Detroit Lions Draft: Jayron Kearse Scouting Report

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports /
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports /

Clemson safety Jayron Kearse is a supersized safety who makes for an interesting scouting report. The Detroit Lions have definitely showed quite a bit of interest in the former 4-star recruit.

The Lions are the first team off his tongue in his recent interview with NFL Draft Blitz, and he’s scheduled to visit Detroit in the final days leading into the 2016 NFL Draft.


  • 6’4”
  • 216 pounds
  • 34 ¼” arms
  • 62 40-yard dash
  • 5” vertical, 10’4” broad jumps
  • 06 3-cone, 4.62 short shuttle

Obviously the size jumps out. He’s both longer and heavier than most safeties, and that definitely shows in Kearse’s play. The early entrant is comfortable being so much bigger than most of his peers and generally uses it to his advantage. The Florida native is adept at playing underneath the receiver and daring the QB to try and fit the ball in over him. He’s very good at this in Cover-3 and more active zone situations.

The natural comparison is to Seattle’s Kam Chancellor, another very tall and physically imposing safety. And hits like this demonstrate the pop behind the pads when Kearse zeroes in on a target:

There is a real intimidation factor in having a man that size getting a free run at a receiver over the middle, or crashing down into the box as an extra linebacker on run downs. Clemson even deployed him as an inside backer in certain formations, notably as a spy against mobile quarterbacks like they faced in North Carolina and Notre Dame.

That clip highlights the potential at LB. It also demonstrates one of the biggest issues with Kearse.

Note his posture at, and just after, the snap. He’s very erect and stiff in his posture. That’s great for porn, not so good on the football field. Safeties need to be lithe and ready to react in any direction in a hurry. Instead of being able to cleanly dart to the point of attack, Kearse first has to crouch to get some spring to his knees and then steps in the bucket to get his momentum going.

This issue springs up repeatedly. In the above case, a teammate rather emphatically cleaned it up for him, but that isn’t always the case. It makes him a count late to the party at times. This often sets off a chain reaction of negative consequences.

Because he’s so long, it’s already a bit of an effort for him to get low enough to make leverage tackles in space. If he’s not in optimal position, this task becomes even tougher. He is not a fluid athlete whatsoever, something easily visible on the field which is reinforced by his egregious agility drill results.

Already at a leverage disadvantage, the stiff post-snap posture and means Kearse is often at full gallop in pursuit. Now his size is a detriment, as shown on this humbling play against North Carolina

He’s unable to gather himself or break down in order to make the tackle. Again, the games I watched (North Carolina, Florida State, Notre Dame, Appalachian State, Louisville, Oklahoma, Alabama) are littered with this very problem.

Compounding this issue is that he just doesn’t seem to play at maximum effort more than about 25% of the time. It’s quite noticeable when Kearse is aligned in coverage but has no immediate mark to cover; he’s upright, listless and just doesn’t seem all that concerned. Perhaps it’s a byproduct of playing with a plethora of future NFL starters around him, but that kind of indifference will draw the flames of hell from NFL coaches.

So what you’ve got in Jayron Kearse is a box safety with average instincts, poor lateral agility, average speed and instincts with legit questions about his desire. He’ll make the occasional highlight reel play, and does offer some potential as the en vogue safety-as-linebacker role a la Mark Barron or Deone Bucannon. He’s not as rangy as either converted safety, however.

Initially I was sucked in by the physical attributes and potential, and the big hits on the highlight reels. The more I watched of Kearse, the less I liked his game and his NFL potential. He’s a 6th-round talent who will be a sub-package player in run and short-yardage situations who will have to stand out on special teams to make it in the NFL.