The Vikings traded down from the #12 overall pick to the #32 overall pick in Day One of the 2022 NFL Draft, selecting safety Lewis Cine (SEEN) with the last pick in the first round. The Vikings reportedly turned down additional trade offers for the 32nd pick, including one from the Packers- who were thought to be looking to draft WR George Pickens. This is the first trade and draft selection of Vikings’ new GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah.
Cine was #33 on the consensus big board, and the 3rd ranked safety.
Lewis Cine, Safety, Georgia
Lewis Cine has the highest Relative Athletic Scorce (RAS) of any safety in the 2022 draft. The biggest negative in his traits is his weight. Adding a few more pounds- to about 210 - would be ideal. Otherwise, Cine has all the athletic traits you could ask for in a safety- including 4.37” speed.
COLLEGE GRADES AND STATS
Cine led the Georgia Bulldogs’ top-ranked defense in both tackles and pass breakups in 2021. He was also named a team captain in 2021 and Defensive MVP in Georgia’s win over Alabama in the FBS championship game earlier this year.
Overall, Cine has proven to be a complete and versatile safety at Georgia, with solid PFF grades in both coverage and run defense, and can work well in a system where safeties are asked to play both free- and strong-safety roles. Cine also has some experience playing in the slot.
A two-year starter at Georgia, Cine played free safety in former defensive coordinator Dan Lanning’s scheme, also seeing time at strong safety and the “money” position. He was born in Haiti, grew up in Florida, learned to play football in Boston, became a top recruit in Texas and earned All-American status at Georgia – a diverse journey that concluded with him earning Defensive MVP honors in the 2021 national championship game. With his range, explosiveness and appetite for contact, Cine is a do-everything safety and led a talent-rich Georgia defense in both tackles and passes defended in 2021. Although he has room to tidy up his tackling technique, he is at his best as a physical run defender, running the alley like a freight train and tuning up his target. Overall, Cine lacks ideal size by NFL standards and has marginal ball skills, but he is an enforcer vs. the run with the athleticism in coverage to make plays. He is an ascending talent with NFL starting skills, similar to Xavier McKinney as a prospect. - Dane Brugler, The Athletic
Cine plays with a willing aggressiveness that fit right in with Georgia’s talented stop unit. He plays with an urgent, downhill approach, which leads to memorable collisions but he’s not always under control in getting there. He doesn’t have desired mass and stopping power for his style of play, but the work gets done. Cine lacks range and instincts to play over the top and is better suited to split safety and down safety alignments. He can handle man coverage underneath but doesn’t have the hips to swing and sway with talented receivers down the field. Cine has future starting potential as a zero flinch safety, but has limitations for defenses to consider. - Lance Zierlein, nfl.com
Cine is a physical and assignment-sure safety who teams won’t have to protect at the next level - PFF
Once vilified following several ferocious hits, Lewis Cine has emerged as one of the top players in the 2022 NFL Draft class. A hard-hitting, tough-tackling, insane athlete, the Georgia safety has the talent to be a truly great NFL player. His ascension among national NFL Draft media might have taken some time, but Cine’s scouting report contains all the traits to be an immediate high-level contributor at the NFL level.
As with the running back position, safety is often perceived as an undervalued position in the NFL. However, when you consider what the modern safety is asked to do, there are less difficult positions to play. Multiple alignments, multiple assignments, and the ability to impact the game in numerous ways require an impressively diverse skill set.
There are few safeties in the 2022 NFL Draft class that tick all the boxes. Cine does. Let’s begin the Georgia safety’s scouting report with his physical appearance. At 6’2 1/4″, Cine has great size for the position. Furthermore, he possesses impressive functional length with 32 1/4″ arms. It’s no good being a tall safety if you have shorter arms that can’t impact the passing game. Cine ticks the boxes here.
The Georgia safety added an impressive 15 pounds between his sophomore and junior seasons. That is huge for a player whose physicality is the calling card of his game. Cine is a violent downhill hitter who puts his entire being behind every tackle. His hits shook multiple players at 185 pounds. At 200 pounds, he hits with the equivalent force of a freight train colliding with a concrete barrier.
As you can imagine from a physical, violent, safety, Cine excels in the ground game. You don’t want to meet him in the alley. It’s unlikely to end well for the offense when he explodes through the gap to a ball carrier. This shows up whether he’s tasked with combating the run game in space or playing down in the box.
More than just a physical, hard-hitting threat
However, he’s more than just a physical threat in the run game. Cine shows excellent ability to diagnose plays against the run. The Georgia safety showcases high-level play-reading skills and puts himself in an great position to succeed. “Diagnose and destroy” should be the Georgia safety’s motto due to his high level of football intelligence against the run.
In coverage, Cine demonstrates incredible click-and-close ability. He covers ground with insane athletic ability, arriving on the scene to make a play on the ball or man. Cine changes direction well, allowing him to stay close to his opponent in man coverage. Furthermore, he has the long speed to stay with some of the fastest WRs. He also showcases intelligence in zone coverage, recognizing routes that intersect his zone.
Finally, and notably from an NFL Draft perspective, Cine displays leadership and versatility. The Georgia safety was one of the most experienced players in their secondary this season. Although he wasn’t the designated play-caller for the defense, he can often be seen directing his teammates on the field. He was also a team captain in 2021.
From a versatility standpoint, he has aligned as both a single-high and split-field safety. Cine has also been used as a cornerback in the slot and tasked with blitzing off the edge occasionally. His athletic profile and aggressive approach to the game should ensure he’s a successful special-teams contributor early on in his career.
