Georgia safety Richard LeCounte entered the college ranks with sky-high expectations. And after four years as a major contributor to a Georgia defense that consistently performed among the best in the nation, it's safe to say he met those expectations.
Now, he's off to the NFL. Today, we take a look at his strengths, weaknesses, scheme fit, and likely draft projection for LeCounte.
Watching LeCounte over the last several years at Georgia, the first thing that comes to mind is instincts. He's the first to move, he's the first to identify, and he's more likely than not, the first to strike on any given play. This comes from his clear and obvious dedication to film study, but it's also something that you'll never be able to teach: a God-given ability to process information quickly.
For example, take this play against Auburn in 2019:
Not only that, but LeCounte's ball production has been elite for several years. In 2019, LeCounte's last full season, Georgia forced 14 turnovers on defense — seven interceptions and seven fumble recoveries. LeCounte was solely responsible for half of those. He had four interceptions and three fumble recoveries along with three forced fumbles. In an era of professional football where the value of the turnover has drastically increased due to offensive efficiency, LeCounte's abilities to not only be around the ball on a consistent basis but take the ball away from the opponent is invaluable.
Early in his career, those same instincts as a safety got him in trouble at times. Opposing offensive coordinators knew they could attack LeCounte with double moves in the passing game and bait him into jumping routes. Tennessee got him on a double move early in the game in 2019, and Arkansas caught him cheating on an out and up in 2020. Apart from that, he's worked to eliminate these types of mistakes.
LeCounte's physical profile also warrants skepticism from NFL evaluators. At 5-foot-11 and just north of 185 pounds, he's not the biggest safety available in the 2021 NFL Draft, nor is he the fastest. Take Oregon's Javon Holland, for example. He's 6-foot, 205 and is expected to run in the low 4.4's at the NFL Combine.
NFL scouts that we've spoken to question LeCounte's ability to play center field safety in the NFL and cover the full 53 yards against the pass. So, if you are going to take LeCounte, it would be best if you allow him to continue to be the force in the middle of the field and closer to the line of scrimmage as a strong safety.
He will excel as more of a Budda Baker, Tyrann Mathieu type of safety as opposed to the way in which Earl Thomas roamed the back end.
NFL Draft Projection: Late second round
LeCounte's physical limitations will likely keep him out of the first round due to the fact that most NFL general managers prefer pairing the physical ceiling of the athlete along with the film evaluation. Still, he's simply too good of a player to pass up as the draft progresses and teams need to fill a hole in the back end.