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Bucs Senior Bowl Draft Target: CB Kyu Blu Kelly

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By: Joshua Queipo

With Senior Bowl week just a week away the Bucs will be busy evaluating players who could potentially help the team in 2023. One position group they will most likely be targeting closely is defensive back. With safeties Mike Edwards, Keanu Neal and Logan Ryan, and cornerbacks Jamel Dean and Sean Murphy-Bunting all slated to hit free agency this offseason the Bucs will most likely need to draft some help in that room.

As I start to do my 2023 NFL Draft prep one player who has caught my eye that could potentially help the Bucs secondary next year is Stanford cornerback Kyu Blu Kelly.

Kelly Has Ties To The Bucs

If Kelly’s last name sounds familiar it should. He is the son of former Bucs Super Bowl winning cornerback Brian Kelly. The former Kelly played 10 seasons in Tampa Bay and recorded 426 tackles and 22 interceptions during his time with the Bucs while also being a starter on their 2002-2003 Super Bowl defense. He also follows a recent trend of children of NFL defensive backs entering the league recently. Asante Samuel Jr. of the Chargers, Jaycee Horn of the Panthers, Patrick Surtain Jr. of the Broncos and Antoine Winfield Jr. of the Bucs all ended up playing in the secondary in the NFL just like their fathers before them.

Each one of these players has immediately found success to varying degrees once drafted. One of the reasons is that they have all shown a high football IQ that has allowed them to play fast and instinctively, thus lessening their learning curve. I can’t promise that Kelly will automatically show the same football IQ, but his tape doesn’t rule it out either.

Kelly Had A Successful College Career

Stanford CB Kyu Blu Kelly – Photo by: USA Today

Over four years at Stanford Kelly has 148 combined tackles, one sack, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, three interceptions, and 23 passes defensed. Kelly became a starter shortly into his freshman season in 2019. Kelly was selected coaches All-Pac-12 honorable mention his sophomore season. As a junior, Kelly was second-team All-Pac-12 and won the Gundelach Award for the most outstanding junior player on the team. During that season he also led the Pac-12 and ranked 20th in the nation in passes defensed with 12.

Kelly’s Strengths Bucs May Like

One of the first things that will entice the Bucs is Kelly’s frame. Head coach Todd Bowles wants big corners who can play physically. Kelly checks that box standing 6-f00t-1 and weighing 190 pounds. That compares favorably to the other corners that have been drafted by the Bucs since Bowles was hired. Zyon McCollum, Carlton Davis III, Dean and Murphy-Bunting all stand over six feet tall. Kelly also possesses a similar skill set to the current Bucs corners in that he is at his most successful when playing in press man.

When lined up on the outside and jamming at the line of scrimmage Kelly shows a physical play style and a fearlessness that is required of an alpha corner. He uses his hands well off the snap with a strong punch that can immediately re-route almost any receiver. Kelly also features fluid hips that allow him to immediately transition in phase as he tracks his opponent through his route. He works best when using inside leverage to force the receiver he is matched up on to release to the outside and vertical. Kelly doesn’t show any fear with regards to long speed as he has the athleticism to hang with almost anyone.

In the run game he is a willing tackler who is adept at setting the edge on outside zone and toss sweeps.

Kelly Is Not A Perfect Prospect

There are concerns about Kelly’s game. While he excels when he can force receivers to release to the outside he struggles when they are able to gain inside leverage on him. Kelly can fall out of phase on slants, shallow crosses and dig routes. In an NFL that is increasingly moving towards Shanahan-style offenses that attack the middle of the field, Kelly can potentially be exposed on in-breaking routes.

Additionally, Kelly still shows opportunities in his zone awareness and is less comfortable when giving cushion pre-snap. He can get lost trying to peek into the backfield to read the quarterback’s eyes.

Kelly Could Be A Replacement For A Similar Bucs Corner

Tell me if you have heard this before. A fast 6-foot-1 corner who excels in press man coverage and ball skills in the form of high pass break up numbers but still needs to improve his play in zone may be available to the Bucs on Day 2 of the draft. Barring re-signing Dean, Kelly may be the Bucs’ next best shot at creating Dean’s level of play.

Due to the lapses in his zone ability, I don’t see Kelly as a player who will come off the board until the second round so he may be available when the Bucs make their second selection of the draft at pick No. 51.

The post Bucs Senior Bowl Draft Target: CB Kyu Blu Kelly appeared first on Pewter Report.

Originally posted on Pewter Report