2023 NFL Draft

2023 NFL Draft Player Profiles: Stanford CB Kyu Blu Kelly

From now until the 2023 NFL Draft takes place, we hope to scout and create profiles for as many prospects as possible, examining their strengths, weaknesses, and what they can bring to an NFL franchise. These players could be potential top 10 picks, all the way down to Day 3 selections and priority undrafted free agents Today, we’ll be profiling Stanford CB Kyu Blu Kelly.

#17 Kyu Blu Kelly, CB, Stanford (Sr.) — 6001, 193 lbs.

Senior Bowl


Player Ht/Wt Hand Size Arm Length Wingspan
Kyu Blu Kelly 6001/193 9 1/4″ 31 3/4″ 77 1/8″
40-Yard Dash 10-Yard Dash Short Shuttle 3-Cone
Broad Jump Vertical Bench Press

The Good

— Long frame with good muscle tone
— Most confident when he plays close to the line of scrimmage in press
— Has a ton of quality man coverage reps
— Sticky in coverage when he can walk guys off the line and stick hip to hip
— Has the speed to carry WRs vertically with ease
— Feet are light and active, constantly on his toes ready to fire in any direction he needs
— Nice click and close on routes in front of him
— Shows patience being walked off the line of scrimmage, stays square, and doesn’t lean either way
— Does a great job mirroring releases with his footwork
— Physical at the catch point, numerous breakups on jump balls
— Has played inside and outside, had 100 snaps in the slot in 2021

The Bad

— Tackles like a cornerback, far too many missed tackles in space against the run and in the flat
— Takes poor angles in space when trying to tackle, gets himself in bad positions
— Gets eaten up by blockers downfield, tries to shed, often unsuccessfully
— Creeps up in zone coverage, leaving holes behind him downfield
— Doesn’t have a great feel for zone coverage, loses too many guys vertically after zone turn
— Can be susceptible to double moves with his aggressive click and close
— Opens his gate too soon in off-coverage leaving him in bad positions on in-breaking routes
— Clearly less confident when playing off-coverage
— Loves press, but doesn’t jam much, only mirrors off the line
— Can get grabby with quicker receivers out of breaks


— Started as a true freshman after 3 games and never was taken out of the lineup since
— Played in 38 games with 35 starts, accumulating over 1,250 coverage snaps
— 147 total tackles, 1.5 TFLs, 1.0 sack, 3 interceptions, 23 pass deflections, 2 fumble recoveries, 1 fumble forced, 1 defensive touchdown (INT return)
— Senior Bowl Invite
— Second-Team All-Pac-12 in 2022, 2021 – Honorable Mention in 2020
— Father Brian Kelly played Defensive Back for 11 years in NFL for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1998-07) and Detroit Lions (2008) – Mike Tomlin was his DB coach in Tampa for five of those years.
— Played high school football at perennial powerhouse Bishop Gorman in Las Vegas, Nevada
— Track and Field star in HS – Two-time state long jump champion, second in the 200-meter and third in the 100-meter dash
— Left leg is longer than his right leg
— Majored in Communication

Tape Breakdown

Kyu Blu Kelly is a highly skilled cornerback with extensive experience, having 35 starts and over 1,250 coverage snaps under his belt at Stanford. Possessing a formidable 6’0″ 193-pound frame and impressive speed, he excels in man coverage and is best used as a matchup corner.

With a personal connection to Steelers Head Coach Mike Tomlin – his father played defensive back for the Buccaneers while Tomlin was Tampa Bay’s Defensive Backs Coach – Blu Kellly’s NFL pedigree shines through in his play. He prefers to play close to the line of scrimmage and effectively mirrors wide receivers with his hip-to-hip coverage. Below against Arizona State, Blu Kelly demonstrates his speed and ball skills by carrying the receiver’s route vertically, locating the ball, and punching it out of the receiver’s hands.

At the Senior Bowl, Blu Kelly stood out as one of the top playmakers among the defensive backs, intercepting the ball multiple times and getting his hand on a number of different passes throughout the three practices. Although his three career interceptions may not fully reflect his ball-hawking skills, he made up for it with 23 pass deflections.

He does not panic when the ball is in the air and does a good job of attacking it at its highest point.

Blu Kelly is as patient and calm mirroring receivers off the line as he is with the ball in the air. He stays square, ready to react in any direction, and relies on his technique rather than guessing. As a result, he is always prepared to burst forward or flip his hips and run.

Blu Kelly’s trust and confidence in his abilities diminish when he’s in off-coverage against wide receivers. In these scenarios, he tends to open up too soon and run vertically, leaving him vulnerable to receivers breaking their routes inside. This is also reflected in his tighter hips when he is unable to mirror the receiver off the line in man coverage.

Generally speaking though, Blu Kelly is sticky in coverage and will be able to run with guys all over the field just like this scramble drill rep against UCLA.

When plays are in front of him, like curls and comebacks, Blu Kelly has shown some great reps of his ability to click and close.

Blu Kelly still needs improvement in zone coverage, particularly by staying disciplined with his eyes. There were instances at the Senior Bowl and on his game tape where he lost his vertical responsibility after his zone turn.

Last year against Arizona State, he was extremely lucky on this 4th and 19 play with under 10 seconds left in the game. He loses contact with the vertical route and is looking at the underneath route. In this situation, the number one rule is no one deeper than you. Blu Kelly breaks that rule and is extremely fortunate that the Arizona State WR can’t get his foot down in bounce after making an insane one-handed grab.

Blu Kelly also has a tendency to creep up in zone coverage when he sees players underneath, leaving holes down the field. Here’s a rep against USC doing just that.

He had a similar rep in the Senior Bowl game where he tried to midpoint a running back in the flat and a receiver running a curl route. He failed to prioritize the deeper route, allowing the quarterback to throw an easy first down to the curl instead of forcing a check down and rallying to the tackle.

Unfortunately, tackling is not a strong point for Blu Kelly. He tackles like a cornerback, lacking the ability to properly square up to his target and taking poor angles that leave him in an ineffective position to bring his feet. This results in a concerning amount of missed tackles, as seen below.

Blu Kelly also struggles to shed blocks downfield, resulting in him frequently being engaged with wide receivers on the perimeter during quarterback scrambles and outside runs. Despite attempting to block shed, he often fails to get away.


Overall, Kyu Blu Kelly is a highly skilled and experienced cornerback with NFL bloodlines and carries with him an impressive track record at Stanford. He excels in man coverage, exhibiting the speed, agility, and physicality needed to be an asset in coverage. However, his physical approach in coverage doesn’t transfer to his run defense, where he often takes incorrect angles and fails to make tackles. Improving his run defense and addressing his weaknesses in off-coverage and zone will be critical for Kelly to achieve success at the next level. Although his wealth of experience is attractive, his current limitations raise concerns about his ability to reach his full potential and break through that glass ceiling. With proper development, he’d be a valuable player for a team with a press-man-focused scheme.

If the Steelers opt to pass on top cornerback prospects in their first two picks, Blu Kelly could become a viable option. The Steelers Defensive Backs Coach, Grady Brown, had the opportunity to observe Blu Kelly closely at the Senior Bowl, and if Brown believes that Blu Kelly’s deficiencies are capable of being coached up, he may find himself playing for Mike Tomlin, just like his father did.

Projection: Day 2

Depot Draft Grade: 7.3 – Rotational Player (4th Round)

Games Watched: UCLA (2022), USC (2022), Arizona State (2022), Washington (2021), Kansas State (2021), USC (2021), Senior Bowl (2022)

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