2016 NFL Draft Player Profiles: Clemson S Jayron Kearse

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As you should know by now, our attention has now shifted to the 2016 NFL Draft as it relates to the prospects. From now until the draft takes place, we hope to profile as many draft prospects as we possibly can for you. Most of these player profiles will be centered around prospects the Pittsburgh Steelers are likely to have interest in.

A profile on someone with a known visit to Pittsburgh. Clemson safety Jayron Kearse.

#1 Jayron Kearse/S Clemson: 6’4 216

The Good

– Elite size, long and high cut, with length to match (34 1/4 inch arms)
– Physical, embraces contact, and looks to mix things up near the LOS as well as you can ask for, sticks nose in scrums and gang tackles
– Strong lower half with powerful transition, closes space quickly downhill and a forceful tackler
– Reliable open field tackler when he’s able to break down and explode through the tackle without having to change direction, strong hands who finishes the tackle quickly
– Size is an asset in man coverage underneath, able to shield receivers and dissuade the throw
– Gives effort and sideline-to-sideline chase
– Generally takes proper angles to the football in run and pass
– Asked to do a variety of things at Clemson, scheme and assignment constantly mixed up
– Fairly productive career

The Bad

– Predictably stiff player who struggles to change direction in any facet of the game
– Lots of trouble breaking down and changing directions, misses easily
– Tall and stiff in his turn in coverage, has trouble with balance executing his turn
– Speed is poor and struggles to cut runner off even when he has the angle
– Will disappear for stretches of games
– Not a ton of starting experience


– Two years as full-time starter, started 3 games as freshman in 2013
– Declared as a true junior
– 2015: 62 tackles, 6.5 TFL, 1 INT, 1 FF, 1 blocked kick
– Had 4 interceptions in 2013, 3 over the next two years

Tape Breakdown

Kearse is certainly an intimidating body, showing size and length that is rare to see at the college level. Lots of those body types bulk up and play linebacker but Kearse was kept at safety. He has the physicality and mean streak like a linebacker and when closing space downhill, creates a forceful impact.

And my favorite play of his, blitzing and destroying this right guard.

When he doesn’t have to make small change of directions, he is a plus open field tackler with strong hands who finishes plays quickly, not dragging down and holding onto dear life.

But when he has to break down, he struggles to change directions. You can see how lethargic he is to turn to the right as Marquise Williams takes off on this run.

I know part of this next clip is Kearse being disciplined in his run fill, which is fine here, but you can tell he struggles to explode and change directions after forcing the back inside. Missed on the tackle.

His lack of speed is evident. Despite the throw floating, the receiver stumbling, and Kearse having the angle, he gets dusted as the receiver scores.

Kearse apparently has a visit scheduled with Pittsburgh and that was the catalyst for writing this report. While his tenacity is admirable, he is not a player who is going to excel in space. Tony Pauline said he heard from scouts who thought he should bulk up and play linebacker and while I get that sentiment, linebackers have to be able to perform a lot of minute changes of direction in cramped quarters. Kearse isn’t going to excel there either.

And even if you put him in that Mark Barron type role, the Steelers don’t have the personnel or scheme to really adapt to something like that.

When you’re a safety who is slow and stiff, it’s usually only time before you’re exposed at the NFL level. Even if you can hit and wrap up. Hard for me to fall for Kearse.

Projection: Mid-Late 4th

Games Watched: vs Syracuse (2014), vs Notre Dame, vs Florida St, vs North Carolina

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Bryce WilliamsCre’von LeblancHenry Krieger-CobleLeonard FloydJosh Garnett
Kevin HoganCorey ColemanShaq LawsonAustin JohnsonDeAndre Houston-Carson
William Jackson IIIVernon ButlerSean DavisTyler BoydJalen Ramsey
Taveze CalhounGermain IfediNick VannettJack AllenAlonzo Russell
Leonte CarrooTyler HigbeeKeanu NealCyrus JonesD.J. White
Austin HooperTyvis PowellJeremy CashDevon CajusteDeiondre’ Hall
Justin SimmonsJonathan JonesLawrence ThomasJason SpriggsCarl Nassib
Ken CrawleyKyler FackrellRashard HigginsNelson SpruceKamalei Correa
Eric MurrayDan VitaleDean LowryMarquise WilliamsVernon Adams
Paul PerkinsEmmanuel Ogbah

About the Author

Alex Kozora

Full-time blogger from mom’s basement. Marrying tape and statistics. Chidi Iwuoma is my favorite Steeler of all-time.

  • GoSteelerz

    Yeah I looked at Kearse when I saw his size at the Safety spot. However, I came to the exact same conclusion as you did. I hope we don’t draft him…

  • CodeNameJerk

    Lost in SPACE!!!!! Not a fan of this guy at all.

  • Nicholas Allen Cotner

    Stiff stiff stiff

  • Agreed, and I will go one further….I was disappointed to hear he was one of our visits.

  • Big Joe

    Thanks Alex. I liked him early on and was paying attention to his development during the season but his speed and overt stiffness is a bad combination for an NFL safety. I don’t know how you fix that problem as a coach. I was hoping his combine workout would show something different but it actually reinforced his game tape. He can improve his speed but his body flexibility in change of direction is generally going to still be there.

  • Bigcity157

    Disappointed with how he’s looked through the process. I was excited about him the past two years but upon closer inspection he just doesn’t look good at all. If he had even average speed and coverage he’s a top 40 pick.


