The Indianapolis Colts were no stranger to making some risky moves on Day 3 of the 2021 NFL Draft, with one move that drew some raised eyebrows being the selection of Florida safety Shawn Davis, who saw his stock drop a bit after a very uneven final season in Gainesville.
While Davis will assuredly be a key special teamer as a rookie, there’s some question about where he’s best suited. He played safety in college, but his aggressiveness best fits him in a role that doesn’t have him dropping 25 yards away from the play half of the time.
The Colts already have Julian Blackmon and Khari Willis established as the starting safeties, so Davis will have to figure out how to adapt to a sub-package role as he cuts his teeth in the pros. However, the Colts sound willing to adjust their defense a bit if it means he will get some extra snaps under his belt.
The Colts might experiment with playing three safeties this year, giving Davis a chance to get some playing time in the base defense. However, while getting the rookie some burn is a notable goal, Davis getting more time could be a detriment to the rest of the D.
The Colts would be unwise to change the defense for Shawn Davis.
Putting Davis out on the field means that one defensive lineman or linebacker would have to go to the sideline. DeForest Buckner sure as heck isn’t coming off, but putting a stud nose tackle like Grover Stewart on the bench in anything outside of the most obvious passing down situations in the league is an egregious mistake.
Should a team that already runs nickel as a base take another linebacker off of the field? Considering how Bobby Okereke’s upward ascension looks poised to continue, leaving Darius Leonard out there by himself is an equally dodgy option.
Davis is not the type of player that will make an immediate Year 1 contribution as a starter. Getting him involved is great! Throwing him into the fire at the cost of some more established players … is not a formula for success.
The best course of action for Davis should be to challenge Willis for the starting free safety spot. Taking an established linebacker or defensive lineman out of the fold in order to account for him seems like a classic case of overthinking.
However, if Davis dominates in training camp/practice, it might be time to reconsider things.