Versatility Is The Name Of The Game For Colts’ Marvell Tell III

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INDIANAPOLIS — The more you can do, the higher the likelihood that you carve your way onto a roster in the NFL.

For Indianapolis Colts 2019 fifth-round pick Marvell Tell III, he could provide help to the Colts in the form of a cornerback, safety and core special teams player.

He played a little bit of cornerback in high school, but was primarily a free safety at USC who would often kick down to cover receivers out of the slot. He is expected to begin his career with the Colts at cornerback.

“I played corner in high school. I worked on my cover skills a little bit as a safety in college,” Tell III told reporters after the draft. “So it’s not anything foreign to me at all.

“I’m quick in short-area range, long arms to get my hands on guys, pretty good eyes and I’m intelligent,” Tell III continued. “So I can break down a receiver or break down the offense and anticipate things.”

Tell III is yet another collegiate team captain that the Colts brought into the fold in this year’s draft, but it’s not just his reliability as a teammate that had teams buzzing.

The only thing about Tell III that didn’t register at an elite level among safeties was his 198-pound weight. Everything else was top-notch:

  • Height — 6' 2" — 85th %
  • Weight — 198 — 16th %
  • Wingspan — 80" — 95th %
  • Arm Length — 33⅛" — 91st %
  • Hand Size — 9¾" — 81st %
  • Vertical Jump — 42" — 97th %
  • Broad Jump — 136" — 98th %
  • 3-Cone Drill — 6.63s — 95th %
  • Short Shuttle — 4.01s — 91st %

Athletically, the former high school basketball and track star checks every box. For those concerned about his slender frame, it’s not as much of an issue for a corner typically. That weight is much more common for corners and general defensive backs rather than safeties.

As for his proper weight and body composition, Tell III will work with director of sports performance Rusty Jones to make sure it’s where it needs to be.

Despite Tell III’s frame, he will still get physical with ball carriers and oncoming pass catchers. A lot of defensive backs with his build want no part of contact, but he’s fine with it.

Tell III’s speed is on display with the great amount of ground that he covers in an instant. He even closes in on ball carriers from the backfield quickly. He has great change of direction abilities, as he flips his hips and changes course fluidly.

Like you would hope to see, Tell II also has adequate ball skills when given the opportunity to make a play on the ball. Whether it's intercepting or getting a hand on the pass, or dislodging the receiver from the ball at the catch point, Tell III is going to do his best to make sure the pass goes incomplete.

Although Tell III played a lot of deep safety for the Trojans, it wasn’t just to put a crazy athlete out in space; Tell III was genuinely engaged and knows exactly what was happening in front of him. He has a legitimate football I.Q and instincts in coverage which will help him at corner.

“Yeah, we’re going to experiment there,” Colts general manager Chris Ballard responded when asked if they see Tell III as a corner. “We see a big, tall athlete that we thought he had a better junior than senior season for whatever reason. We actually sent Coach (Jonathan) Gannon out to work him out as a corner. So we’re going to give him a shot at corner.

“One of the things we really like – that’s why Quincy (Wilson) I think we undervalue how – these guys are valuable when they can do a lot on game day. Quincy Wilson has developed into not only a good corner, but he slides in (and) he plays dime. He’s highly intelligent and he can slide and play different roles for you,” Ballard continued. “We think Tell has got that same type of talent. Any time you’ve got a chance to get a big athlete with long arms, good speed – we think he can do a bunch of different roles. We’re going to play him at corner to start out.”

The Colts have a deep group of corners, including the likes of Kenny Moore II, Pierre Desir, Quincy Wilson, fellow rookie Rock Ya-Sin, Nate Hairston and Jalen Collins, but being able to shine on special teams and kick back to safety or line up in the slot could set Tell III apart.

“Definitely. I played all four years on specials teams – a lot of punt, field goal block and kickoff as well,” Tell III said regarding his preparedness for special teams. “So those are the ones I will start in.”

If this works out for Tell III at cornerback, then the Colts could have a potentially high-end cover man in their midst. He brings a unique blend of athleticism, length, speed and probably physicality to the position. With his speed, he'll be able to stay with receivers downfield and close in on them quickly when in zone coverage. With his short-area quickness, he'll stay on their hip while they run routes. And then, his 33-inch arms being draped all over them will cause distractions for the receivers if he doesn't break up the pass himself.

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