time, to maximize his talent,” Gutierrez said. “It’ll be interesting to see how the Orange’s new-look defense, Tony White’s 3-3-5, impacts Cisco’s role and production. The defense is designed to stop today’s modern, pass-heavy offenses. Will he and the rest of the defense be able to learn and adjust in a shortened offseason? There are a number of question marks surrounding a Syracuse team coming off an underwhelming 5-7 season in 2019, and chief among the concerns is the defense. But in Cisco, Syracuse has its best talent on the defensive side.”

Mike Pettine, the Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator loves his safeties. With Cisco’s playmaking ability and versatility he is a player that Packers fans should keep tabs on throughout the college football season. In today’s pass-happy NFL a team can never have enough playmakers in the secondary. Cisco would give the Packers a bonafide playmaker in what is already a young and talented secondary. 

What are they saying?

Ryan Roberts (Director of Scouting for NFL Draft Bible)

Being able to play man to man across the board is becoming more and more important on the professional level. Making a free safety with the ability to thrive in deep zones and single high coverage even more vital for success.

Syracuse safety Andre Cisco brings that type of versatility for a team, possessing substantial range on the backend. He is the prototypical playmaker, highlighted by his 12 interceptions over his first two seasons. Cisco covers a ton of ground and has shown the talent to close quickly in underneath coverage for some big plays.

There is a physicality to him transitioning downhill, causing some huge collisions on underneath wide receivers. His physicality is not matched in the run game consistently, seeming to pick and choose his involvement with some bad angles working inside out. That work will cause some to hesitate on their evaluation but with NFL teams constantly looking for playmakers on the backend, Cisco should be valued heavily moving forward.

Isaac Greig (Contributor for Game On Wisconsin)

Andre Cisco is an absolute ballhawk for the Orange secondary. He displays an impressive burst and a
knack for reading the quarterback, which has led to 12 interceptions in his 22 games for Syracuse. He
consistently looks to strip the ball when he feels comfortable that he’s already made the tackle, which
has led to two forced fumbles in his career while adding one fumble recovery.

Cisco has scheme versatility, showing great instincts from underneath coverage to centerfield. He
consistently beats receivers to the ball without being penalized. He has a great feel for the flow of the
play and is always in the right place at the right time. He’s sticky in man coverage, with the feet to
handle slot receivers and the length to defend tight ends. He lays the wood when he’s working downhill.

Cisco has already displayed the talent worthy of a day-two selection. He’s shown a few lapses in deep
coverage and has missed tackles in space, which is expected of a young man with his playmaking
mentality. If Andre Cisco can clean up his game in 2020, there’s nothing keeping him from becoming a
first-round selection.

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[…] he only played 24 total games in college, Andre Cisco had an extremely prolific career at Syracuse highlighted by his knack for nabbing interceptions. […]

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