I have been very critical of what the Tennessee Titans did in the draft. They moved up to take a right tackle in the top ten, signing a second round pick to be a back up running back, and drafting a nose tackle in the second round when there are similar guys who can eat up double teams who went undrafted.
These were all very underwhelming picks as far as I’m concerned. However, they did have one pick that I thought was absolutely outstanding when they took Kevin Byard in the third round. Byard is everything you could ever want in a safety prospect, with the athleticism, ball skills, and physicality in the running game to become one of the best safeties in the NFL.
Sadly Byard was a snub at the NFL combine, so we didn’t get to see him compete against other prospects at his position. All we have to go on is his great pro day work outs. In his 40 yard dash, Byard ran a 4.44, which was faster than the Giants second round receiver, Sterling Shepard.
Byard also put up 22 reps on the bench press, which was more than Lions first round offensive tackle, Taylor Decker.
His time in the three cone shuttle, which shows the ability to move fluidly from side to side, would have ranked second in this class of safeties and seventh among all players in this class.
In terms of physical tools, Byard has everything he needs to be great in the NFL.
In terms of his coverage ability, Byard is a playmaker is pass defense. He has been a consistent ball hawk ever since he first took the field at MTSU, intercepting no less than four passes every year. His average for return yards is an astounding 19.8 yards. With Byard’s help, Middle Tennessee State only allowed 6.5 yards per passing attempt and 121.4 opposing quarterback rating, both ranking in the top 45 in the country.
Expect his over the top coverage to help the Titans in a similar way and his ball skills to turn the tide in for the Tennessee defense next year.
As a run defender, Byard loves to come up and hit people. Even though he isn’t the biggest guy out there at 5’11, 215 lbs, he shows no hesitation when coming up to take on bigger guys in the running game. No game showed this more than when MTSU took on Alabama last season. Byand flew up to meet eventual Heisman trophy winner and teammate, Derrick Henry, in the hole and made physical tackles with regularity.
This summarizes how Byard defends the run. He’s physical and fearless, yet disciplined not to run himself out of any plays.
For Byard’s full game against Alabama see the video below.
This rare blend of athleticism, ball skills and physicality verse the run make Byard a special prospect. I won’t be surprised at all if he turns out to be the best safety in this class. In fact, he’s probably already the best player in the Titans secondary.
The cherry on top everything else is that Tennessee got him in the third round. He might not be the starter right away next season, just because every rookie has to work their way up, but you can bet he’ll see a lot of action for the Titans as the year goes on.
I’m ordering my jersey now because Byard is going to be a star in Nashville, just like he was in Murfreesboro when he was with the Blue Raiders.