How does Georgia safety Richard Lecounte III match up as an NFL Draft prospect in an uncertain safety class? Lecounte has the pedigree and the physicality, but what is his ceiling? Here’s a look at Lecounte’s profile. He’s made a name for himself as one of the SEC’s top defensive playmakers. Yet, there’s more to his NFL projection than this alone.
Richard Lecounte III NFL Draft Profile
Weight: 190 pounds
Current Year: Senior
Lecounte’s playmaking ability has separated him for a long time. In high school, Lecounte was one of the nation’s highest-rated prospects. Coming out of Liberty County High School in Hinesville, Georgia, Lecounte was a bonafide five-star recruit. Lecounte was the No. 2 safety in his class, behind future top-five draft pick Jeffrey Okudah. He was also the No. 12 overall player on the 2017 recruiting board.
Lecounte validated his billing with impressive athletic testing numbers, putting up a 4.01 short-shuttle time and a 36.5-inch vertical. It comes as no surprise that several high-visibility programs heavily pursued him. Alabama, Clemson, Florida, and LSU all submitted offers to the dynamic safety prospect. However, Lecounte instead decided to stay in-state and suit up with the Georgia Bulldogs.
Richard Lecounte’s career as a Georgia safety
Lecounte enrolled early with the Bulldogs, intent on kick-starting his college football career. However, it took time for Lecounte to earn a consistent role. Lecounte played in ten games in his true freshman season, amassing just 15 total tackles.
Lecounte saw an increase in playing time in his second season. He started 13 of 14 games, logging 74 total tackles, one tackle for loss, one interception, three pass deflections, two forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries in the process. The Georgia safety had a strong sophomore season. However, his leap in his junior year would be even more dramatic.
The final two seasons of Lecounte’s collegiate career
In 2019, Lecounte broke out as one of the SEC’s top playmakers on defense. The Georgia safety accounted for 61 total tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, four interceptions, three pass deflections, two forced fumbles, and three fumble recoveries. Lecounte had a case to declare after his junior season, but he chose to stay in school and keep honing his craft.
In 2020, Lecounte’s rate of production increased even further. The fourth-year senior put up 26 total tackles, one tackle for loss, three interceptions, and four pass deflections in just five games, compared to 14 games in each of his last two seasons. Lecounte missed four games due to injury — he was involved in a traffic accident. However, he still managed to provide enough of an impact to be recognized as a first-team All-SEC selection.
On December 10, 2020, Lecounte accepted an invite to the Reese’s Senior Bowl in the following month. On January 6, Lecounte officially declared for the 2021 NFL Draft.
Analyzing Richard Lecounte’s NFL Draft profile
In recent years, instincts have become more important in safety evaluation. Athleticism still matters. However, players can lack a few top-end traits and still provide playmaking ability and versatility with instincts. Richard Lecounte isn’t an elite athlete, but he has some of the best instincts in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Lecounte always plays fast, and he can play from many different alignments. At Georgia, he was seen lining up at single-high, two-deep, and in the slot. From these positions, Lecounte has the awareness to follow the play with his eyes, and he’s measured with his aggression.
He pulls the trigger with decisiveness when coming downfield, but he’s also patient. He doesn’t sweep himself out of a play by committing too early to a tackling lane.
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Operationally, Lecounte also has good tackling form for his size. Against both the run and the pass, Lecounte takes good angles to the ball carrier, and he’s able to navigate through congestion to make clean tackles. His physicality also extends to the passing game, where Lecounte is fairly active at the catch point.
He had a few excellent reps against Florida TE Kyle Pitts in 2019. Bigger targets don’t scare Lecounte, and he has enough explosiveness and fluidity to line up in man coverage.
What are the issues with Lecounte?
Lecounte’s athletic profile is the main source of scrutiny for his overall draft evaluation, as referenced earlier. Lecounte is noticeably undersized for his height. He’s just 190 pounds with average length.
Although he has sturdy tackling form, his frame limits his reach and play strength in pursuit situations. Lecounte has solid range, but once he reaches the epicenter of the play, he doesn’t always have the size to make something happen.
Furthermore, Lecounte doesn’t have top-end speed. He has good explosiveness, but he maxes out relatively quickly. Tony Pauline projects that Lecounte will run a 4.55 at the NFL Combine. This puts a cap on Lecounte’s range, especially in the deep third, where he needs to cover more ground to make plays.
With Lecounte still needing to add pounds to his frame, there’s a chance that speed could be sapped even more.
What’s the verdict on Richard Lecounte?
Aside from his athletic profile, Lecounte is a solid player. The Georgia safety is tough, instinctive, and versatile, and he’s a high-energy player who brings 100% effort on every play. He also displayed a baseline level of ability in various roles in college. However, Lecounte’s size limits his ability to take on blockers in run defense, and his deep range might also be slightly limited at the NFL level.
For these reasons, I think Lecounte projects best as a strong safety who plays in Cover 2 often, with some snaps in the box. There, his short-range explosiveness will be more impactful, as he won’t have to cover as much ground on average. He’ll also be able to line up in the slot against tight ends, where his physicality and lateral agility should be able to shine.
He may not be a full-time starter, but Lecounte has ample security built in to his draft profile, and if he can pack on more weight without losing his burst, he could be a marquee player.
Richard Lecounte’s best fits in the 2021 NFL Draft
In an odd 2021 safety class, Richard Lecounte’s high-floor projection may be coveted in the middle rounds. The question simply comes down to how restricted his role will be at the NFL level. Truthfully, there isn’t much he can do. But can he do these things effectively in the NFL, where receivers are bigger and faster on average?
Schematic alignment and team fits
Yes, Lecounte can play single-high in the middle of the field. But I’m not sure I’d want him there in the NFL. Can he be an enforcer in the box against the run? Yes, but if blockers get to him quickly, he could be neutralized with ease. Playing in two-high alignments, Lecounte can read the field and build up speed without being left on an island.
Luckily for Lecounte, Cover 2 is fairly common, and plenty of teams also move safeties into the slot situationally. For a team that’s an especially good fit for Lecounte, a Round 3 pick is reasonable, with mid-Day 3 serving as his floor. In a role that emphasizes his instincts and slot/safety versatility, Lecounte can be a great player in coverage.
Teams like the Broncos, Dolphins, Raiders, Panthers, and Rams project as good fits, but other teams may also be inclined to add Lecounte’s skill set to their defensive nucleus.
Richard Lecounte is one of the more enjoyable watches in the 2021 NFL Draft. Again, his athletic traits aren’t at the highest echelon. Nevertheless, he has more than enough juice to get around, and his ability to see the field and adapt in real-time is impressive. Lecounte has a future in the NFL. It’s just a matter of where and what it entails.