Leading up to the 2021 NFL Draft starting on April 29th, we will be releasing several draft profiles of prospects who could potentially see themselves on the Pittsburgh Steelers. Next up…
Kelvin Joseph (Cornerback), University of Kentucky, Redshirt Sophomore
With the departure of Steven Nelson last month, there is no doubt the Steelers will be looking to fill the potential gap at the cornerback position through the upcoming draft. However, with their primary needs being running back and offensive line, they will need to rely on mid-round depth to land a decent cornerback. In addition, they’ll be looking for young talent that can be groomed to playing on the outside (possibly a future Joe Haden replacement) as opposed to a slot corner (see Mike Hilton). Kelvin Joseph could be that value pick the Steelers’ secondary needs.
One major asset Joseph holds is his size. At roughly 6’0” and 192 pounds, he has the optimal size NFL coaches like for a cornerback. He is tall enough to highpoint passes and plays with great range, especially in running downfield on deep plays. Joseph is a nice blend of overall size, ball skills, and great hip movement in transition that leads to him having a very high ceiling. He plays very aggressive and is quick to diagnose run plays, shed blockers, and make tackles at the line of scrimmage. After transferring from LSU in 2019 and having to sit out that season, Joseph had a standout 2020 season at Kentucky. In 2020, he had 4 interceptions (one returned for a touchdown) and 25 total tackles.
One area of weakness Joseph showed in his 2020 season was his play speed and ability to burst off the line. Further, in 2020 there were games where he was able to keep up with top-tier wideouts (held DeVonta Smith without a catch in their only game against each other), but others where he simply couldn’t keep up (he got burned against Kyle Pitts in the Florida game). These inconsistencies, mixed with Joseph having never played an entire season in college, are reasons for concern for NFL coaches.
Another potential concern is Joseph’s discipline. Joseph was essentially forced to transfer out of LSU after a team-sanctioned suspension from the 2019 Fiesta Bowl for violating team rules. Joseph didn’t even travel with the team to the game and was left in Louisiana. With the relationship seemingly being beyond repair, Joseph looked for a fresh start with a new SEC school. For teams like the Steelers where personal conduct is critical, this could be troublesome for a young draft pick.
DRAFT PROJECTION: Middle 2nd Round to Early 3rd Round
In my opinion, Joseph is not a first round draft pick. ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. currently ranks him as the 7th best cornerback in this year’s draft. In recent mock drafts, the soonest Joseph is projected to go is the middle of the 2nd round. Teams are going to see Joseph as a project as opposed to a day-one starter, and this will lead organizations to look elsewhere in the earlier selections. Realistically, I see Joseph going more so later in the 2nd round to early 3rd.
Joseph has tremendous upside potential in the NFL. His size and ball skills are what every coach looks for in a cornerback and he is a great value pick. Joseph will definitely be a project and will need to be groomed to be an NFL starter, but if new defensive backs coach Grady Brown can correct his inconsistencies, he’ll be a great fit in Pittsburgh. At his Pro Day, Joseph proved early he can correct his lackluster playing speed by running a 4.34 40-yard dash. As far as his discipline (both on and off the field) is concerned, University of Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops, says that Joseph has corrected a lot of those mistakes, and that he expects Joseph to “play a long time”.
Where do you think Joseph will land in April? Let us know in the comments below!