Kerby Joseph, Illinois P | NFL draft scouting report

Production can often be counted on as a strong indicator of future NFL talent, and that’s especially true of Illinois safety and security. nfl draft Kerby Joseph prospect. An early bird and Senior Bowl standout, how high is Joseph’s ceiling in the 2022 NFL Draft next April?

Kerby Joseph NFL Draft Profile

  • Position: Security
  • College: Illinois
  • current year: higher
  • Height: 6’0 5/8″
  • Weight: 200 pounds
  • Wingspan: 79 5/8″
  • Length: 33 1/4″
  • Hand: 10 1/2″

Kerby Joseph Scan Report

The secondary has always been of great importance to NFL defenses. But in the new era of pass-oriented offensive attacks, there is a particularly strong emphasis on defensive talent from the back. Cohesion is always important, no matter how talented your secondary is. But there are certain plays that only the most talented players can make.

In a way, that criteria is what separates ordinary insurance from the best of the best. Do you have the talent to make plays that change the momentum and define the game? Seeing the tape of him, Joseph has that talent. But how does he shape up as a prospect overall and what’s the ceiling on him? That’s what we’re going to find out.

Joseph’s Athletic Profile

As is often the case with game-changing prospects, their athletic traits are what set them apart. Joseph’s physical profile is actually quite tempting. The Illinois safety is about 6’1″, 200lbs. With that frame he has 33 1/8″ arms. That’s elite length for a defensive back, and it gives him a massive interrupt radius at the capture point, as well as impressive clout as a tackler.

Regardless of his build, Joseph is an explosive athlete with long strides. He can speed up quickly and easily track receivers downfield. When he opens his hips and actively looks for plays, he hits a great second gear. With his explosiveness and speed, Joseph possesses a high-end range. The Illinois safety can get in from side to side and erase space for offensive players. He also closes ground quickly when he shoots downhill on ball carriers.

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In shorter areas, Joseph also impresses. The Illinois safety has good quickness and short-area crunch, which he can use to adjust and maintain his tackling angles in the chase, as well as recover after missing. Joseph also has exceptionally fluid hips. He can rack up changes of direction and explode in space, and has good balance on his back. He can sink his hips to pinch angles and maintain his speed in space.

Extending Joseph’s length, the Fighting Illini product can use his length to stack and throw climbing receivers to block him. In addition, he has shown that he can actively finish as a tackler with his long body.

Execution beyond physical traits

Joseph sustains his game with a great general conscience. He’s an active processor and communicator before the snap, and he’s also an adaptable player after the snap. He recognizes the moves, but he also knows the offensive tendencies and can maintain discipline when provoked. He has shown that he can process false plays and react quickly.

Joseph has constant field vision and is instinctive about positioning himself to the rear. He can take advantage of his hips on his back pedal to block routes coming down the field. He is also able to adjust mid-rep. He can launch deep routes and move upfield in scramble drills, but he has also shown that he can magnetize routes and quickly pass them to other defenders. All of this, and Joseph is still actively following the quarterback’s eyes to judge intent, and he can quickly move his hips and close the windows.

Going further, Joseph can use deception and move around the defense. He does a lot of reps in one height, but he can also play in two heights and on the box. He has the range to fake the blitz, then bail out and quickly regain position on the field. Also, at checkout, Joseph is patient but urgent. Sifting through the congestion, he can still read the field, stay square and flow to the ball using his lateral agility.

Even after all of this, Joseph’s best trait might be his ability to create plays at the capture point. He is strong and competitive in contested situations, and has excellent ball skills, ball following ability and body control in the air. But he can also be a playmaker on the ground. He has the strength, wingspan and spatial awareness to make tackles in open space.

Areas to improve

Joseph put up a solid tape for 2021, but there are still some areas where he can improve. Although Joseph has strong instincts and awareness, he is sometimes prone to slower reactions. He can take a while to respond to wrong directions and can show better anticipation based on formations. Also, Joseph is occasionally late to act on the information he processes. He can freeze in his stance when he reads the QB and sometimes doesn’t recognize the deep concepts of the route or anticipate the angles.

