We continue to examine each of the Jacksonville Jaguars’ 2021 draft picks with our post-draft Q&A series. Next up is Andre Cisco, the Syracuse safety coming off of a season-ending ACL injury, who Jacksonville selected in the third round (No. 65 overall).
To learn more about what Cisco brings with him to the NFL, we reached out to John Cassillo, managing editor at Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician — SB Nation’s great website for all things Syracuse Orange.
So what exactly are the Jaguars getting in the play-making safety? Let’s find out.
1. Cisco was known as a “ballhawk” at Syracuse with 13 interceptions in just 24 games. What makes him so good at taking the ball away, and would you say he takes too many gambles and sometimes gets burned, or does he strike a good balance when it comes to taking chances?
John: With Cisco, it’s a combination of things. He’s quick, has a pretty big wingspan (over 77 inches) and just has a great ability to read both routes and the ball while it’s in the air. There are some inherent gambles in his style of play, but given Syracuse’s defensive struggles up front in recent years, he pretty much had to take those risks. I do think some of his later games at SU became very big-play focused, but overall, he’s a guy who managed to improve over the course of his time and learns from mistakes.
2. Cisco tore his ACL in September, but was still drafted in the third round of the 2021 NFL Draft just seven months later. Obviously it’s hard to predict at this point, but do you expect that injury to affect his availability or quality of play as a rookie, and how concerned do you believe Jaguars should be about the injury?
John: I wouldn’t be any more concerned about his specific ACL injury than any other. What will be most interesting early on when he’s back in action is how quickly he can return to the closing speed that made him so dangerous in college.
3. How is Cisco in run support? What would you say are his best strengths, and what areas does he need to improve on in the NFL?
John: He did a great job of keeping ball-carriers inside, and was a needed part of Syracuse’s run support given the aforementioned issues up front. I wouldn’t say he was our best defensive back stopping the run, but he made stops when called upon. He takes great angles against the run, finishing with big hits when he’s first to the ball-carrier.
His best strengths were sort of covered above — closing speed, wingspan, ability to read routes and the ball. You’ll take the aggressive style of play because he does haul in a lot of interceptions, but it can take him out of position at times. Cisco’s also not the best tackler, which is a program-wide issue, for reasons unknown. His ability to wrap up better probably goes a long way toward deciding his playing time at the NFL level.
4. What do you think is Cisco’s ideal role in the NFL — box safety, single-high safety, playing in the slot as a nickelback, etc. and why? Assuming his health, could you see him earning a starting spot right away?
John: Losing Cisco early last year was a bummer on many levels for Orange fans, but perhaps the biggest one was not really being able to see how he played in the “rover” role of the 3-3-5 Syracuse transitioned to. Giving him the ability to cover a lot of ground and not be so rigidly defined seemed to be a natural fit for his play-making.
At the NFL level, he can be a single-high safety, but it may not play to his skill set as much as box safety. At least if plugged in as a box safety, you can potentially use him in a variety of areas on the field (with some similarities to the rover role), and it won’t expose him over the top. The box safety role would put him in an ideal spot to help stop the run (or at least shuttle those inside), while also avoiding putting him on an island against the opposing team’s top receiver.
5. The last time the Jaguars selected a safety out of Syracuse, it proved to be an excellent selection in Donovin Darius. Does Cisco compare to Darius in any way, and is there a current player in the NFL you would compare his playing style to?
John: There are certainly some similarities between Cisco and Darius, since both were big hitters who could make a read on the ball in the air. Cisco may just have more of a knack for bigger plays, and today’s game could provide more opportunities for those. But you can see some through-lines in their play, sure.
When looking for comparisons, the NFL player that probably works best is the Saints’ Marcus Williams. Between the ball skills, penchant for turnovers, and the ability to cover a lot of ground, you can see a lot similarities in their styles of play — and most would probably be happy with Cisco winding up like Williams, I’d think.
6. Anything else Jaguars fans should know?
John: Cisco was a tireless worker at Syracuse, and really put in the effort to make himself an NFL prospect from day one. He added a ton of muscle from freshman year through the start of junior year, largely improved game over game, and was one of the biggest difference-makers for Syracuse nearly every time he suited up. Without the pressure to be so much for the Jags, there’s a chance he’s even better as a pro.
A big thank you to John for his thoughtful responses, insights and analysis into what kind of player the Jaguars are getting in Cisco. You can catch him on Twitter, and be sure to follow NunesMagician.com on Twitter as well.
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