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Re-visiting the 2018 NFL Draft, and newly acquired Steelers CB Kameron Kelly

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The Pittsburgh Steelers signed CB Kameron Kelly from the AAF, and it is only appropriate we go back and take a look at some of this strengths and weaknesses.

NCAA Football: Las Vegas Bowl-Houston vs San Diego State Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Kameron Kelly played his college football at San Diego State and bounced around the secondary, playing both safety and cornerback. He had 9 career interceptions, 15 passes defensed, two sacks and two forced fumbles. In 2018, he went undrafted, but was signed by the Dallas Cowboys as a free agent, released not long afterward.

In October he was signed to a contract by the San Diego Fleet of the now deceased Alliance of American Football. He once again changed positions, moving to the other side of the ball as a wide receiver. That didn’t last long. Due to a rash of injuries he was moved back to cornerback. During his time with the Fleet he had 4 interceptions, three of which came in one game, and 9 passes defensed.

Let’s take a look back at his profile prior to the 2018 NFL Draft:

Draft Profile

Height: 6’2”

Weight: 202

Arms: 31 3/4

40 Yard Dash: 4.65

This was created by Lance Zierlein, of NFL.com:

“Sources say there are teams out there who are enamored with the idea of playing Kelly at cornerback to take advantage of his length and ball skills. If he gets drafted to play corner, he will require patience as he lacks experience and movement skills to hold up against NFL route-runners. As a safety, teams like his range and ball skills to take it away and flip the field. Kelly’s success could be tied to positional and scheme fit more than most.”

Strengths

  • Long frame and expected to run well for his size
  • Former high school receiver with penchant for making plays on the ball
  • Has speed to range over the top as a safety
  • Finds flight of the ball early and acts as a receiver when attacking the catch
  • Opportunistic
  • Reacts instantly to deflections, under thrown and overthrown balls to take the ball away
  • Has starting experience at cornerback and safety
  • Could offer sub-package appeal
  • Plays with aggression in run support
  • Chops down running backs at the thighs
  • Productive kick cover talent with ability to compete for a gunner role on punts

Weaknesses

  • High-cut with upright, labored backpedal
  • Looked much more comfortable and natural at safety
  • Carries thin legs and a narrow base
  • Delayed in his transitions and doesn’t flip hips with any smoothness
  • Grabby at the top of the route
  • Inexperienced with back to the ball
  • Average short area closing burst
  • Dig routes and seam throws will require earlier recognition and response
  • Needs to get stronger for run support
  • Gets wired to bigger blocking receivers and is slow to unhinge
  • Too many missed tackles

This was from Athlon Sports 2018 Draft Guide:

Strong Points: Kelly took well to cornerback as a senior, and his position flexibility and ability in coverage are appealing. A former wide receiver, he has excellent ball skills, especially tracking down field. His instincts are good in terms of route recognition, and he’ll jump routes and make a play on the ball. He shows good timing when raking across the receiver’s hands. He is also very willing to come down in run support, and he had a reputation as a leader with high football character.

Weak Points: He’s a tweener, but does he fit at either spot? At safety Kelly plays with that physical approach but has a relatively thin frame. He is a bit stiff and lacks suddeness as a mover, his range is good enough but not great. He’d struggle to flip his hips and run in press coverage as a cornerback.

Summary: Kelly might ultimately end up as a sub-package hybrid player with special teams value. The tools are there for him to be developed as a starter with the right coaching.


My Two Cents

My thinking remains the same regarding Kelly in that he is best suited facing the quarterback in a free safety role. I like his willingness and effort in the run game. The term “Sub Package” used in the Athlon break down, has been thrown around a while in Tomlin’s approach to the defense.

Does that approach change with Devin Bush now on the roster? I think so, but to what extent, I’m sure there will be a need for versatile DBs and the Steelers have some spots open at safety which will need filled. The guy has had transition in his career moving from safety to corner, from wide receiver to corner. I don’t think moving back to safety would bother him a bit if it meant making the Steeler’s 53-man roster, or even the practice squad. I liked the signing and hope he brings the necessary competition to that room.