The Tennessee Titans went local in the third round, grabbing Middle Tennessee safety Kevin Byard with the first pick of the third round on Friday night.
Byard, the 64th overall pick in the draft, should provide some depth at safety for the Titans. He had 19 interceptions for the Blue Raiders, setting a school record in the process.
Byard was plenty excited to be picked by the Titans after playing just 30 miles or so down the road at MTSU.
“It feels great, to be able to only drive 30 miles up the street from MTSU and play for the Titans. It’s the greatest feeling in the world. I’m kind of at a loss for words right now,” Byard said.
Byard said he and his MTSU teammates often watch Titans games. Asked who is his favorite Titans player, Byard had a fresh and unique answer.
“Their games come on every Sunday, so we’re always in the locker room watching Titans game, so I definitely keep up with Titans football,” Byard said. “I wouldn’t say I have any favorite NFL players. I’m my favorite NFL player now.”
Byard had four interceptions and six pass breakups in his senior season at Middle Tennessee State and had 66 tackles as a senior. He also posted 66 tackles as a junior and had six interceptions in 2014.
Byard ran a 4.46 time in the 40-yard dash at his pro day in Murfreesboro. Byard played in the Senior Bowl, but was not an invitee to the Combine.
The Titans, however, knew a lot about Byard even without seeing him in Indianapolis. They worked him out again about a week ago.
“We went over to Middle last week and spent almost two hours with him. We watched him at the Senior Bowl. I’ve got a close coaching contact over at Middle that has been raving about this kid to me for three years, how good he’s gonna be. Outstanding ball skills. I think 19 interceptions speaks for itself,” Titans GM Jon Robinson said.
That workout gave the ballhawking MTSU safety an idea of just how interested Tennessee was in him.
“The team came and worked me out. They sent a lot of people there, and I know they were very interested,” Byard said.
Byard is the second player from Middle Tennessee State to be drafted by the Titans, joining receiver Tyrone Calico, a second-round pick in 2003. Undrafted running back Dwone Hicks and undrafted offensive lineman Barry Hall also played briefly for the Titans.
The Titans released long-time starting free safety Michael Griffin in the off-season and replaced him with Rashad Johnson, a free agent from the Arizona Cardinals, who signed a one-year contract.
Tennessee also has Da’Norris Searcy as a starting safety, but needed depth at the position with Daimion Stafford, Josh Aubrey and Marqueston Huff the options there.
Robinson said Byard should eventually compete to be a starter.
“Potentially, he’s going to compete for a spot. We’re going to put the best 11 out there on offense and the best 11 out there on defense, and if Kevin is one of them, then Kevin is one of them,” Robinson said.
The Titans have four picks on the final day of the draft, but don’t pick until the start of the fifth round.