2022 NFL Draft Scouting Report: Kerby Josephby Charlie Parent April 22, 2022 0 comments
Hype surrounding players in the 2022 NFL Draft comes and goes on a weekly basis. Illinois’ Kerby Joseph was a recipient of this hype about a month ago until it has died down a bit. Joseph was a former three-star recruit in high school, but the classic case of the argument of stars don’t matter. Joseph carved out a significant role for himself at Illinois, primarily starring as the lone safety up top in a zone-heavy Fighting Illini defense. Now, with Joseph’s stalk simmering down a tad, we have to see if it’s appropriate for teams to strike while the iron’s hot and pick up this under-looked safety.
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Name: Kerby Joseph
Jersey: No. 25
Weight: 200 lbs
Games Watched: Iowa (2021), Virginia (2021), Penn State (2021)
Major Injury History: None
Joseph is an incredibly smart football player. From his centerfield position, he’s able to read out the whole play and understand where the ball will be going. Because of this, Joseph is pretty quick to take a break on the ball when it’s thrown. There’s nothing fancy to this aspect of Joseph’s instincts, but he does everything with precision to be the backbone of a defense.
Coming into this evaluation, it didn’t seem like Joseph would have much range, based on the narratives put out there about his game. This was highly incorrect. Joseph can get almost anywhere on the field from the single-high spot, which is a big reason why he was fourth in the nation in interceptions. The Illinois product moves well sideline-to-sideline and coming downhill, though it’s that classic free safety role that he exemplifies best by shutting down everything over the top.
Man Coverage (7/10)
The grade is so low here simply because of the sample size. Illinois is a heavy zone team and rarely put Joseph in man. However, in the few times he did play man, Joseph was very good. He took on running backs coming out of the box and tight ends. While he may not have the size to cover tight ends, Joseph is athletic enough to shut down running backs and even some receivers, as the statistics showed he let up only nine receptions in all coverage snaps last season.
Zone Coverage (8.75/10)
This is where Joseph shines. He has an in-depth understanding of Cover-3 concepts and shows adequate knowledge of almost all zone schemes. However, Joseph certainly projects to be the top safety in a Cover-3 scheme whilst developing into a multiple zone coverage guy later in his career. The experience, range, and smarts are what makes Joseph be at his best here and what will make him a constant impact player in zone coverage.
Ball Skills (8.5/10)
You could’ve probably guessed this one, but the same traits that make Joseph great in zone are the ones that give him excellent ball skills. The range is evident, and Joseph will get to the boundary with ease to break up or intercept a pass. There were also times when the Illini alum showed a nice leaping ability and body control to make diving plays on the football. Having a single-high safety with range is one thing, but when you combine it with ball skills that created five interceptions last season, all the tools are there for the making of a great NFL player.
Change of Direction (8/10)
In Joseph’s pre-draft testing, he did well on the explosiveness scores while not competing in agility numbers. What he did do with the explosiveness carries over to the film. It’s not the best in the world, but that’s not all you need for a change of direction. Overall, Joseph flips his hips and gets going towards the ball quickly. It’s more range than it is a change of direction, but Joseph does well on this front nonetheless.
Tackling/Run Support (6/10)
Joseph is a very interesting tackler. The way in which he can get a ball carrier to the ground is almost two-fold. Joseph takes some pretty bad angles at the football but almost always gets the opposing player to the ground. The technique always differs, and yet, he doesn’t miss much. From a run game standpoint, Joseph does give some value when lined up in the box and can slow someone down in the open field if going up one-on-one from the free safety spot. Tackling technique will be one of the first things NFL teams work on with Joseph, but with time he can get to where he needs to be.
Throughout this report, we’ve mentioned Joseph’s unique primary play at the single-high spot. This is where he projects to play in the NFL, and no other position should really be considered. If teams did want to play around with Joseph’s role, they could stick him in the box for a few plays or even throw him in two-high. Joseph has yet to play two-high, but with the talent and IQ he has, there’s no doubt he’d be able to get the hang of it.
There has been no raw athletic score posted for Joseph, as he tweaked his hamstring in the pre-draft process, so he’s only competed in the body measurements and explosiveness drills thus far. In both of these, the numbers were not too shabby. Joseph’s 38.5-inch vertical jump is something that really stands out as well. He has a nice leaping ability in-game, and it translates perfectly to the testing. On the tape, Joseph is a very nice athlete. He can explode, change direction, and bring top-end speed in pursuit of the football.
Need a true Cover-3 safety? Joseph is your guy. Teams like the Seattle Seahawks, Atlanta Falcons, New England Patriots, and Jacksonville Jaguars, among others, should all be looking extensively at Joseph. These teams especially are the ones that play Cover-3 and zone coverage most. Now, Joseph won’t be limited to just these organizations. There’s tons of potential outside the single-high life, and it starts with the instincts. Nevertheless, Joseph will be an excellent addition for any team in the late Day 2 or early Day 3 area and an eventual starter in the NFL.
Rookie Projection: Rotational Safety
Third-Year Projection: Starting Single-High Safety
Player Grade (80/100): Early-Third Round Pick
Pro Comparison: Duron Harmon
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Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images