Today, we continue taking a look at prospects the Green Bay Packers could potentially target this spring by hearing from Middle Tennessee State safety Kevin Byard.
Although from a Division 1-A school, Byard heads into this spring as one of the top safety prospects in the draft. Considering his size (5-11, 216) and physical downhill playing style, many NFL teams may also utilize Byard as a dime or nickel linebacker in their defense, a role a team like the Packers could really use an upgrade at going into the 2016 season.
Byard’s ability up in the box as a run stopper is definitely a strength to his game, but primarily playing at strong safety, the Georgia native also shows tremendous instincts and playmaking ability in coverage. Byard left MTSU ranked first in career interceptions (19), first in interception return yards (377), first in interception touchdown returns (4), and sixth in total tackles (312).
In fact, in his 49 games as the Blue Raiders safety, Byard was involved in 25 turnovers, which just demonstrates his knack for making impact plays on the field. He was also a four-year starter and team captain in college, and now a highly touted prospect going into the NFL.
Considering Byard is a versatile defensive weapon and a player the Packers could use on their roster, I recently reached out to him.
Byard was kind enough to take the time to answer my questions and talk to me about his approach to the game, what he feels are his strengths as a prospect, and how he’d feel about fulfilling a safety-linebacker hybrid role in the NFL.
Kevin Byard Q&A
Q. You were an incredibly productive defensive back for Middle Tennessee State, leading the school in career interceptions and interception return yards. What has your time playing for the Blue Raiders meant to you?
KB: My time playing at Middle Tennessee has meant everything to me. I was able to be the first person to graduate in my family and I was also able to really develop myself mentally and physically to become a pro prospect for he NFL.
Q. What is your favorite game or moment in your collegiate career?
KB: My favorite moment was my freshman year when I caught a pick-six against Troy University to win the game for the team three plays after our star linebacker had a career ending injury.
Q. In my opinion, you are one of the more underrated safety prospects going into the 2016 draft. For those that aren’t familiar with your game, describe your style of play? What are your strengths as a defensive back?
KB: I played in a true two-high safety look defense at MTSU. In our defense I can ever play half the field in Cover 2, quarters in Cover 4, play single high in Cover 1, or drop down and play underneath coverage. My strengths are my ballhawking skills, instincts, and high football IQ.
Q. What makes you unique at the position?
KB: What makes me unique is that I’m not the tallest safety being 5’11 but I go and attack every ball like I play receiver.
Q. Do you see yourself as more of a downhill safety who likes to play in the box and up near the line of scrimmage or a ball hawk who roams the field and excels dropping in coverage?
KB: I see myself as both. I feel as though I can play strong safety, free safety, or nickelback in sub-packages. I’ll do anything to help my team.
Q. What do you feel is the most underrated part of your game?
KB: I think the most underrated part of my game is my toughness and ability to be a leader in the secondary. Since I’ve been in college, every game I’ve played in, and I’ve played in every snap for four straight years.
Q. With the success of players like Deone Bucannon, Kenny Vacarro, and Kam Chancellor, the safety/linebacker hybrid is becoming popular in the NFL, specifically in dime and nickel packages. Given your size and physical playing style, do you see yourself fitting in this mold?
KB: Yes, I do. I feel as if I can be just as good as those guys, if not better.
Q. With the NFL Draft only a couple months away, what areas of your game will you be working on improving this spring before the draft arrives?
KB: I will work to improve my tackling angles and continue to develop my football IQ.
Q. Is there anything you can do to catch scouts’ attention or make an impression on teams?
KB: My film will speak for itself. All I could do was try my best at the Senior Bowl, and now I can test well at the Combine to impress NFL teams.
Q. The Green Bay Packers always value versatile defensive backs who can play multiple roles on their team. If a team like Green Bay drafted you this spring, what could you bring to their team?
KB: I can bring a work ethic to get better everyday. As to what position the defensive coordinator wants me to play is up to them. I believe I can be successful at whatever I’m doing on the field.
Q. How would you feel about playing for a team like the Packers?
KB: It would be awesome. To play for a team with so much history and tradition would be great. I think everyone wants to be on a team with a winning tradition. It’s also a goal to be on a team that’s in the playoffs every year and the Packers have proven that every year.
Q. Regardless of who drafts you, what will that moment mean to you?
KB: That moment will be everything for me and my family. Five years ago, I would’ve never thought I would have accomplished what I have done, so it will definitely be the best moment in my life thus far.
Q. Tell us a little bit about more yourself. How did you first get into football? Who has been influential in your life and has helped you reach this point?
KB: I’ve been into football for as long as I can remember. I only played one year of football in 8th grade then I went straight to high school. The most influential person in my life is my mother and just watching her work two jobs and taking care of me and my siblings has been incredible.
Q. What is your favorite part about playing safety?
KB: My favorite part is definitely catching interceptions and taking them to the house. There’s nothing better than getting turnovers for my team.
Q. When you’re away from football, what do you like to do in your free time?
KB: I like to just chill, playing video games, watch movies, and go hang out with my teammates.
Q. Is there anything else you’d like Packers fans to know before I let you go?
KB: Just that I would be honored to play for a team like the Packers, and that if the opportunity presented itself, I would give my all to the franchise and do my best to win football games.