A lengthy, rangy defender who was a turnover machine last year, Illinois safety Kerby Joesph will look to bring those ball-hawking skills to the next leve as he enters the 2022 NFL draft.
Here’s everything you need to know about this takeaway king:
Joseph is well-built, with excellent length and athleticism, lending him a wide range on the back end of the defense. That range allowed him to have a career last year, nabbing five interceptions, breaking up two more passes, and tallying 57 tackles. He spent to be a true ballhawk last season, making big plays on a regular basis.
In coverage, Joseph does a good job of understanding the routes in front of him, as well as watching the quarterback’s eyes, allowing him to close on deep passes. His range and length allow him to make good on his eyes, closing quickly and leaping for balls, playing them like a receiver.
On a few plays, Joseph was able to nab the ball from an opponent’s hands with his raw athleticism and come down with it, showing natural pass-cathing ability. At the next level, Joseph should be able to play as a free-roaming safety right away, with NFL length, along with smooth hips and a backpedal to match.
In the run game, Joseph uses his length to wrap up ball-carriers from various angles and guide them to the grass. Not entirely refined as a tackler, Joseph is clearly still willing to make the play, putting his body out there to make a hit more often than not.
Joseph seems to get lost when asked to man up on opposing pass-catchers, too often allowing them to explode past him, with his feet caught going in the wrong direction. His length and athleticism excused that in college, but it’ll be a lot harder to make those recoveries against pro talent. This can be mitigated if he’s asked to exclusively be a free-roamer at first, and develop his man coverage down the line. He seems open to coaching, as he has shown rapid development at the college level, but he might be just a rotational player early in his NFL career.
There are times when Joseph abandons form tackling, and slams his head into ball-carriers. This could lead to injuries at the next level, especially with his more slender build. He’ll want to focus on using his length with proper technique as a tackler, making plays with his hands and arms instead of his head.
Joseph might need to add some bulk at the next level if he wants to be used more consistently, which could also help him in man coverage situations where he tends to get out-muscled for the ball.
Joseph should have little issue making an impact as an open-range defender who can clamp down on deep throws. Teams should love his impressive range and length, taking advantage of his ball-hawking skills while he develops a more complete skill set. If he adds some quality bulk and refines his technique, he could end up being a bargain late on Day 2.
Projection: 3rd Round