Watch just a few minutes of Nick Cross' game film at the University of Maryland, and one will understand exactly why the Indianapolis Colts traded back into the third round of Friday night's 2022 NFL Draft to snag him.
You want speed at the safety position? Cross runs a 4.34-second 40-yard dash. You want an enforcer coming from the secondary? Cross "operated as the bouncer" of the Maryland defense, analyst Lance Zierlein writes in his NFL.com Draft Profile, "playing with the aggression and explosiveness to throw opponents out of the club."
And now he adds that potentially elite skillset to an already-talented Indianapolis secondary as a perfect chess piece for new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley.
"I bring high energy. I fly around and make plays," Cross told Indy-area reporters late Friday in his introductory press conference. "I'm physical on the back end and I'm able to come downhill and make solid tackles. I'm someone who can play the middle of the field and intercept the ball. (I'll) make sure no one makes any big plays down the field. I want to be someone who can take the ball away and cause havoc for the offense."
Cross did that in bunches for the Terrapins as a three-time Honorable Mention All-Big Ten Conference selection. A stat-sheet stuffer, Cross accumulated 67 tackles (3.5 for a loss) with three sacks, three interceptions, four pass breakups and two forced fumbles in 2021.
Cross built even more momentum for himself at the NFL Scouting Combine, however, where he not only ran the 4.34-second 40, but he showed off a 37-inch vertical and a 130-inch broad jump.
"I always knew I had great athletic ability. God blessed me with athletic ability and I was just happy to be able to use it at the end of the day," Cross said. "The Combine put myself further on the map. My play put me up there. But to be able to put me up there on a higher echelon was a great thing."
Cross could find himself lined up all over the defense with the Colts. While both starters at safety return in Julian Blackmon and Khari Willis, and the team this offseason brought in veterans Rodney McLeod and Armani Watts at the position, Cross' play style and versatility could very well be another enticing option for Bradley and his staff.
Colts general manager Chris Ballard won't pinpoint a specific safety spot for Cross yet, describing him simply as "just a really good athlete that can run." On top of that, Ballard said, Cross is young. "He's not even 21 years old yet."
"At the end of the day I'm ready and willing to play wherever they want me to," Cross said. "Do whatever I need to do to help the team bring a Super Bowl to Indianapolis."