On a list ranking the top 13 safeties in the NFL today, Tennessee Titans safety Kevin Byard landed outside the top five.
Byard comes in at No. 7 on the list of Touchdown Wire’s Doug Farrar. Here’s some of what Farrar had to say about Byard:
One of the better small-school players of his era, Byard — selected by the Titans in the third round of the 2016 draft out of Middle Tennessee State — has been an outstanding safety in all of his NFL seasons… except for one. 2020 was rough for Byard and Tennessee’s defense, and he told me why last August. Dean Pees was no longer the Titans’ defensive coordinator, and a hodgepodge of undefined coaches proved to be a poor replacement…
In 2021, the Titans made former outside linebackers coach Shane Bowen their actual defensive coordinator, and things started to get better, especially for Byard. After allowing 37 catches on 51 targets for 409 yards, 160 air yards, three touchdowns, one interception, and an opponent passer rating of 107.4 (a career high) in 2020, Byard turned that around. Last season, he gave up 33 catches on 52 attempts for 372 yards, 211 air yards, six touchdowns, five interceptions, and an opponent passer rating of 83.7.
Almost joining Byard on this list was fellow Titans safety, Amani Hooker. The Iowa product had a career campaign in 2021, as he improved in coverage and notched the third-best overall Pro Football Focus grade among safeties.
And for good reason — Byard, who earned a Pro Bowl nod and First-Team All-Pro selection for the second time in his career, was sensational in what was a bounce-back year for him.
The veteran safety notched team-highs in tackles (88) and interceptions (five), while also adding 13 pass break-ups and a pair of defensive touchdowns.
As Farrar points out, he was great in coverage, and so much so that he earned the top PFF coverage grade in the NFL among safeties, along with the top overall grade.
When taking everything he did last season and throughout his career into account, Byard should be higher on this list.