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The NFL Draft Notebook: Safeties

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The 2021 NFL Draft is coming, and the Buffalo Bills will be looking to add pieces that can push them over the top in the 2021 season. Each week, I will break down a different defensive position group, with some players that the Bills should target in the draft, and why they would be a potential fit. Today, let’s examine the safety position.

With the recent news of Micah Hyde signing a two-year extension, the Bills are set at the safety position for the next few seasons. I find it highly unlikely that the Bills will spend one of their higher draft picks on a safety given the strength of the position and the resources they currently have committed there. But there are some intriguing talents in this draft, and the Bills might see a safety later in the draft that is too good to pass up. 

With this in mind, I will be highlighting safeties that could be mid-to-late round targets for Buffalo. Here are three guys that could provide good value to the depth in the defensive backfield. 

Richard LeCounte, Georgia (5’11”, 190 lbs)

LeCounte is coming off a successful season as a first-team All-SEC performer for the Bulldogs this year. Despite consistently good college production at an SEC football factory, LeCounte’s draft stock continues to hover around the fourth or fifth round range. The lack of excitement surrounding LeCounte is twofold. First, he’s not very big by NFL standards. A shade under six foot and slight build have teams wondering if he’ll have the physicality necessary to be a starter in the NFL. The second knock on LeCounte is that he’s a good but not great athlete. While he shows good short-area burst and explosions, there are questions about his long speed.

While the concerns are valid, LeCounte is a baller. What he lacks in elite athleticism, he makes up for in instincts. It’s true that he’s undersized, but he plays with the aggression of a man twice his size. In 2020, he was one of the SEC’s best playmakers, recording 26 tackles and three interceptions in just five games. He held his own when matched up against Florida’s Kyle Pitts, who figures to be a top-10 draft pick this year. For a likely Day 3 pick, LeCounte has tremendous value. The Bills don’t need him to be a starter, and he could be a nice addition to an already loaded secondary.

Divine Deablo, Virginia Tech (6’3”, 226 lbs)

On the other side of the size spectrum, we have Divine Deablo from Virginia Tech. Deablo is a huge safety that some scouts worry might be too slow and lack the athleticism to consistently cover in the NFL. What I like about Deablo is the versatility he brings. He can run and cover, he brings tremendous physicality to the position, and he does it at nearly 230 lbs. I don’t see Deablo as a likely NFL starter anytime soon, but he could be a weapon as a third-down defender or a strong safety who plays mostly in the box. You could also put 10 more pounds on him and have an outside linebacker with defensive back coverage skills. He’s a nice sleeper pick in the mid to late rounds with a lot of versatility and upside.

Plus, is there a better name in the draft than Deablo Divine? His name essentially means “devil god” and sounds awesome. I’m not against drafting a guy simply because his name is fun to say. 

Paris Ford, Pitt (6’0”, 190 lbs)

Ford is one of the most intriguing prospects in the entire draft. He’s an elite athlete, plays with his hair on fire, and makes plays all over the field. But like LeCounte, he lacks ideal size for the position. Despite his slender frame, Ford is an excellent run defender and open-field tackler. He plays with an aggressive motor and shows good instincts in run and pass coverage. In short, he has the physical tools of a late first, early second-round prospect. So why is he regularly being mocked in the fourth to sixth-round range?

For one, Ford is a riverboat gambler. He tries to jump routes and make splash plays, which can lead to him getting out of position. He has a “hero ball” mentality that can get him into trouble. But this is what makes him such an intriguing Day 3 prospect. He’s got the skills to be a 10-year starter in the NFL. What he needs is to be coached up and to harness that potential into becoming a more team-oriented player. What better place to learn than Buffalo? The Bills have one of the best secondaries in the NFL and Tre White, Jordan Poyer, and Micah Hyde would be incredible mentors to a guy like Ford. In five years, we could be talking about Ford being a Pro Bowl safety, and he’s a guy you could likely get in the fourth round. 

What do you think, #BillsMafia? Would you like to see the Bills target a safety somewhere in the draft? While it’s not a position of need, there are definitely going to be some intriguing, valuable players on the board early on Day 3. The Bills don’t have a lot of glaring holes on their roster so they can afford to take a chance on a high upside safety.

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