The Jaguars Need A Ball Hawk. Can UCF's Richie Grant Be That Guy?

As the Jacksonville Jaguars prepare for the 2021 NFL Draft, they will undoubtedly be looking at prospects that add depth to their secondary, specifically safety. May we present UCF safety Richie Grant?
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Richie Grant knows this draft process will be different. He knows the NFL Combine will be skewered, the Pro Day’s will be smaller and the team meetings will be nonexistent. So the UCF safety knew he had to take advantage of every second he was in Mobile, Ala. last week for the 2021 Reese’s Senior Bowl.

"I think we definitely got a leg up on a lot of people,” Grant explained to Jaguar Report, following his week at the Senior Bowl, where he was named the top safety on the American team.

“I think, going to the next level, these teams, these organizations, they want to know who you are in front of them and being able to have that face to face talk with a lot of those teams, and, you know, they can interact with you and stuff like that, it’s super invaluable, especially in a year like this.

“You know, Zoom is Zoom, but when you get to actually you know see a guy in person and talk to him, you know you can pick up on little things, ‘is this guy genuine?’ Just little stuff like that I feel like goes a long way. So us being able to go to Mobile and get in front of a lot of scouts and coaches.”

COVID-19 protocols limited the normal Senior Bowl activities but in its place was left ample more time for the 136 prospects to meet longer with each of the 32 teams. That meant Grant—a top safety on Mel Kiper’s board—sat face to face with the Jacksonville Jaguars, a team in need of help at safety.

In an offseason in which teams will have limited to no interaction with prospects before the draft, Grants says the Jaguars took the time to learn more about him personally as opposed to what they can already learn on tape.

“[They were] just trying to get to know who we are as people instead of a football player. Obviously that has a lot to do with who they pick and things like that. Have to make sure your spending your money well. So, just trying to figure out who I was and you know what I stand for, as a person, outside of the football field.”

So, who is Richie Grant as a person, outside of the football field?

"How I know that question was coming,” he laughs, before continuing.

“I'm just a respectful guy. I carry myself like a pro. I been doing it for as long as I can remember. I stand for family, respect, definitely. Just hard work man and not a guy you know that, you know, wanna ask for handouts and stuff like that. Come from a humble family. So we like to work on. That's pretty much my background you know those things right there encompass who I am as a person.”

Richie Grant (27) knocks the ball loose versus the Memphis Tigers. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Richie Grant (27) knocks the ball loose versus the Memphis Tigers. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

There’s also the small matter of who he is on the field. He has a description for that as well.

“Somebody—I can't even remember who, it was so long ago—they called me a turnover machine,” recalls Grant.

“I just ran with that. I’m just real ball hungry. I always try to get the ball back to the offense.”

The Draft Network predicts Grant’s implementation at the next level as a free safety who would work best in cover one.

His best role at the next level comes as a free safety, but he is fairly interchangeable. Grant brings good size and athleticism to the table and doesn’t have physical limitations. The best components of Grant’s game are his ball skills and versatility.

Ball skills are the foundation of Grant’s game.

“That ball leave that quarterback’s hands, I’m like this mine right here. If the balls in the air, I’m going to get it. A lot of film study was able to put me in position like that; game plan as well. I had some great, great coaches at UCF that you know, that put us in a great position to make plays. And the rest is, you know, you got to make the play. You in the spot, you got to make a play.”

Grant—who finished his four years at UCF with 290 tackles, 18 passes defended and 10 interceptions—was used to working alongside a high powered offense. The Knights became synonymous with uptempo, breakneck speed. Or, as Grant puts it, “You can score in 10 seconds or you can punt in 10 seconds.”

The Jaguars hiring of Urban Meyer as the club’s new head coach indicates a greater focus on offense. Meyer won three National Championships on the college level by coaching some of the best offenses in the country each year. The combination of Meyer and presumed No. 1 overall pick Trevor Lawrence means the Jaguars are seemingly on the precipice of becoming a team capable of running their very own high powered offense.

While Grant’s focus is primarily on the defensive side of the ball, four years of playing with one the game’s most prolific offenses—and the possibility of playing with Lawrence—means he understands what makes the Jaguars an intriguing option.

“Let's just say hypothetically they do draft Trevor Lawrence. I think a lot of guys you know…definitely be grateful about that. He’s a good quarterback. He had a good resume in college.

“He a winner, you know, he gonna bring some wins to an organization. So just looking at it from a defensive stance I can't really speak on offensive guys, just looking at it from a defensive stance, if I was on that Jacksonville team, I would definitely be happy about that pick. You know, just a guy who can win, you know who can win, and he showed good leadership while he was in college so hopefully that translates over.”

There’s also the intriguing idea of playing near home. Grant is from Hattiesburg, Mississippi originally, where he says the majority of his family still lives. But he and his household moved to Ft. Walton Beach, Florida when he was in elementary school. The beach town sits between Pensacola and Destin, five hours from Jacksonville and in relatively easy driving distance from the Jaguars home stadium.

Grant (27) celebrates with teammates after intercepting a pass. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Grant (27) celebrates with teammates after intercepting a pass. Mandatory Credit: David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

“Obviously, considering my family, they would definitely be able to make a lot of games and have time in their schedule,” reflects Grant.

“Like they'd be able to come and watch me play easier and, you know, I grew up in Florida so, all my friends and my community’s in Florida. So they’d be able to support me and be there easy as well. I'm not too much, I’m not too much begging to play for any one team. I’m gonna be blessed to go wherever. But Florida definitely be a good place to be though.”

He’s right. It’s pointless to beg to play for any certain team. And perhaps it’s pointless to posture and wonder. But there are enough intersecting factors that envisioning Grant as a Jaguars prospect has to receive serious consideration.

Jacksonville is in desperate need of more safety depth, something that was blatantly obvious as injuries plagued the unit last season. Daniel Thomas will be entering his second season after spending half of his rookie year on injured reserve. Veteran Jarrod Wilson is joined by Andrew Wingard and Josh Jones. Daniel Jeremiah of NFL Network mocked TCU junior safety Trevon Moehrig to the Jaguars with the 25th overall pick in the first round.

The Jags have 11 picks total in April’s draft, and as they indicated in last year’s 2020 draft, they’re happy to take defensive backs in any round, and especially high. That’s encouraging to a DB prospect like Grant, who will hold his Pro Day at UCF on April 1.

“Shoot yea,” he laughs.

“Honestly, I’m just trying to go as high as I can and get value in that. But I do know, I've been hearing a lot in this process; a lot of people make it, but a lot of people don't stay, you know, they don’t stay around long. So I think my most important goal would be you know just to show that I belong on the team, I’m a permanent pick.

“I think that's what more I'm focused on. Obviously a team who is needing somebody in my position is—I’m all, I'm all for that. I don’t know who wouldn’t be honestly. I definitely put my focus more on just whatever team I go to, just making sure I stay on.”