College: Middle Tennessee
College Stats: 312 tackles, 19 interceptions, 4 defensive touchdowns, 36 passes defended.
A highly-rated safety that left MTSU waiting until signing day, Kevin Byard made the best move of his career in joining the Blue Raiders. During his time at MTSU, he forced or gained 25 career turnovers that included a school-record 19 interceptions. He was voted Second Team All-Sun Belt as a freshman, Honorable Mention All-CUSA as a sophomore, First Team All-CUSA as a junior and as a senior.
He leaves Middle Tennessee as one of the most decorated defensive backs in school history.
Here is Byard holding his own against eventual national champions Alabama in an early 2015 meeting. At the time of an iffy targeting call, the Blue Raiders had only given up 23 points on the day to Alabama with Byard leading the push from his safety position.
A majority of the time, Byard is the smartest player on the field. His football IQ is through the roof. He was the leader of the Middle Tennessee defense, getting players into position on nearly every play. He is a true student of the game realizes just how lucky he is to have a chance to play in the NFL.
Even though he is naturally suited to play more of a strong safety role at the next level, he played much more at free safety because the team needed him there. Byard is one of the players that will be a steal for the right team and will literally line up anywhere he is asked. He is versatile and willing to do anything to stay on the field and an almost guarantee to make the roster of the team that picks him.
At 5-11, Byard has been known to struggle versus the bigger wide receivers he has faced. He has quickness, but his straight line speed has been a point of contention among NFL scouts. He seemed to answer some questions with a 4.46 40-yard dash in front of scouts, but some believe he plays a bit slower in pads.
The biggest con facing Byard is his tackling. He gets to the right spot and has a chance to lay a hard hit, but ends up dragging the receiver down instead. As long as he is making tackles, it is fine, but it leads to too many extra yards especially in the run game.
Where will Byard be drafted?
Depending on how the draft sorts out, Byard is looking at a fourth or early fifth round selection. The most reputable mock drafts have him graded as a fourth round selection. Two teams stand out to me as very good destinations for Byard: Cleveland and Baltimore. Both teams need young help at safety and have picks that would be perfect for a selection of the MTSU safety.
My choice is Cleveland at #99 or Baltimore at #104.