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2021 Cowboys scouting report: Syracuse safety Andre Cisco

This guy could be the one the Cowboys want once the draft rolls around.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 17 Syracuse v Notre Dame Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Andre Cisco is one of the more fascinating, yet still under-the-radar, prospects in this draft. Born and raised in New York, Cisco moved to Florida to play high school ball at the IMG Academy, which is filled with NFL connections and coaches. He committed to Syracuse, returning back home, just a few years later.

Name: Andre Cisco
Position: S
Height: 6’0”
Weight: 209 lbs

2020 Stats: 2 games, 11 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 1 interception

Not only did Cisco earn a starting safety job as a true freshman, but he exploded onto the scene. Starting all 13 games in 2018, Cisco tallied 60 tackles, one for a loss, and a whopping seven interceptions along with his nine passes defensed. Unsurprisingly, he was named the ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year.

But what did surprise is Cisco running it back the next year. Injuries shortened his season to nine games, but Cisco still had 65 tackles, five picks, and five passes defensed, in addition to a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. His much-anticipated 2020 season ended with an ACL injury in the second game of the year, which complicates his profile. But when healthy, Cisco looked the part of an elite ball-hawking safety.

Coverage Style: At Syracuse, Cisco almost exclusively played deep in coverage, alternating between split-safety looks and single-high looks. His biggest strengths show when he’s given that kind of space to work with, so Syracuse responded by letting him do what he’s best at.

Coverage Skills: He may not offer very much value closer to the line of scrimmage, and he’s a bit of a liability when tasked with man coverage responsibilities, but he offers some phenomenal deep zone coverage. Cisco can easily hold his own as the single-high safety in Cover 1 shells and covers a ton of ground in a pinch. He understands spacing and how to react to the offensive play structure.

Playmaking Ability: This is easily Cisco’s best trait. He had 12 picks in his first two years as a starter and it wasn’t a coincidence. If all that mattered for defensive backs was picking off passes, Cisco would be the best of the bunch by a mile. He knows how to get in position, locate the ball, and turn his body to go up and secure the ball. Due to his elite playmaking ability, he almost always goes for the pick, which occasionally gets him in trouble but results in big plays much more often than not.

Athleticism: He has incredible athleticism for the position, as evidenced by his ability to cover so much ground in the deep part of the field. The question for him going forward is how the ACL injury has impacted that. Cisco suffered the injury early enough into the season to where he should have a better idea of where his body is at right now, as will the scouts. If he can return to that form, he is one of the better athletes on the defensive side of this rookie class.

Run Support: Cisco is much more of a big hitter than a tackler. It’s yet another reason Syracuse kept him back deep as often as possible. He’s willing to run up in run support and has enough speed to build up momentum, but Cisco doesn’t really take angles at all, instead lunging himself into the ball-carrier. Of course, if your deep safety is having to come up in run support frequently enough to where that’s a problem, you’ve got bigger problems than the free safety.

Processing: Many parts of the game, especially in coverage, come so naturally to Cisco that he can afford to trust his gut more than most. And it clearly worked very well in college, but it’s highly unlikely to continue in the NFL. You’d like to see him play with more patience in his zones and read the quarterback a bit better, and he’ll have to improve on that at the next level.

Toughness: As mentioned above, Cisco is a big hitter. He also loves making the big play with the ball in the air and will get as physical as he needs to in order to come down with the ball. He’s a very competitive player, but he does tend to get out of control at times in search of the big play.

Intangibles: When Cisco went down early in the 2020 season, the Orange defense fell apart without him on the field. In those first two games he played in, the defense was allowing 402 yards per game and 26 points per game, and over the next three games without him they surrendered 539 yards a game and 32 points per game. That largely speaks to the impact Cisco had on the team, and the value of a true ballhawk of his caliber.