Which Day 3 pick could be hidden gem for the Colts?
The Indianapolis Colts selected nine players on Day 3 of the 2023 NFL draft but which ones could end up being that diamond in the rough that Chris Ballard found in the later rounds?
While a couple of easy picks are there from the fourth round in defensive tackle Adetomiwa Adebawore and the fifth round in cornerback Darius Rush.
I am not considering them here just because both players were viewed as potential Day 2 picks and analysts thought they could have gone as high as the second round. The player I believe can end up being a hidden gem for Indy is one of their fifth-round selections in safety Daniel Scott.
The Cal product will begin his pro career in a backup role and playing on special teams, a unit he has vast experience. He played over 600 snaps on special teams and was named the team’s Most Valuable Special Teams Player during his sophomore year.
He can earn some respect among his new teammates and Colts fans by making plays as a special teams ace early in Year 1. With that being said, there is a path for Scott to carve out himself a solid role as a rookie. Rodney McLeod leaving in free agency has vacated the 1,031 snaps that he played on for Indy’s defense in 2022 so Gus Bradley will have to figure out how to replace the production that the veteran provided.
Julian Blackmon and Rodney Thomas are slotted in as the starting safeties but with Bradley’s use of three safeties within his defensive scheme, Scott has a chance earn some reps with the starters but will have to compete with Nick Cross for his place in the secondary rotation. Chris Ballard certainly thinks he will have a chance to play this year.
After the draft, he mentioned this about Scott: “He adds great depth and I think he’ll compete. I think he’ll be in the mix to compete, to play.”
His athleticism is what can help him find success at the next level. At the NFL combine, he ran a 4.45 40-yard dash (second best among safeties), had a 10’9″ broad jump (fourth best amongsSafeties), a 39.5” vertical jump (fifth best among safeties, and a 6.75 3-cone time (best among safeties).
According to his Relative Athletic Score (RAS), his athletic testing numbers have him graded as the seventh-best free safety since 1997.
Daniel Scott was drafted with pick 158 of round 5 in the 2023 draft class. He scored a 9.94 #RAS out of a possible 10.00. This ranked 7 out of 976 FS from 1987 to 2023. https://t.co/mPRMjvY2dx pic.twitter.com/BIIiNtpWMg
— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) April 29, 2023
Outside of being uber-athletic, it’s Scott’s versatility that gives Bradley some flexibility on how he wants to deploy his rookie safety. During his time at Cal, he played all over their secondary including as a single high safety and as a nickel corner. He does a great job at impersonating a center fielder and has the speed in the open field to track balls down the field to make a play for the defense.
Cal’s Daniel Scott is no longer a “sleeper” after impressive @seniorbowl and elite Combine testing (RAS 9 out 882).
NFL teams looking for FS help know Scott isn’t flying under radars anymore.
Checkout range from oppo hash here: 👀#TheDraftStartsInMOBILE™️ https://t.co/1akQNPtsuy pic.twitter.com/N3SCoCNTnQ
— Jim Nagy (@JimNagy_SB) March 15, 2023
In this play, Scott sealed the win for his team with a late fourth-quarter interception.
DANIEL. SCOTT. TAKERS. 👊@theDScott7 with the pick!!
📺 | @Pac12Network
📱 https://t.co/3OIxHWkj34 #GoBears x #BigGame125 pic.twitter.com/DfmGQqBWw2
— Cal Football (@CalFootball) November 20, 2022
But it’s not all just sitting back and making plays in zone coverage, he does a solid job in man coverage out of the nickel spot and his reaction speed helps shut down plays around the line of scrimmage.
Love that the Colts keep drafting elite athletes; Daniel Scott is the best testing safety in the class. Good size and physicality. Played a lot in the box and as an overhang. Great special teamer. Checkout the closing speed: pic.twitter.com/Pdqaic7l41
— Bobby Football (@Rob__Paul) April 29, 2023
Here’s a rep from the Senior Bowl when he was in the receiver’s pocket and was able to mirror the route all the way into an interception.
Cal DB Daniel Scott was all over this pic.twitter.com/d5o9pFfRWU
— Billy M (@BillyM_91) February 1, 2023
Scott’s versatile skill set not only gives Bradley some creativity on how he would like to use the rookie but it can also help make other players chess pieces within his defense.
When recently speaking with the media, Bradley was asked about Julian Blackmon playing as a nickel, a position that he finished last year at because Kenny Moore II got injured and miss the remainder of the season. He mentioned that they are still working on how they want to utilize the players in the secondary.
When asked about Julian Blackmon previously playing nickel and normally being a safety, Bradley said they're still figuring out the best personnel and who works best where.
— Jake Arthur (@JakeArthurNFL) May 10, 2023
If Scott can put together a solid preseason and show the coaching staff that he can be more than a special team contributor in Year 1 then he could see the field sooner than later.
I expect that he will end up being that ace on fourth downs for the Colts and will make more of an impact on the defense as the season comes along. His larger role could come as early as 2024.
Julian Blackmon is set to be a free agent after this season so a starting spot could be up for grabs if Indianapolis doesn’t sign him to an extension.
Considering that Scott will be turning 25 in October, the coaching staff may want to see what they have in their rookie safety and see if he has what it takes to develop into a starter for their future defense.