You'd be hard-pressed to find a more beloved college football player by his fan base than Richard LeCounte.
He manned the back end for the University of Georgia for the better part of four seasons after being ranked the No. 2 safety in America coming out of high school.
He led the team in tackles in 2018, led the team in takeaways in 2019, and was a preseason All-America in 2020 before having his season cut short following a motorcycle accident after Georgia's win over Kentucky on Halloween night.
He was without a doubt a great player in college football. One that you'd think would be receiving a very favorable draft grade.
Not according to ProFootballFocus's NFL Draft Big Board. They have Richard LeCounte as the 15th-ranked safety in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Here's their list:
- Trevon Moehrig, TCU
- Ar'Darius Washington, TCU
- Hamsah Nasirildeen, FSU
- Elijah Molden, Washington
- Andre Cisco, Syracuse
- Parris Ford, Pittsburgh
- Richie Grant, UCF
- Caden Sterns, Texas
- Tyree Gillespie, Missouri
- Jamien Sherwood, Auburn
- Divine Deablo, Virginia Tech
- Kolby Harvell-Peel, Oklahoma State
- Talanoa Hufanga, USC
- James Wiggins, Cincinnati
- Richard LeCounte, Georgia
To their credit, PFF is extremely high on this year's safety class. Their top-15 safeties are all ranked in their top overall 150 players. However, to have 14 players ahead of LeCounte seems a bit of a reach.
LeCounte was perturbed by not even being in the top five when the rankings were released on Twitter.
I understand that NFL teams have concerns about LeCounte's physical attributes. He's 5-foot-11, 190 pounds, which is the size of an average cornerback in the NFL, let alone the safety position. They also have their questions about LeCounte's ability to play single-high safety in the NFL when the game becomes much faster and speed becomes vital.
However, what LeCounte brings to the table is still beyond valuable in the NFL. He possesses the ability to turn teams over. And his turnover rate is beyond reproach at the safety position.
He accounted for over 50 percent of Georgia's interceptions and fumble recoveries in 2019. He had three interceptions and an additional fumble recovery through five games this past season.
Height, weight, speed and projectability matter when it comes to the evaluation aspect of the NFL Draft. But possessing the ability to turn the ball over impacts the game on Sundays.
Of the top 10 teams in turnover margin in 2020, nine of them made the playoffs.
Instincts and the ability to drastically impact football games with a unique ability to find the ball can't be taught. Just ask Tyrann Mathieu.
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