When looking for players to watch from this draft class, Andre Cisco was close to the top of my list. I’ve wanted to get into his tape ever since he racked up seven interceptions as a freshman for the Orange. That level of production is something that gets a player on my watchlist, especially as a safety.
The more I watched of Cisco, the more confused I became. I saw the highlight reel splash plays that I expected to see. But I also saw quite a few mistakes that persisted through every game, which seemed to be the same each time. This can be both a good thing and a bad thing; on one hand, he can be a star if he can iron out those mistakes, but the fact that he continues to make the same mistakes doesn’t give me much confidence that he will be able to iron them out.
Here are three main traits of Cisco that I want to highlight:
Trait 1: Ball skills
This is a pretty natural place to start given that Cisco has racked up 12 interceptions in his first two years of college football, more than any other player during this stretch. I want to make the early distinction that interceptions are not entirely representative of good ball skills. But in Cisco’s case, it does. As much as I hate the cliché, Cisco has a legitimate nose for the ball.
Many of Cisco’s interceptions come from him driving on a pass underneath and making a break for the ball. I’ve lost count of the number of times that Cisco has stepped in front of a receiver at the last second to snatch the ball out of their hands. But Cisco has interceptions of all sorts – ones that fell into his lap, plucked out of the air, and where he undercut a receiver. The point is Cisco has taken away the ball in all different fashions and he will continue to do so in 2020.
Trait 2: Zone Coverage
Arguably Cisco’s most redeeming trait is his ability to play zone coverage, and he doesn’t just play zone; he excels in it. There are very few safeties who are afforded the autonomy Cisco’s been given. The free-wheeling deep zone coverage skills he shows are reminiscent of Micah Hyde, Kevin Byard, and even Earl Thomas. I do have concerns about Cisco’s top-end speed, but his reading of the field gives him an extra step or two to compensate for his deficiencies.
Cisco’s recognition of space and route concepts is as advanced as I’ve ever seen; he knows when to leave his assignment to take away a route underneath. But this cuts both ways, as evidenced by Clemson exploiting his aggressiveness to crash downfield by building in a pump fake for Cisco to bite on, then running a seam route to the vacant zone for a TD. And despite giving up a TD, he’s unfortunately too aggressive in coming downhill, thus continuing to make the same mistakes.
Okay Draft Twitter, I have a question. What is going on here? I think this was a Cover 1 call that was adjusted on the fly by Andre Cisco because he realised the mesh concept was going to leave a receiver open so he came down to cover the drag. Is there anything else it could be? pic.twitter.com/8KIssvlzn2
— Joel (@UKDraftScout) April 22, 2020
Trait 3: Tackling
I couldn’t get Grant Delpit out of my mind when watching Cisco. This includes the highs of being a playmaker on the ball but also includes the lows of being a very questionable tackler. Cisco even approaches tackling like Delpit; that’s to say he runs as fast as he can to the ball carrier and then dives at his legs. I don’t need to tell you how flawed an approach this is; it leads him to over-pursuing, taking less than desirable angles to the ball, and ultimately failing to make the tackle.
His aforementioned lack of top-end speed is also a pervasive problem when tackling. It doesn’t allow him to be reckless with his pursuit angles or end up beaten to his spot, and this is often the case. It is encouraging to see Cisco’s physicality, but at this point it just leaves me concerned for his long-term health given how rarely he wraps up.
Watching Cam Akers vs Syracuse and true freshman DB #19 Andre Cisco is wild (sophomore now). I'm mad at myself for just now learning about the kid. Now #7 on Cuse roster and up to 6' 203. pic.twitter.com/yIHf30HQ7i
— Lawrence Chaney (@pacificscouting) August 2, 2019
Cisco has a lot to work with — his zone coverage ability and ball skills are going to get him strong consideration. But his lack of high-end athleticism and issues with tackling most likely are going to hold him back. I would like to see him become more reliable and refined in run support whilst still proving himself to be a nightmare in the passing game.