Delving into Defensive Backs

The Colts have a good thing going at defensive back and re-signed Kelvin Hayden Wednesday. But Bob Sanders, Marlin Jackson and T.J. Rushing are coming off injury-filled seasons. Perhaps with that in mind, the team talked to some promising DBs at the Senior Bowl. Is the team looking to bolster depth, or looking for replacements? Brad Keller goes prospecting inside.

Representatives from Indianapolis talked to three defensive backs — two from Wake Forest — that could be promising.

Chip Vaughn, Safety, Wake Forest:

Vaughn appeared in 51 games in his five year career (four years of eligibility) and recorded 258 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, one fumble return for a touchdown, and three interceptions.

His tackle stats surely indicate that he was around the ball and is an excellent safety "in the box," but his interception numbers and his passes defended — 22 over 51 games — indicate that he still has some things to learn as far as coverage is concerned.

At 6-feet-1 and 218, he might actually be too big to play safety in the defense that the Colts have historically deployed &mdash' and will most likely deploy in the future with Cover 2 subscriber Larry Coyer running the defense — so he might just be a player that would be useful to add depth and play on special teams. However, Indianapolis has a number of those players already on the roster and may not be interested in having another.

As the 8th-ranked safety and the 121st-ranked player overall, though, Vaughn may fit in as a fifth-round pick — chosen either with the selection the Colts already have or a compensatory selection — that can contribute on special teams and help to strengthen what has been a soft run defense up the middle.

Alphonso Smith, Cornerback, Wake Forest:

Smith had an impressive career with the Demon Deacons, posting 188 tackles, 23.5 tackles for loss, and 21 interceptions, returning four of those for touchdowns.  He also returns punts and kickoffs and is dangerous with the ball in his hands, which is something that the Colts were lacking after TJ Rushing was placed on injured reserve during the 2008 season.

Alphonso Smith
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He is currently ranked as the fifth-best cornerback and the 34th overall player, so he may not last through the second round, either forcing Indianapolis to trade down in the second round or select him in the first.

His 40-yard dash times have ranged from 4.37 to 4.57, so he can make himself a great deal of money at the Combine by posting a quality time.

Scouts are concerned about his size (a shade under 5-feet-9 and 193 pounds), but they obviously cannot argue with his production against a quality conference in the ACC.

Smith possesses the awareness, tenacity, and ability to support the run that the Colts look for at the position.  They may find themselves not being able to pass him up in the first round — similar to Marlin Jackson in the first round of 2005 — but some of that will depend upon his workout numbers.

If he shows well at the Combine or his Pro Day, there may be too much empirical evidence Indianapolis officials to pass up.  Cornerback is an area of potential need and, if the Colts find themselves in need in April, they could do a lot worse.

David Bruton, Safety, Notre Dame:

In 48 games for the Fighting Irish, he posted 243 tackles, seven tackles for loss, seven interceptions, and nine passed defended. 

He has prototypical size for the position at a shade under 6-feet-2 and 210 pounds, but is the 12th-ranked safety by and the 152nd-ranked player overall, placing him in the sixth round.  The reason for this is the lack of game-changing plays that he authored while at Notre Dame and the fact that he has run the 40-yard dash as slow as 4.64 seconds.

Bruton can help himself at the Combine by posting a faster 40 time, but scouts still are not going to ignore what they see on film.  At this point, he looks like a late-round prospect that can help bolster depth at an already strong position for the Colts, with Bob Sanders, Antoine Bethea, Melvin Bullitt, Matt Giordano, and Jamie Silva, but the annals of NFL history are filled with men who were supposed to be also-rans at the safety position, but ended up being solid starters for a number of years.

Only time will tell which category Bruton will fall into.

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