Rookie Tracy Walker Is More Similar To The All-Pro Byard Than You Would Think
When the Lions selected safety Tracy Walker in the third round of the draft, many fans were left scratching their heads. Walker was projected to be taken in the fifth or sixth round of the draft, and safety wasn’t a particular position of need for the Lions.
Now, a month and a half after the draft, when doing some research on Walker, I stumbled upon an interesting comparison: Kevin Byard. Byard was in the same position as Walker just two years ago, when the Tennessee Titans picked him the third round despite being projected to go in the sixth or seventh.
Fast forward to last season, and Byard led the league in interceptions with eight, was named a first team All-Pro and was voted to the Pro Bowl.
Being drafted earlier than projected isn’t the only similarity between the draft profile’s of Byard and Walker though. They are similar sizes (5’11, 216 pounds and 6’1″ 206 pounds), ran similar 40 yard dashes (4.44 seconds and 4.51 seconds), were close in the three cone drill (6.73 seconds and 7 seconds) and had nearly identical 20 yard shuttle times (4.15 seconds and 4.28 seconds).
However, the two weren’t only physically similar coming out of college, they both had the exact same questions about their games.
From Byard’s profile: “Ankle tackler so that’s a concern and I just don’t trust him in coverage. I know he has all the interceptions but I don’t see a player who can match up in space against NFL-caliber receivers.”
And from Walker’s: “Safety with long, slender build who has good linear speed, but could struggle as an open field tackler and when isolated in deep coverage.”
They each received praise for similar areas of their games as well.
Another excerpt from Byard’s draft profile: “Good awareness as single-high safety and rarely panics when faced with route combinations meant to create mistakes and indecision. Willing downhill charge against the run.”
And, again from Walker’s: “He’s really long and has some cover talent. Long-armed safety with adequate range over the top. Good feel for run fits near line of scrimmage. Leverages ball carriers against sideline with patient, angled pursuit.”
So, while the two are not clones of each other, they were both viewed very similarly, physically and mentally when coming into the NFL. If Tracy Walker proves NFL scouts wrong (like Byard did) and turns out to be even half as good as Kevin Byard, he will be one of the biggest steals of the draft.