Colts Sixth Round Pick Chris Rucker Projected As A Safety?

Let's put aside the obvious character red flags associated with Chris Rucker and focus, instead, on where he could potentially fit in with this team.

Last year this time, schmucks like me were worried that our depth at corner was lacking. Kelvin Hayden and Jerraud Powers can't stay healthy, and Jacob Lacey is limited as a cover corner. The trade for Justin Tryon helped significantly, but with the injury considered surrounding Kevin Thomas, the only two reliable corners (in terms of health) in 2010 were Tryon and Lacey.

While I think guys like Cornelius Brown are nice reserve players, the fact is that the Colts don't need more depth at this point. They need reliable starters. Is that why Rucker was picked? Can he provide something at corner? Or, were the Colts looking at Rucker as a possible successor to Bob Sanders?

At 6'1, 195 pounds, I initially thought that Rucker was another example of Colts head coach Jim Caldwell shifting away from smaller, zone coverage kids and going more with man-to-man cover corners with long arms and height. However, this nugget from NFLDraftScout.com's Rob Rang (writing for CBS Sports), caught my attention:

Chris Rucker's experience lies at cornerback, but many teams thought he projected better at safety. At either spot, in the sixth round he presented excellent value.

Rang graded the Colts with an 'A', saying:

It is tough to give a team an 'A' with only five picks, but no team did more with less this year than the Colts.

Rucker at safety? Clearly, strong safety is the team's biggest hole right now. The free agent status of Melvin Bullitt is very much up in the air. If we heed his own words, it's not a given he'll be back with the Colts in 2011. The Colts didn't take a safety in the 2011 NFL Draft, passing on players like Iowa's Tyler Sash to take Rucker. Can Rucker full the void left by Sanders?

Well, we know the kid can tackle (191 for his career at Michigan State), and he can make plays (six interceptions, 19 pass break-ups). However (from NFL.com):

Rucker has enough tools to be developed into a starting NFL corner but still has a ways to go. Teams will be enticed by his height, speed and ability to play press-man coverage. Really needs to improve his play in zone coverage. Doesn't recognize routes quick enough and is susceptible to pump fakes, double moves, etc. Does a good job tracking the football but doesn't possess the ball skills to routinely come down with interceptions. Has the mentality and size to be productive in run support but needs to do a better job getting off blocks. Could be a late Day 2 selection.

Again, he's big and strong. He can tackle. All these sound like a possible option at safety. I still think the Colts need to sign someone in free agency, such as Quintin Mikell of the Eagles or maybe Tanard Jackson of the Buccaneers. However, regardless of how they upgrade the position, it's very possible that Rucker was taken to provide more depth at both safety and corner.

Knowing that some teams projected him as a safety makes me feel better about the pick.

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