A Former Fifth-Round Pick Has the Opportunity To Be the Packers Third Safety

Shawn Davis has shown in practice he can be a useful role player

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.

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

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Wendell Ferreira covers the Green Bay Packers for Zone Coverage and Cheesehead TV. He is a Brazilian journalist with over a decade of experience covering the NFL, soccer, NBA, and MMA. Follow him on twitter at @wendellfp  

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11 points

Comments (19)

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PatrickGB's picture

June 21, 2022 at 10:00 am

The safety position will be interesting to watch this TC and preseason. There are a number of players who look good in shorts but may struggle in games. Yet sometimes the light goes on and sometimes a good coach can bring out the best in a player. I think that Jerry Grey can help do that.

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PackEyedOptimist's picture

June 21, 2022 at 10:12 am

I keep hoping Innis Gaines has the light turn on. I loved his college tape. Guys like Douglas and SJC could also be replacements if a starter went down, as well as Tariq Carpenter.

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Coldworld's picture

June 21, 2022 at 10:39 am

Davis was supposedly decent deep other than a lack of long speed and length from what most scouting reports said. He is an aggressive tackler but is better In motion towards the ball, however, he is small for a box S, 5’11, 202 pounds. While heavier (4 LBs) than Savage, at the same height, he’s a smaller man than Douglas at 6’2 and 209.

It’s hard to tell without seeing him in camp yet, but he seems in fact to be a little slight to be a regular (and durable) enforcer. Moreover, based on draft profiles, I suspect his attraction (other than ST ability) is that he offers the ability to play deep while being a willing tackler and thus is more versatile than many in the S group depth. That makes him an ideal 3rd active S on game days and one who should also justify his activity in the special teams phase.

For anyone looking for a range of takes on Davis to as a draft prospect to judge for themselves, this is a good summary of various opinions: https://coltswire.usatoday.com/2021/05/08/2021-nfl-draft-indianapolis-co...

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PatrickGB's picture

June 21, 2022 at 11:05 am

If playing deep is his forte then maybe he is kept as backup for that position. Yet, if his speed is a weakness then I wonder if he could do even that. Under Pettine, the defense used more DB’s. Yet Barry seems to prefer LB’s. The team has a few safetys to choose from but I would not be surprised to see the team pick up another.

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Grandfathered's picture

June 21, 2022 at 10:56 am

Davis may be kept for special teams. But presumably Carpenter was drafted for the box safety job and also ST. If Davis has problems with coverage, I don't know what would give him an edge to make the roster.

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Coldworld's picture

June 21, 2022 at 11:43 am

If you read about Davis, that statement doesn’t seem to agree with most of the assessments. That’s why I gave a link so you could read extracts from a number of them for context.

I would agree that, were we looking for a true box S, Carpenter is a more likely candidate. However, he’s probably not an option deep and is apparently seen as more of a cover ILB/hybrid by the team. There’s room for both on STs.

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Stroh's picture

June 24, 2022 at 02:31 pm

Carpenter was drafted almost entirely for his ST ability, not so much for his positional value. Most likely he'll become an ILB, if he progresses.

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Leatherhead's picture

June 21, 2022 at 11:10 am

When you look at the safeties behind the starters, it's all rookies or second year guys, UDFAs or Day 3 picks. These guys are one pulled hammy away from starting for us in the playoffs.

I have to believe they like Carpenter or they wouldn't have drafted him, and Scott should have a leg up since he's already been here a year. But it's really pretty wide open at this point.

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dobber's picture

June 21, 2022 at 11:41 am

"A former fifth-round pick has the opportunity to be the Packers' third safety"

If the Packers had drafted him, we'd be regarding this as a potential win for scouting and development.

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Coldworld's picture

June 21, 2022 at 11:49 am

Doesn’t matter how we get them. It’s how we think of them and how they live up to that. It’s just harder to know what the thinking was on signing with SFAs. That’s part of the fun of camp: seeing how we use such pieces and if they can play. The important point at this stage is that it seems to be lining up for a real competition in camp behind the starting DBs and even ILBs. Let’s hope some force us to notice their value.

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Fubared's picture

June 21, 2022 at 12:02 pm

Maybe he can be used as a tackling dummy or they can show film of his mistakes to the others of what not to do. I'll assume he isn't a rocket scientist or he lacks speed and size to play the position correctly?
You can only do so much with a pigs ear.

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Fubared's picture

June 21, 2022 at 12:02 pm

Maybe he can be used as a tackling dummy or they can show film of his mistakes to the others of what not to do. I'll assume he isn't a rocket scientist or he lacks speed and size to play the position correctly?
You can only do so much with a pigs ear.

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DTowleJr's picture

June 21, 2022 at 12:41 pm

I'm always hopeful for the cast-offs who were plucked and came to Green Bay. Restarting, renewing, or rebuilding their talent and promise is what the #Packers hope they can do. Green Bay has a long history of reviving stalled careers and we hope this is one of those careers.

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stockholder's picture

June 21, 2022 at 01:26 pm

Got to pull for the guy. He might be the next Micah Hyde. But let's do a reality check here. Didn't Josh Jackson fail. Quinten Rollins? Josh Jones? I hate to say it. But he could be another heart Break. Shiny and new is more the thinking.

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splitpea1's picture

June 21, 2022 at 02:36 pm

Davis may have value as a special teams player right now, but the first option behind Amos and Savage? I think he would need to show quite a bit of developmental progress for the Packers to be comfortable with that. Maybe a more experienced option (or maybe someone we already have) will present itself before the season begins.

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HawkPacker's picture

June 21, 2022 at 03:26 pm

I originally thought special teams as well. But the author notes that he has tackling issues so maybe no to ST.

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vaquezdavid's picture

June 22, 2022 at 03:47 am

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Lphill's picture

June 22, 2022 at 05:31 am

It might also be possible for the Packers to pick up a veteran safety for depth.

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HarryHodag's picture

June 22, 2022 at 08:11 am

The article was hair confusing. Lots of praise early, lots of diss late.

Amos is a free agent next year and if he decides to leave there will be room to move up a safety. I suspect that's why they drafted Carpenter. When they let Black go it was sign they wanted to upgrade the position. The fact that Davis was in the system will help him but athleticism can only take you so far. You have to make plays.

The modern NFL...with 17 games...means every back up must be ready to take over. It's a long season and injuries are going to occur. The Packers are stacked at the corners, but they really could use a veteran back up.

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