INDIANAPOLIS — Mike Derice, an area scout for the Indianapolis Colts who focuses on the Northeast region, discusses what he saw in cornerback Isaiah Rodgers, the Colts' sixth-round (211th-overall) pick in this year's NFL Draft (excerpts from interviews done with local media members, as well as with Colts.com):
Walk me through Rodgers — what did you like about this kid?
Derice: "Rodgers was obviously a small corner from UMass. He has inside and outside flexibility, great ball skills, he had 11 career interceptions, and he was also a pretty good returner. He's a great kid. And with this kid in particular, that was a complete team effort. Because, you know, sometimes with our organization we have height-weight requirements for certain positions, and sometimes Rodgers doesn't fit that mold, but like Kenny Moore, he had enough talent to be an exception to the rule. I look at guys like Jon Shaw, our Assistant Director of Pro (Scouting), who really dove into the film and, together, just really watched him and saw how he fits what we wanna do from a cornerback perspective inside and out, and a return specialist."
How did Rodgers get on your radar? Obviously he runs the 4.28 40-yard dash, and then he's on everyone's radar, but how did that evolve for you?
Derice: "I think people knew of Rodgers. They might not have had tons of love for him. When I had went to the school there wasn't a lot of love for him. I got a chance to really get to know him when I bumped into him at the cafeteria, and we spent some time talking. I got to see how passionate he was about the game of football. And then you start to really start studying him, you realize he does a lot of the little things right, from his footwork, the way he plays the ball and his confidence when he's in man coverage, whether he's playing on the outside or inside. And for a guy who's 174 pounds, you just never felt he was 174 pounds — it felt like he was bigger. And he played that way, and he had that type of confidence to display that."
Rodgers doesn't meet the height requirement at the cornerback position, but like Kenny Moore II, he's got to have something else that stands out. What was that in Rodgers' case?
Derice: "So Rodgers has exceptional instincts, so he knows how to put himself in position to get in front of the ball. So he gets a lot of pass breakups, he'll get the interceptions. And the added value to him is the return capabilities. He can do that, he's had success at UMass. And he takes the ball away. He has 11 interceptions, like three for touchdowns, and he has a savvy about him in coverage."
What was your argument for Rodgers in the draft process?
Derice: "In regards to Rodgers, he just has so much versatility as a football player, whether as a returner, whether as a corner to play inside and outside, whether it's the ball skills. And he's a good kid that loves the game. And in regards to Isaiah Rodgers, our whole department was behind the move, you know? Because he doesn't technically fit what the mold was, but you've got Jon Shaw, who stood on the table and stood for bat for it, so it's just a complete team effort on getting the right guys for the program that we all believe in."
How did the process play out for you to ultimately convince Chris Ballard to put Rodgers on the draft board?
Derice: "Obviously I go into the school, watch the film, give a grade. And Shaw re-watched him as well, during the times that we normally go out for the pro days. While I'm out on the road, the pro department is now watching guys to get an extra set of eyes. And Jon, I thought he did an outstanding job with just identifying, like, 'Hey man, this a great player that you have here. I'm gonna try to push him for Chris, and for Chris Ballard to watch, and to spend more time with him.' And Chris came back and did the same thing. And now there's a communication between the three of us, where we are identifying that this is a guy that we wanna draft. And this communication between Ballard and I, Shaw and I, was finding out where can we take him? Why are most teams lower on him compared to us? And seeing if it's the right for us. And we felt like he was the right guy, right makeup, and had the right skillsets to be a Horseshoe guy."
What was your reaction when you saw Rodgers had done his own pro day and released a video of him running a 4.28-second 40-yard dash?
Derice: "So I'm not gonna lie: I was upset that he did that video. Because at that point in time, we were already convinced of what type of player he was, and because he didn't have a pro day, he's more liable to slip. But he did the pro day, ran fast, and he was timed by a former NFL scout, so other teams would find it very credible. So there's a little bit of a panic, like, 'OK, how much are other teams going to take stock on this pro day? And is there a chance for someone to take him before we get a chance to get a crack at him?' It was probably a little bit nerve wracking for us once he put that out there and then it was public to the social media world."
What was your reaction when you go on the clock in the sixth round and you know Rodgers was going to be the pick?
Derice: "We were thrilled. And, you know, like I said, palms were sweaty when you looked at a couple of teams on the board and you're like, 'They could take Isaiah here, this team could take Isaiah there.' And so look at how many teams were ahead of us, and we tried to figure out what are the chances or the likelihood of this particular team taking him? And we were lucky that they passed, and once they got past our first sixth-round pick we were pretty confident that we were going to be able to get the player that we wanted at that position."