Below is the PFF draft profile for Middle Tennessee safety Kevin Byard, which incorporates PFF’s college grades and scouting intel from our team of analysts. To see all of PFF’s 2016 scouting reports, click here.
Free safety in any scheme.
Stats to know:
Notched seven pass breakups and four interceptions, earning him the seventh-best coverage grade in the class.
What he does best:
• Looks to have the best range and ability in the deep middle of the field of any of the top safety prospects. Can be the elusive single-high free safety that many NFL defenses are looking for
• Has excellent ball skills and can pick the ball off, adjusting to it in flight. Has the school record with 19 interceptions, notching four of them this past season
• Takes good angles to the ball and the pass, and looks comfortable in space with more than enough athleticism to make plays
• Speed. Was able to run down Kenyan Drake in the open field to save a touchdown against Alabama
• Not a box safety. Came up quickly but would often take poor angles, miss tackles, or somehow conspire to avoid making the play. A sufficient tackler when he gets close enough to attempt one (only five misses in 2015), but can be beaten by a quick step easily.
• Questions about competition. Playing for Middle Tennessee State in Conference USA, there was a lack of high-level passing attacks on his schedule, and wasn’t a standout (either way) at the Senior Bowl
• More of a zone coverage player than one that can match up in man against receivers, even backs and tight ends. Will need to play off the line and cover space, not players
Player comparison: Reggie Nelson, free agent. Reggie Nelson has a similar size profile to Byard, though is giving up a significant amount of weight to the Middle Tennessee State product. Like Byard though, Nelson is at his best in coverage but has the ability to be solid against the run, and is not a player you want in man coverage against receivers down field. Byard has that kind of ability in a safety-starved league.
Bottom line: Kevin Byard might be one of the few players in this draft capable of playing the Earl Thomas role as a single-high deep-lying free safety. He may not have Earl Thomas range or ability, but neither does anybody else trying to occupy that space in NFL defenses right now. He does have a good nose for the ball and the ability to understand route concepts and passing threats from that alignment and influence the play in a way most can’t. In a league crying out for players to play in that position, Byard is one of the few in this draft class with the potential to pull it off.