The 2016 NFL Draft class is loaded with talented safety prospects. It's a group of players that come in all shapes and sizes. Perhaps the biggest and most physical among them is Southern Utah's Miles Killebrew. Standing 6-foot-2-inches tall, and weighing in just shy of 220 lbs., Killebrew ran an official 4.65 40-yard dash, and bench pressed 22 reps of 225 pounds at the NFL Combine. This combination of size, strength and speed could make Killebrew an intriguing prospect for a team like the Pittsburgh Steelers, who might look to add the hybrid safety/linebacker to the roster, if he's available in the middle rounds.
Killebrew was a four-year starter for the Division I FCS Southern Utah Thunderbirds, recording over 100 tackles in each of the last two seasons. The standout defensive back finished his senior season with 132 tackles and seven passes defensed, leading the Thunderbirds to a Big Sky Conference title in 2015.
NFL Network Draft Analyst Mike Mayock listed Killebrew as the No. 4 safety prospect in his positional rankings prior to the NFL Combine. But some NFL Scouts, including NFL Media draft analyst Lance Zierlein, and ESPN's Tood McShay, have compared Killebrew to Arizona Cardinals' inside linebacker Deone Bucannon, and believe he projects more as a 4-3 will linebacker at the next level.
Position flexibility is extremely valuable in today's NFL, where defenses must counter spread offenses with a variety of sub packages. For the Steelers, Killebrew would be an ideal fit as a rover in the team's 2-4-5 nickel package, which defensive coordinator Keith Butler employed so often throughout the 2015 season. If the opposing offense lines up in the I formation, the defense can bring Killebrew into the box as a fifth linebacker. If the tight end splits out wide, or lines up in the slot, Killebrew can match up with him in press coverage.
Height: 6' 2"
Weight: 217 lbs.
2012: 69 tackles, 5 passes defensed, 1 fumble recovery
2013: 54 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, 2 passes defensed, 2 fumble recovery
2014: 101 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 3 interceptions, 4 forced fumbles
2015: 132 tackles, 7 passes defensed
- 2012 All-Big Sky Honorable Mention
- 2013 All-Big Sky Honorable Mention
- 2014 Second Team All-Big Sky
- 2015 First Team All-Big Sky
NFL Combine Results
4.65 40-yard dash, 22 reps (225 lbs.) bench press, 38-inch vertical, 127-inch broad jump, 6.93-second three-cone drill, 4.18-second 20-yard shuttle, 11.02 second 60-yard shuttle
Killebrew's biggest strengths are his physical tools. At 6-foot-2, 217 pounds, he is a violent tackler who plays with a mean disposition. This NFL.com Draft Profile of Killebrew describes him as a "tightly bundled muscle hammer with a compact frame and the thighs of a track sprinter." Killebrew provides an intimidating presence in the back end of the secondary. He excels at separating receivers from the ball with crushing hits.
Unlike some of the other hybrid safety/linebackers in this year's draft class, Killebrew played the majority of his snaps lined up as a true safety in cover 1, cover 2, and cover 3 alignments. On tape, you don't seem him in the box nearly as often as a player like Duke's Jeremy Cash. This will give NFL Scouts a better idea of his ability to play in coverage at the next level. Killebrew finished his collegiate career with 14 pass breakups, and recorded three interceptions during his junior season.
It should also be mentioned that Killebrew is an impact player on special teams. He blocked two kicks in 2015, and was used as a gunner on punts.
The biggest knock on Killebrew is the level of competition he faced at the collegiate level. While his production was solid, it came against Division I FCS opponents.
He appears a bit stiff on tape, and lacks the desired fluidity and athleticism of most NFL defensive backs. He also has a knack for taking poor angles when coming up to make tackles from his deep safety position. He tends to dance around the outside of the pile at times, rather than sticking his nose in to bring down the ball carrier. As his draft profile states, his "instincts are very average," and "doesn't anticipate run direction as well as he needs to," which leads to missed tackles.
Killebrew is a very raw defender, who also has a lot of upside. For a team like the Steelers, he'd be worth a selection in the third or fourth round, as someone who could contribute as a hybrid safety/linebacker in sub packages. Unfortunately the likelihood of him being on the board on the third day of the draft is slim. His impressive performance at the combine probably elevated him to a day-two selection for a team looking for a run-and-hit 4-3 weakside linebacker.