The 2020 college football season will hopefully be upon us before we know it. As amazing as it may sound, the 2021 crop of talent expected to enter the draft offers perhaps even more upside than the previous class in terms of intriguing playmakers. Let’s look at the safety position, for example. While many are already familiar with household names such as Florida State’s Hamsah Nasirildeen, Texas’ Caden Sterns, and Oregon’s Jevon Holland, it’s time to start mentioning Syracuse safety Andre Cisco in that same vein. The Orange defender is an ascending prospect who figures to see his draft stock soar in the coming months.
In 2018, a highly coveted safety from the prestigious IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida named Andre Cisco arrived at Syracuse University with high expectations. The ball-hawking six-foot, 206-pound safety ascended up the depth chart during fall camp and went on to play in all 13 games (11 starts). The Valley Stream (N.Y.) native racked up 60 tackles, 18 passes defended, seven interceptions, and a forced fumble as a freshman.
Cisco’s season highlights included a pair of interceptions in an early-season affair against Wagner, an eight-tackle effort against Clemson, and a nine-tackle performance against North Carolina — which happened to include the first forced fumble of his career. He ended his breakout campaign with another nine-tackle showing in the Camping World Bowl against West Virginia.
Cisco’s season of accolades included first-team All-ACC, third-team AP All-American, and ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year honors.
Bursting onto the scene following an awe-inspiring freshman campaign, Cisco entered his second season poised for college football stardom. A 2019 preseason All-American, Cisco’s name appeared on the Bednarik Award (Defensive Player of the Year) and Jim Thorpe Award (Best Defensive Back in College Football) watch lists.
Despite missing three games for what was vaguely described as a “lower-body injury”, Cisco made nine starts for the Orange in 2019, amassing 65 tackles, 10 passes defended, five interceptions, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery. Cisco tied his career-high nine tackles and recorded an interception against Maryland, and logged seven tackles and a career-high three pass breakups against Florida State. Cisco led the ACC in interceptions and finished fourth among ACC defensive backs in tackles per game (7.2).
The rangy center fielder closed out his prolific second season with second-team All-ACC and second-team AP All-ACC honors for his efforts.
2020 outlook for safety Andre Cisco
Following a remarkably productive first two seasons with the Orange, Cisco enters the 2020 season as the FBS active leader in interceptions (12) and second in passes defended, behind only Stanford cornerback Paulson Adebo. in 22 games, Cisco has compiled 125 tackles (1.5 for loss), 28 passes defended, 12 interceptions, two forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery.
While all eyes will understandably be on the rising junior as he attempts to stymie opposing aerial attacks, Cisco won’t have to shoulder the responsibility alone — he will have lengthy redshirt junior cornerback Ifeatu Melifonwu on the perimeter once again.
Though somewhat overshadowed by some of his more highly-touted counterparts, Cisco will almost certainly be in the discussion for the Bednarik and Jim Thorpe Awards once again this season. In fact, one could argue that he has a better chance of coming away with one — or both — of the prestigious honors in 2020, after two seasons of consistent production.
As far as the 2021 NFL Draft is concerned, Cisco should be considered among the elite at his position. For one, he boasts the prototypical size and range to play single-high or down around the line of scrimmage to support the run. Versatility is one of the more desirable traits in defensive backs, particularly in today’s NFL, where teams are often sacrificing size for speed and coverage acumen in order to keep up with the influx of spread offenses.
Speaking of coverage acumen, Cisco is a smart, instinctive defender against the pass. Whether it be a receiver, hybrid tight end, or elusive running back out of the backfield, Cisco has the technique, ball skills, and closing speed to defend a myriad of pass catchers, giving teams the flexibility to move him around formations as a versatile chess piece.