The Senior Bowl is showcasing some of the top NFL prospects, and Kyu Blu Kelly and Tyrique Stevenson are two cornerbacks who have caught the attention of scouts and fans alike. Kelly, a standout defender from Stanford, has a track and field background that gives him the edge in athleticism, while he models his game after Cleveland Browns corner Denzel Ward. Stevenson, originally a 4-star recruit from Miami, has established himself as a physical outside cornerback with a press-heavy system projection. Both players have room for improvement, but their versatility and confidence on the field make them hot commodities in the upcoming NFL draft.
Could the Detroit Lions be targeting these two following successful showings at the Senior Bowl? Let’s look a little deeper.
Standout Defender Kelly Shines in Shines in Senior Bowl Practices
Kyu Blu Kelly, a cornerback from Stanford, made a statement in this week’s practice session for the National Team. Standing at 6-foot-1 and weighing 193 pounds, Kelly broke up multiple passes and had a pick-6, solidifying himself as a popular name for Detroit Lions fans in the pre-draft process.
Kyu Blu Kelly with the pick-6 at the Senior Bowl — @StanfordFball’s CB has looked good today at the Senior Bowl pic.twitter.com/fqRjbRWw3s
— Cam Mellor (@CamMellor) February 1, 2023
Modeling His Game after Denzel Ward
Kelly models his game after Cleveland Browns corner Denzel Ward, who shares a similar build and excels in “physicality and playing different schemes.” Kelly is comfortable playing both man and zone defense, inside or outside, and has experience playing inside, which he calls “comfortable.”
Track and Field Background Gives Kelly the Edge
Kelly’s athleticism comes from his background in track and field, where he was a two-time state long jump champion and placed second in the 200-meter and third in the 100-meter dash. He also has a football-playing father who has been a huge asset in his career, serving as his “toughest critic” and keeping him level-headed.
Competitive Man-Coverage Corner
Kelly is a competitive man-coverage corner with a sticky style. He displays confidence in press-man coverage and uses his pre-snap alignment to force receivers into his strengths. Kelly is also a willing participant in run defense and has good route instincts to read and diagnose the receiver’s options. However, he lacks confidence in off-coverage and needs to improve his eye discipline and tackling technique.
Projects as an Outside/Field Cornerback
Overall, Kelly projects as an outside/field cornerback with the potential to move into the slot. He is a press-man-style corner with impressive competitiveness and route instincts, but needs to improve his off-coverage and tackling technique. Regardless, Kelly made a statement in Wednesday’s practice session and is sure to be a hot commodity in the NFL draft.
Miami’s Tyrique Stevenson: A Physical Cornerback with Room for Improvement
Miami Hurricane Tyrique Stevenson has established himself as a physical outside cornerback with a press-heavy system projection in the NFL. He is a big-time height/weight/speed athlete, boasting physicality and effective press coverage. Stevenson took a step forward in coverage during his senior year at Miami, allowing a completion percentage of 42.5% and intercepting two passes.
Tyrique Stevenson plays this so well, he becomes the WR!
(Don’t worry, he appeared to be OK after) pic.twitter.com/bZvJrovPZX
— Cam Mellor (@CamMellor) February 1, 2023
Senior Bowl Shows Confidence is Key
Stevenson attributes his success on the field to his confidence. “I’m a confident person. I feel like, whether I get a ball caught on me or not, it’s just football. Everybody good,” said Stevenson. He believes his confidence never wavers, whether on or off the field, which contributes to his aggressive playing style.
From Georgia to Miami
Originally a 4-star recruit, Stevenson played high school football for Miami Southridge High School in Homestead, FL. He initially committed to the Georgia Bulldogs and was a member of the school’s 2019 recruiting class. Stevenson played in 24 games and logged just 4 starts before transferring to Miami for the 2021 and 2022 seasons. He quickly established himself as a staple in the secondary and was named All-ACC Honorable Mention in 2021.
Special Teams Contribution
Stevenson’s versatility is highlighted by his special teams contribution resume. In addition to playing as a cornerback, he was also utilized on special teams, showcasing his versatility and athleticism.
Room for Improvement
While Stevenson is effective in press-man coverage, some concerns remain about his functional athleticism. He lacks long speed and acceleration, leading to rigid transitions and ineffective open-field tackling. However, if he can improve his open-field tackling, Stevenson could see success as a subpackage safety, although he will likely have to work on his open-field tackling fundamentals.
As Stevenson enters the NFL, his expectations will depend on the scheme he lands in. Placing Stevenson in a press-man-heavy system feels like the right pathway to success for this player, but he has the potential to develop into a successful safety if he can improve his open-field tackling.
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