Joseph’s inconsistencies with the reaction seem to come more from the stimuli than from the processing. He processes well, but sometimes questions himself. He can be more efficient breaking up passes, as he sometimes hesitates as he reads the QB. Similarly, it can take a while for Joseph to recognize runs and break up the field, and he can also get pulled onto the field by play action and vacate zones. Also, Joseph has room to be a little softer at times. He can also quicken his stride better to maximize his range in open spaces, and can be a bit aggressive in man coverage.

In the box, there are also problems. Joseph sometimes loses his footing at the plate point and lets players run away, and he also freezes from time to time. He can dish out hard shots and is a physical player, but there are times when he doesn’t carry his momentum effectively. Similarly, while Joseph can stack and dispose of receivers, he doesn’t always go through blocks, and can be deflected if he isn’t careful.

Joseph’s 2022 NFL Draft Scouting Report Overview

There are some things to work out with Joseph, but the advantage is undeniable. Most encouraging is Joseph’s strong pre- and post-snap processing, as well as his ability to hold space and adapt to zone coverage. But his playmaking ability also steals the show. Joseph is an excellent athlete with the explosiveness and range to cover large areas of ground. He can rise vertically and attack passes with his body control and his ability to follow the ball, and he fights for the ball until the end of the rep.

Joseph is one of the few safeties who can effectively play solo and thrive there. But he is not limited to that role. Joseph can play two up as well as line up in the box. He is not a physical handicap, proving that he can fight off blocks, swim through congestion and make tackles in the open. Plus, with his flowing hips, length, and short-range athleticism, he also translates well to man coverage.

After a strong performance in the Senior Bowl, Joseph is a likely Day 2 pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. And if he does well at the NFL Combine, that could push him into the top 75 or top 50. Joseph has a rare combination of explosiveness, length, playmaking instincts and processing ability, and that combination gives him an advantage as an impact starter at safety in the NFL.

Jose player profile

Joseph’s career has been peculiar at this point. It’s rare for players to stand out so suddenly and dramatically in their final pre-pro season, but that’s exactly what Joseph did in 2021. Before that point, he had been largely ignored and written off.

In the recruiting class of 2018, Joseph was just a three star recruit, despite logging time as a two-way player and track athlete in Orlando. He has received offers from schools like USF and Florida Atlantic, as well as Power Five programs like Mississippi State and Syracuse.

Despite looming opportunities at schools with reliable development programs as a defensive back, Joseph passed up Mississippi State and Syracuse for Illinois, citing the chemistry within the Fighting Illini program.

Joseph’s career in Illinois

Obviously you would rather end on a high note than a low. But Joseph’s college career was especially smooth until his final season. The Illinois safety spent his first three years building up experience. Still, he only started two games in that stretch, compiling 59 tackles, 4 pass breakups and a forced fumble during his junior year.

Joseph entered 2021 with little fanfare. But the arrival of experienced defensive mind Bret Bielema changed things. Joseph burst onto the scene at the big ten, amassing 57 tackles, one sack, 5 interceptions, 2 pass breakups and 2 fumble recoveries in 12 games. Coming from virtually nowhere, Joseph became a first-team All-Big Ten honoree and earned All-American honors from various outlets.

Joseph’s rise to the NFL Draft

Joseph’s inability to produce early in his career may upset some people. But the development curve of every NFL Draft prospect is different. Joseph is still only 21 years old and won’t turn 22 until November of his rookie season. Even after his career-defining season, Joseph is still scratching the surface of who he can be.

With his explosiveness, length and playmaking ability, Joseph projects as a high-risk free safety in the NFL with effective one-stop capabilities. He can still refine his ability in the box a bit, but his ability to stack blockers and get around congestion at least hints at an advantage there. The offseason has already done wonders for Joseph’s stock, and at the end of the process, he could be a Round 2 pick.


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Kerby Joseph, Illinois P | NFL draft scouting report