Grading the Tennessee Titans’ 2016 Draft Class One Year Later
By Luke Worsham
FREE SAFETY Kevin Byard (3rd Round, 64th Overall)
Positives: Jon Robinson used his final pick on day two of the 2016 draft to select a local kid, Middle Tennessee’s Kevin Byard. What other talent evaluators saw as a small school prospect with limited athleticism and poor tackling technique, Robinson saw as a crafty and dynamic ball hawk with the ability to play both centerfield and in the box.
As his rookie season progressed, Byard was given more and more playing time in the Titans’ safety rotation, eventually moving past veteran Rashad Johnson as the team’s starting free safety.
Oddly enough, the area in which Byard most excelled as a rookie was in the tackling department. He was often used as a blitzer and as a strong safety down the stretch last season, totaling 58 total tackles and a sack. He didn’t play a ton of centerfield as a rookie, but that likely had a lot to do with the fact that Dick LeBeau didn’t really have a better option at safety to play in the box.
Negatives: Byard has a lot of range and a nose for making plays on the football. However, in his rookie campaign, those abilities were never put on display. A lack of playing time at free safety likely had a lot to do with it, but Byard simply didn’t produce in the passing game last year. Hopefully the addition of Johnathan Cyprien, a sure-tackling strong safety, will allow Byard more freedom to do what he does best next season.
Though he often showed that he is capable of making good-form tackles, Byard’s poor technique was put on display a few times during his rookie year, notably on long runs by Melvin Gordon of the Chargers and Tyreek Hill of the Chiefs. On those two plays specifically, Byard simply looked a lot like a rookie. He will need to improve his technique a bit in year two.