Every year, a player emerges from the shadows during the draft to be an early-round pick. Kentucky cornerback Kelvin Joseph figures to be that player in the 2021 NFL Draft. Where has Joseph come from, and how high could he go in just over two months’ time?
Kelvin Joseph NFL Draft Profile
- Position: Cornerback
- School: Kentucky
- Year: Redshirt Sophomore
- Height: 5’11 1/2″
- Weight: 197 pounds
Tony Pauline’s Kelvin Joseph Scouting Report
Positives: Nice-sized cornerback with terrific ball skills and a large amount of upside. Fierce and aggressive, yet works to keep the action in front of him. Quick flipping his hips in transition, tracks the pass in the air then gets a beat on the throw and nicely times his pass defenses. Effective facing the action, quickly diagnoses plays then gets off blocks defending the run. Anticipates the action, takes good angles to plays, and uses his hands to protect himself.
Negatives: Doesn’t show great play speed or burst. Gets a little twisted at times. Sits on his backpedal, which costs him.
Analysis: After transferring from LSU, Joseph made an immediate impact at Kentucky last season before deciding to enter the draft. He possesses outstanding size as well as ball skills, and could start at the next level once he polishes his game.
Kelvin Joseph Player Profile
Since the end of the 2020 college football season, two Kentucky Wildcats have risen dramatically up draft boards and crept into the early rounds of mock drafts. Kentucky cornerback Kelvin Joseph has become one of the most talked about prospects in the 2021 NFL Draft. The attention, however, is nothing new to the Louisiana native.
Joseph demonstrated the qualities that have made him a desirable prospect at Scotlandville Magnet High School. A two-time First Team 5A All-State honoree, he had an impactful high school career. As a junior, he demonstrated ball skills with 12 pass breakups and 3 interceptions as Scotlandville won a state title.
He continued to exhibit those skills as a senior, snagging 3 interceptions. Additionally, he forged a reputation as a tough tackler, with 113 tackles including 12 for loss. A truly versatile and explosive player, he contributed 13 touchdowns across kickoff returns, punt returns, and interceptions returned for a score.
His versatility stretched to multiple positions and sports. Joseph was a standout basketball player on the court. On the football field, he started off as a corner before transitioning to play safety. He was recruited as a safety, the fifth in the class. Furthermore, he was viewed as the second-ranked prospect in Louisiana and a four-star recruit.
He held offers from all over the country, including powerhouses such as Alabama, Notre Dame, and Clemson. Although he made an original commitment to stay in state at LSU in February 2016, his recruitment was re-opened in October. The star safety rescinded his commitment before eventually signing his national letter of intent to become a Tiger in 2018.
Kelvin Joseph’s college football career
With a history of sending defensive backs to the NFL Draft, the fit made perfect sense for Kelvin Joseph. As a freshman, he saw substantial playing time for the Tigers. He is credited with playing in 11 games, logging 12 tackles. In his most notable contribution to LSU, he made his first career pass breakup against Georgia.
Without context, its seems barely notable. However, the breakup forced the Bulldogs to punt prior to the second half. The important turnover of play ensured Georgia went in at the half scoreless. LSU went on to secure a surprise defeat of the second-ranked Bulldogs.
However, things turned sour between the soon-to-be Kentucky cornerback and LSU late in 2018. Following a violation of team rules, Joseph was suspended for the Fiesta Bowl. The suspension eventually led Joseph into entering the transfer portal that finally saw him leave the program prior to the 2019 season.
Due to a relationship forged during the original recruiting process, he made his way to Kentucky
The Wildcats had lost cornerback Lonnie Johnson to the NFL, and the acquisition of Joseph was an important addition to the Kentucky cornerback room. However, his impact would have to wait. Due to the NCAA transfer regulations, Joseph would have to sit out a year.
He made his presence felt in the disrupted 2020 college football season. Joseph showcased his playmaking skills with his first career interception against Mississippi State. A week later, against Tennessee, he snagged his first interception returned for a touchdown. By the end of the season, the Kentucky cornerback had 4 interceptions, the second-highest in the SEC.
Prior to the final regular season game against South Carolina, Kelvin Joseph made the decision to forego the rest of his college eligibility and declare for the 2021 NFL Draft.
Analyzing Kelvin Joseph’s NFL Draft Profile
What has led to Kentucky cornerback Kelvin Joseph’s rise up 2021 NFL Draft boards?
Let’s start with his size. At almost 6’0″, he has the prototypical size that the NFL covets at the cornerback position. As well as being tall, he also appears to possess the requisite length as well. His combination of height, length, and athleticism, all combine to make him a playmaking threat. He uses that — and his basketball experience — to consistently excel at high pointing the football.
While on the subject of athleticism, he showcases good speed and fluidity in his hips that allow him to stick with receivers downfield. He consistently stayed in the pocket of highly regarded Alabama wide receiver DeVonta Smith in 2020. He also ran a 4.34 at his pro day, capitalizing on the building hype. This is an additional factor that is leading to his dramatic rise.
Joseph plays the game with the aggressiveness that you would expect from a cornerback. He is physical at the line of scrimmage, and he takes no nonsense in contested catch situations. The Kentucky cornerback also demonstrates that physicality against the run. He is willing and able in the tackling department, showing good form for the most part.
His performance — and interception — while covering DeVonta Smith showcased his awareness of the game. On the interception, he felt for the Alabama receiver as they went down the field, ensuring he kept him on the outside. Being able to feel his presence allowed him to get his head around, track the ball, and make an interception in the end zone.
What are some potential concerns with Kelvin Joseph?
The concerns with Kentucky cornerback Kelvin Joseph ahead of the 2021 NFL Draft are mainly around experience. He heads to the NFL with just one season as a starter at Kentucky and hasn’t played a full season since leaving high school.
Sometimes that lack of experience shows in his route diagnosis, especially on route combos. This is an area where he will need to fine-tune his game. Additionally, it could mean he isn’t ready to roll as a starter in the NFL until later in his career.
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NFL teams will also want to do their due diligence related to maturity and character concerns. The team violations at LSU were never disclosed, and his on-off relationship with the program warrants investigation. Additionally, on the field, there are some bone-headed decisions that you would want to see ironed out before they become costly decisions in the NFL.
Kelvin Joseph’s best fits in the 2021 NFL Draft
It’s easy to see why Kentucky cornerback Kelvin Joseph is racing up 2021 NFL Draft boards. In addition to his obvious playmaking ability, he brings versatility as well. A former high school safety, he has played both outside CB positions and saw some time playing slot corner for the Wildcats as well.
With his height, length, and ball skills, he projects to be an outside cornerback in the NFL. There are multiple teams with a need at the position. Some of those include the San Francisco 49ers, Indianapolis Colts, Denver Broncos, and Dallas Cowboys.
Could he be a first-round pick? In his latest big board for Pro Football Network, Tony Pauline lists Kelvin Joseph as his 39th ranked prospect in the 2021 NFL Draft. The Kentucky cornerback is ranked fourth at the position. He receives a first to second-round grade from the NFL Draft Analyst and Insider.
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Oliver Hodgkinson is a staff writer for Pro Football Network. You can follow him on Twitter at @ojhodgkinson.