While the Northwestern Wildcats may struggle to replicate the success of this year’s draft, do they have a potential first-round contender in the 2022 NFL Draft in safety Brandon Joseph? The versatile playmaker rose to prominence last year with a series of eye-popping plays. As his scouting report reveals, however, those interceptions are just the icing on a highly delectable cake.
Brandon Joseph NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Safety
- School: Northwestern
- Current Year: Redshirt Sophomore
- Height: 6’1″
- Weight: 192 pounds
Brandon Joseph Scouting Report
Those eye-popping plays seem like an excellent place to start Joseph’s 2022 NFL Draft scouting report.
As we’ll discuss later in this piece, the Northwestern safety made some incredible interceptions last year. They’re a big part of what makes Joseph an exceptional coverage safety. He demonstrates excellent ball-tracking skills and possesses a pair of hands as secure as any defensive back in the class. His production isn’t simply a case of having the ball thrown to him; he routinely puts himself in a position to make a play. In addition to his ball-tracking skills and catchability, the Northwestern safety exhibits impressive body control.
The latter point is one element of an outstanding athletic profile. Joseph owns ample speed to be a sideline-to-sideline threat. When watching the Wildcats this coming season, he’ll be the player you see flying around the field. In addition to his play speed, Joseph has a stellar change-of-direction ability and is extremely fluid in his movements. That all comes together in coverage with a capacity to close quickly and make a play. Meanwhile, he’s proven sticky when in man coverage.
Joseph was courted by multiple Ivy League programs, a testament to his intelligence. While being clever doesn’t always equate to football intelligence, it certainly does in the Northwestern safety’s case. Joseph displays superb play-recognition skills and can often be seen directing his teammates to make pre-snap adjustments.
Areas for improvement
At this point, there are substantially more positives to Joseph’s scouting report than negatives. However, there are areas for improvement.
I didn’t mention his tackling ability above, but Joseph showcases physicality whenever called into action. That said, he can sometimes be guilty of an overzealous approach. When flying around the field, he needs to take a more measured approach to some plays to ensure that he doesn’t miss the ball carrier and give up unnecessary additional yardage.
Although he has demonstrated versatility by lining up at multiple alignments, there was a high percentage of split-field alignments in the games studied. He has the athletic profile to play single-high safety, but at the moment, there isn’t enough evidence to confidently project him to be able to play that role in the NFL.
Brandon Joseph’s Player Profile
Every kid wants to be the quarterback growing up, and Joseph was no different. Early at College Station High School, the 2022 NFL Draft safety prospect played both quarterback and wide receiver. Yet, heading into his sophomore season, coaches approached the young signal-caller about a position change. Projected to be the backup QB, they offered him the opportunity to be a starter in the heart of the secondary.
It was the start of a spectacular ascension for the now Northwestern safety. Putting his pass-catching skills to devastating use on defense, Joseph snagged 4 interceptions as a sophomore. Furthermore, he displayed impressive special-teams ability and forcefulness as a tackler. That was graphically exhibited in his junior season with 119 tackles while flashing ball skills with 7 interceptions.
Unfortunately, Joseph’s production didn’t translate to the recruiting trail
A three-star recruit, he only ranked as the 83rd safety in the class while failing to crack the top 100 high school prospects in Texas. Despite this, his off-field intelligence was recognized with offers from Harvard, Dartmouth, and Cornell. Moreover, Power Five programs came knocking, and in July 2018, he committed to Texas Tech.
Joseph’s impressive transformation from quarterback to safety continued in his senior season. The versatile defensive weapon helped lead College Station to a Texas 5A State Championship, compiling a mind-blowing stat sheet. He logged 95 tackles, 10 pass breakups, 5 interceptions, and 2 forced fumbles while adding kick return, punt return, and fumble recovery touchdowns.
As his time at College Station was coming to an end, so was his commitment to Texas Tech. Kliff Kingsbury’s departure as head coach of the Red Raiders saw a raft of players rescind their commitment. Joseph was one of them. Having been courted by some of the most academic programs in the nation, it was no surprise that one week after reopening his recruitment, he committed to Northwestern.
Joseph’s career at Northwestern
Joseph’s performances through spring and summer camps caught the attention of the Northwestern staff. Even though he was just a true freshman, there was a consideration to throwing him straight in at the deep end as the starting safety. Ultimately, he’d play just four games before taking a redshirt. However, from his first tackle in his debut against Ohio State through 3 tackles against UMass, the indication was that Northwestern had someone special to play safety for seasons to come.
His aura became apparent in 2020. Although he’d make a tackle for loss in his first start against Maryland, it was the second game of the season when Joseph introduced himself to the college football world. The Northwestern safety earned co-Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors after snagging 2 interceptions against Iowa. One week later, Joseph added a third pick against Nebraska.
3 interceptions in the first three games of the season was a historical level of production
Only three other players in the last 10 years have achieved the remarkable feat. Not satisfied, Jospeh earned another Big Ten Freshman of the Week award following his second 2-interception game of the season, this time against Wisconsin. The Northwestern safety held down the secondary for a defense that helped power the Wildcats to the Big Ten Championship Game.
Despite falling to Ohio State, Joseph showed off the very best of his playmaking skills. A one-handed interception of a pass intended for Garrett Wilson catapulted him into the national consciousness. The Northwestern safety received the Big Ten Newcomer of the Year award following the campaign. Meanwhile, he was a first-team All-American by multiple outlets after leading the nation in interceptions.
Joseph heads into the upcoming college football season on a wave of expectation. Only Notre Dame’s Kyle Hamilton ranked higher in our early look at the top safeties in the 2022 NFL Draft class. Although supplanting the Notre Dame safety appears difficult, Joseph has the talent to be a first-round selection, even if the positional value may mean he slips into Round 2.