Draft stock tends to be important when evaluating players and projecting depth charts. But that’s not necessarily the case when the team which drafted the player quickly gives up on him. And that’s what happened with Shawn Davis, selected by the Indianapolis Colts in the fifth round of last year’s draft. Now, he has a chance to revive his career as a possible third safety with the Green Bay Packers.
It’s unusual for a team to cut such a high draft capital so fast, especially for a general manager as Chris Ballard, who puts significant value in building through the draft. But Davis didn’t even make the initial 53-man roster in 2021, and was signed to the practice squad to start the season. Released from the Colts PS in September, he spent almost the entire season on the Packers practice squad, being elevated to the active roster for the final three games of the season, plus the playoffs. When he was promoted, Davis signed a two-year deal, so he was already under contract for 2022.
This offseason, the Packers have gone through what can be a shift in defensive approach, selecting linebacker Quay Walker in the first round. Safety Henry Black, who played 25% of the defensive snaps last season, was let go in free agency, so the expectation is that Green Bay won’t use a third safety that much. But Shawn Davis has an opportunity to slow the trend and be the first option behind starters Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage.
I can see why they Packers quickly picked up Shawn Davis last year and why he’s been at safety 3. Moves pretty darn well for a safety. SJC was showing off his agility in drills too.
— Andy Herman (@AndyHermanNFL) June 7, 2022
Davis wasn’t considered a reach when drafted by the Colts in the fifth-round. According to his NFL Network Draft Profile, he was in fact projected to be a fifth-rounder. NFL Analyst Lance Zierlein classified him as “hard-hitting safety whose size, toughness and urgent demeanor will be appealing for NFL teams looking to add some attitude on the back end. While he certainly embraces the role of enforcer when coming forward as a striker, Too often his efforts will hit road bumps due to a lack of discipline with coming to balance and squaring/wrapping his target. If a team can correct that issue, he has plenty of value in run support.”
That description is a perfect fit for what the Packers expect from the third safety. Last season, defensive coordinator Joe Barry used Amos and Savage almost exclusively as deep safeties, primarily on two-high shells. Therefore, Black’s role, which could be translated to Davis, was as a box safety, with run responsibilities, but also giving schematic flexibility to cover if necessary.
Shawn Davis was waived by the Colts after a poor performance in his rookie year preseason finale, when he dropped an interception and missed some tackles. Indianapolis had decent depth at the position, so they decided to part ways with the draft pick. The safety had handled a hamstring injury earlier in training camp, so he never had a chance to leave a good impression.
Davis is not ideally suited to play as a traditional safety, because he has struggled in coverage, even during his college career at Florida. If one of the starters goes down, Vernon Scott and Innis Gaines have more chances. But specifically for the third safety role, Davis has the characteristics needed to be on the field — and that’s why he was tested so much during OTAs and minicamp practices.
Photo: Mark Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports