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Rookie Richie Grant: Falcons Name To Watch In Camp?

Richie Grant could be the rookie on the rise for Atlanta come the 2021 season

The Atlanta Falcons will be looking for a breakout year from No. 4 pick Kyle Pitts on offense. He's not the only rookie that could be a star in the making. 

READ MORE: Atlanta Falcons Rookie TE Kyle Pitts: Wave of The NFL Future

With the No. 40 pick, Atlanta added free safety Richie Grant to the team. He too will be a name that could be in line for a stellar campaign by the season's end.

"This is my passion,'' Grant said at minicamp. "I just love being out on that green grass, being able to make calls and command a defense."

Drafted out of Central Florida, many scouts raved over Grant's ability, despite his impressive size, to play in coverage. During his time in Orlando, he was a ball-hawking defensive back, baiting quarterbacks to throw his way, only to cause takeaways for the Golden Knight secondary. 

Production won't be something Grant is lacking entering his first season at the professional level. He was a first-team all-American Athletic Conference selection for three straight years. During that span, he played in 46 games, starting in 33, and recorded 290 career tackles with 11.5 tackles for loss. 

Grant thrived when asked to make impactful plays: In three years, he recorded 10 interceptions, 17 passes defended, and five forced fumbles.

Will his role be similar in Atlanta? 

The Falcons have vets who may stay ahead of him in the rotation, but sometime soon plan to use him in a multitude of ways. With a knack for making plays in the open field, the 6-0, 200-pound Grant will be tasked to play against tight ends and in the slot. 

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As for his upside? New Falcons defensive coordinator Dean Pees has worked with another player possessing the same skills in Tennessee. His name? Kevin Byard. 

Byard was heralded for his work in coverage during his time at Middle Tennessee State. In the pros, he developed into one of the more well-rounded free safeties today, earning two All-Pro nods and a massive five-year extension. 

Atlanta added veterans Erik Harris and Duron Harmon this offseason. They also have Jaylinn Hawkins  on the roster as well. The trio likely will see the majority of first-team reps Week 1 of training camp. That doesn't mean they will keep the starting job. 

Head coach Arthur Smith said during rookie minicamp that expectations are always high, but hyping them before taking a snap doesn't always mean they'll flourish right away. 

"We have high expectations for all of the rookies," Smith said per the team's website. "We want these guys to have high expectations for themselves, but we have to bring them along and not overreact. As you get to the season, I think that's hard for guys' careers. It's a long journey for (Pitts and) for Richie (Grant), for all of these guys, whoever emerges."

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Grant might not start Week 1, but Pees has a knack for bringing out the best of talent when called upon. If training camp shows what the future could hold, expect the former UCF star to be a vital part of a rebuilt defense for years to come.

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