Areas for improvement
With the start of Cine’s scouting report, you could be forgiven for thinking he’s the perfect NFL Draft prospect. However, there is no such thing. Like any player coming out of college, there are areas for improvement for the Georgia safety.
While Cine has great size in terms of his height, he could use a little extra muscle mass as he makes the transition to the NFL. Although he’s demonstrated that he can hit hard against even the biggest college running backs, the Georgia safety’s combative play style against more physical opposition may have a limited shelf life.
Cine does his best work with the ball in front of him. When the ball is behind him in coverage, he can be guilty of failing to get his head around. As a result, he is unaware of where the ball is and, therefore, unable to make a play. Ball tracking is the most significant area where he needs to develop.
Cine began his path to the 2022 NFL Draft as a three-year player for Everett High School in Massachusetts. While he flashed potential early on in his high school career, his standing skyrocketed during a junior season where he amassed 65 tackles, 2 interceptions, and exuded special-teams ability with 2 blocked kicks.
Cine’s performances saw him named the 2017 Massachusetts Defensive Player of the Year. Furthermore, he began to attract significant attention from college football programs, most notably, in-state Boston College. However, his recruitment exploded with the announcement of a transfer to a Texas-based high school, Trinity Christian.
The additional exposure at a school in the heartland of high school football had an immediate impact. With Texas and Texas A&M clamoring for his signature, other offers came from SEC programs like Alabama and Florida. The four-star, third-ranked safety in the 2019 class held over 35 offers through the early part of his senior season.
Yet, he remained unsigned through the season. Cine helped lead Trinity Christian to a second consecutive state title, racking up 85 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, 2 interceptions, and 2 forced fumbles. Then, almost a year after their initial offer, he committed to Georgia.
Cine’s career at Georgia
While he would leave a physical mark on the SEC, Cine flashed early coverage ability as a true freshman. The Georgia safety logged a first career interception against Arkansas State, one of 14 appearances in 2019. He earned the opportunity to start in the season’s final two games, impressing with 6 tackles against LSU and Baylor.
Despite the disruption of the 2020 season, Cine carried that momentum into his sophomore season. In the season opener, he logged another 6 tackles while accounting for a QB pressure. A career-high 12 tackles against South Carolina contributed to 49 total tackles on the year, good enough for second on the team.
Nevertheless, games against Tennessee and Florida defined his sophomore campaign. Both contained violent, thumping tackles that rocked the opponent to their very core. The hit on Kyle Pitts in the Florida game saw the Georgia safety ejected for targeting.
Although it could be argued that it was unfortunate timing — with Cine leading with his shoulder before the clash of heads — he was widely vilified. Despite this, Cine’s physicality as a tackler was one of the attributes that made him an alluring prospect heading into the 2022 NFL Draft cycle.
Cine’s NFL Draft ascension
Cine proceeded to overhaul opinion early and often in the 2021 college football season. Leading the team with 9 tackles against Clemson, he secured his second career interception the following game against UAB. Proving a force in coverage in addition to a physical phenom against the run, he registered a career-high 9 pass breakups as he helped Georgia to the CFB National Championship.
Ending the season with 73 tackles (including 2 tackles for loss), Cine earned first-team All-SEC honors from the Associated Press. Meanwhile, he was named a third-team All-American by the same outlet. Although he was named a semifinalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, it was his Defensive MVP performance in the title-clinching win over Alabama that helped springboard the Georgia safety into the NFL Draft spotlight.
Cine’s NFL Draft ascension continued with an outstanding athletic performance at the NFL Combine. His 4.37 seconds 40-yard dash was just 0.3 off the fastest time for a safety. He led everyone at his position with an 11’1″ broad jump. After posting a decent 36.5″ vertical jump, the Georgia safety compiled a Relative Athletic Score of 9.92.
Once considered a probable Day 2 pick by some analysts, Cine is now attracting the first round 2022 NFL Draft attention that he’s deserved all along. With multiple teams with safety as a priority need, it should be no surprise to see the Georgia playmaker taken in the first round. Cine is going to be on the NFL scene for many years to come. - Oliver Hodgkinson, Pro Football Network
Positives: Nice-sized safety with outstanding speed and tremendous upside. Quickly picks up coverage assignments, displays tremendous range in center field, and possesses speed as well as a closing burst. Instinctive, quick to diagnose, and takes proper angles to the action.
Tracks the pass in the air, fast to the flanks, and works well with cornerbacks. Fires up the field to defend run plays and screen passes, plays with a nasty attitude, and aggressively lays his shoulders into ball handlers.
Negatives: Gets upright tackling and isn’t stout at the point of attack. Off balance trying to drive to the pass out of his plant. Face guards in man-coverage situations.
Analysis: Cine is an explosive safety who made a lot of plays for Georgia the past two seasons and turned in a terrific Combine workout. He’s a natural center fielder with outstanding length. Cine offers legitimate starting potential on Sundays. - Tony Pauline, Pro Football Network
FIT WITH THE VIKINGS
Cine has the background to become a starting safety for the Vikings, and likely heir-apparent to Harrison Smith. He fits well in Ed Donatell’s scheme, which calls for safeties to be interchangeable between free- and strong-safety roles to help disguise coverages. In the meantime, Cine could see significant action as a third safety or slot corner, in rotation, or possibly beat out Cam Bynum for the other starting job opposite Harrison Smith. Cine could also be featured as a core special teamer early in his career with the Vikings.
National Championship Game 2022
Georgia Career Highlights
What level with Lewis Cine reach in the NFL?
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Among top 20% of starting safeties
Above average starter
Below average starter
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