    Alex, I think you’re spot on here. For me the telling blow that he’s not the guy was the national championship game…the long run back for 6…he was the last line of the defense with an angle and Idt he even laid a hand on the guy…lack of speed is a deal breaker imo.


    “improve his speed”

    I think he can get better with anticipation etc., but just flat out picking them up and putting them down he’s not going to improve a ton imo. Both speed and change of direction pushes him down to a 3rd or 4th rd player.

  • TroymanianDevil

    Hey Alex, you must get a bunch of these requests but is Maurice Canady on your (or someones else’s) list? I think he could be solid 3-4 Rd pick, and I’d like to at least get your opinion on him

  • vasteeler

    my updated mock based on free agency – rankings according to cbs, i feel these players should be within the steelers reach, killebrew could go in the 3rd but some boards have him dropping to the 4th
    1.andrew billings – dt – baylor – #4 dt
    2.artie burns – cb – miami – #6 cb
    3.carl nassib – de – penn st – #9 de
    4.miles killebrew – ss – southern utah – #4 ss
    6.alex lewis – ot – nebraska – #17 ot
    7.terrance smith – olb – florida st – #23 olb
    7.josh forrest – ilb – kentucky – #11 – ilb

  • vasteeler

    looking more like a hybrid, may be asked to put on weight to play more like a linebacker

  • jsmitt

    Kearse will be the pick in 3rd round Coach Tomlin hasn’t forgot about missing out on Kam Chancellor. I like Kearse he’ll be fine on coverage if Will Allen can play SS lmbo Kearse can..

  • vasteeler

    well when you put it that way you are correct he cant be any worse than will allen

  • The Notorious TOM

    Let me be the safety if Will Allen is the benchmark. I’ll play for vet minimum, coach.

  • GoSteelerz

    Yeah, you and me both! LOL

  • PittsburghSports

    I didn’t want him. I don’t understand the Steelers interest, and now I’m forced to find something positive in him. I hate that. You really think 4th rd? I was thinking late rd flier.

  • SkoolHouseRoxx

    Pretty impressive, but you’re forgetting an Ohio St draftee. (I love it tho!)

  • PittsburghSports

    Just curious, where you like Terrance Smith in our defense? A bit small for the edge.

  • Pghomer

    I like it…just curious why Burns #2 over Fuller and Jones’ boys. Strictly height?

  • Michael James

    Kearse is so much worse than Chancellor. The only way one would even think about comparing them is their body type (and even that isn’t a good one, after you take a close look)…

  • kdubs412

    I think he will end up sliding to 5 or 6 after his pro day. It’s a struggle for me to envision a scenario where he isn’t a bust.

  • vasteeler

    i like both of the guys that you mentioned i’d take them in a heartbeat, i just dont see them still being available at #58

  • Ike Evans

    He and tj green are so boom or bust

  • vasteeler

    thats a fair question. his speed and athleticism are rare, 40 time 4.77 and 34.5″ vertical, i would have never looked at him under lebeau’s scheme, of course i’d let him find his way on special teams, i project him in the middle for the steelers, especially if they find a tackle that can keep him clean, he will need time to develop (2-3 yrs) and add about 10 lbs of muscle

  • vasteeler

    i know, trust me i would love to have eli apple but cant ignore that big hole in the middle of the line, tuitt and cam need help and a 3 down tackle would do wonders for this defense, remaining big on passing downs upfront instead of getting smaller is advantage steelers

  • SkoolHouseRoxx

    Not to big on Apple, but I think the TE or T may come into play! Hey, I wanted Alexander, but I think I’ve jumped on the Billings band wagon everyone’s on!

  • vasteeler

    i cant lie i was high on kearse until i watched tape of clemson’s last 3 games, i even watched them twice to also get a look at mackensie. kearse just seems destined to play linebacker in my opinion. i think he was on clemson’s backend for intimidation purposes more than anything. i have taken him completely off my draft board, steelers need to stay away from him at all costs

  • vasteeler

    i had garnett 1st rd until the foster signing so i moved billings up, i’ve liked everything i’ve seen from him, i think he has that “it” factor that he wants to be great, and you know cam and tuitt will bring out the best in him

  • Alex Kozora

    I’m not great at round projections. But the dude does have size, is physical, played in a big school, and is pretty raw without much football under him. Someone will want to work with that.

  • SkoolHouseRoxx

    I see Apple as more of a project well not really, but i think he needs a good year maybe two to be ready, but Alexander is more physical and covers better and I just like he talks stuff too! I think if we already had a lock down corner ID draft Apple because of his potential, but we have little time to waste!

  • PittsburghSports

    Yeah kinda wondering if you had him as a MLB or just a specialteams player.

  • vasteeler

    i dont think its reasonably fathomable to assume that he could consistently set the edge at olb even though he played there in college or that he could be a day 1 starter in the middle, given his speed and the ability to move freely on kick and punt units he should excel on special teams the minute he gets to latrobe

  • Matt Manzo

    Still curious as to what the coaches see in him? Didn’t they see enough at the combine and pro day?

  • jujudoublestuff


  • Alex Kozora

    At some point, hopefully.

  • Douglas Andrews

    I liked Kearse until watching the North Carolina and Notre Dame game. He looked really stiff and slow. The QB for UNC made him look really silly in the open field. As far as his coverage skills go he’d probably be okay only covering TE’s only but if he’s asked to be a deep safety that’s really a stretch for him. 4th round is about right for his skills.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    Now I do like the other safety from Clemson TJ Green who is a Tomlin kinda of guy…very athletic but only has 1 year exp. at the position. I have a 4th round grade on Green.