Why the Slide?: Nick Cross, S, Maryland

This series was created in response to questions about why certain well-known prospects went unselected in NFL drafts. For these articles, I reach out to sources with NFL teams to find out why their organizations passed on drafting a given player, and/or, what were the reasons for other teams to pass on that prospect. The positive response to “Why Undrafted” and questions from readers about why prospects were drafted lower than the media expectations led us to create the parallel series “Why the Slide?”

Both series are back this year. Feel free to email me requests for Why the Slide? and Why Undrafted? at [email protected]. I can’t promise to get to all of them, but I will do my best and definitely will respond to the email.

Prospects emerge at different points during every draft process, and Maryland safety Nick Cross was a late-bloomer for the 2022 NFL Draft. Cross produced really well as a senior, collecting 66 tackles, three sacks, two forced fumbles, five passes defended and three interceptions. At the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine, the 6-foot-1, 215-pound Cross put up a blistering 40 time in the 4.4s and showed off a first-round skill set. His time in Indianapolis led to a lot of projections of Cross going in the second round, and some were even mocking him in Round 1. Hence, it was a surprise when he slid late into the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft.

NFL team sources told WalterFootball.com they really liked Cross’s skill set but had concerns about him in in coverage. “He’s a height, weight, speed guy but the instincts are lacking,” said an NFC director of player personnel prior to the 2022 NFL Draft. “He’s very undisciplined and misses a ton of tackles. Cross could be an eventual starter, but not sure when because of the mental. I like him more as a third-round pick, but he may have too much physical talent to last that long.” Cross did last that long, and it was the technical issues in coverage that led to his slide.

The Indianapolis Colts ended Cross’ slide in the third round, and they were a great landing spot for him. He can start out as the backup to Khari Willis and could eventually become the starter next to Julian Blackmon. Cross landed with a superb organization that has done a phenomenal job of developing second-day draft picks – e.g. Jonathan Taylor, Darius Leonard, Braden Smith, Michael Pittman Jr, etc. With the Colts’ solid veterans, Cross won’t have to play right away and will have some time to develop as a backup who contributes on special teams. While Cross has points for improvement, he could be another second-day steal from the Colts.

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