2021 NFL draft prospects: Kentucky CB Kelvin Joseph

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·4 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Eric Edholm's criteria for grading NFL draft prospects. (Albert Corona/Yahoo Sports)
Eric Edholm's criteria for grading NFL draft prospects. (Albert Corona/Yahoo Sports)

Kentucky CB Kelvin Joseph

6-foot-1, 190 pounds

Yahoo Sports draft grade: 5.83 — potential starter

TL;DR scouting report: Highly inexperienced but fascinating ballhawk with first-round talent whose character concerns leave his evaluation murky

Games watched: Auburn (2020), Ole Miss (2020), Georgia (2020), Florida (2020), Alabama (2020)

The skinny: A 4-star Rivals recruit (No. 55 nationally) out of Baton Rouge, Joseph signed with hometown LSU out of high school, playing right away as a true freshman. In 2018, he played in 11 games on special teams and as a defensive reserve, making 12 tackles and one pass breakup. After being suspended for the Tigers’ bowl game that year, Joseph transferred to Kentucky for the 2019 season when he redshirted. Joseph was a nine-game starter for the Wildcats in 2020, making 25 tackles, four interceptions (one returned for a TD) and five pass breakups. He opted out prior to the South Carolina game and declared early for the 2021 draft.

Upside: Great length and athleticism for a modern NFL cornerback. Moves extremely well — fluid in his drops and transitions. Clicks and closes fast and keeps up with receivers of all shapes and sizes. Uses length well to press and reroute receivers off the line. Explosive mover.

Four interceptions on a mere 34 targets last season. Sees the ball and gets it. Great instincts matched with an aggressive, my-ball mentality.

Reads the eyes of the quarterback and will pounce — like he did against Tennessee with a 41-yard pick six. Made two impressive INTs along the sideline, including a toe-tapper against Georgia. Natural hands on turnover chances.

LEXINGTON, KY - OCTOBER 3: Kelvin Joseph #1 of the Kentucky Wildcats prepares for a play against the Ole Miss Rebels on October 3, 2020 at Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington, Kentucky. (Photo by UK Athletics/Collegiate Images/Getty Images)
Kentucky CB Kelvin Joseph has first-round talent but hasn't played much college football. (Photo by UK Athletics/Collegiate Images/Getty Images)

Held Alabama’s DeVonta Smith without a catch in their reps (two targets) against each other and had a pick at the goal line on one of those targets. Faced some impressive receivers and often held his own.

Effective in bail technique. Natural feel for man coverage. Makes plays at the catch point and challenges receivers throughout the route. Gets right in their grill and makes separation tough.

Strong tackler — supports the run game well. Typically gets his man down in coverage if they make the catch. Latches on and doesn’t let go. Made several big tackles at the goal line and first-down marker. Effective in red-zone situations coming up to play the run. Unafraid to mix it up or take on an oncoming train head-on.

Plays with an edge — believes he can shut anyone down. Great talent base to work with and groom — has All-Pro level talent that can be coaxed out in time.

Downside: Never played a full season — fewer than 800 defensive snaps over two college seasons. Essentially a one-year starter (nine career starts).

Roller-coaster season — struggled badly in first two games (Auburn, Ole Miss), looked like one of the best corners in college football for the next six contests and then had a rough outing in what would be his final game, against Florida — was no match for TE Kyle Pitts on a 56-yard TD.

Inconsistent tape, even on plays when he wasn’t targeted. Gets feet out of place in press coverage. Can lose coverage against speed threats. Will lose the football in the air at times and mistime his jumps. Gets too linear in his backpedal and loses quick-twitch ability to transition.

Flagged four times last season — personal fouls in two separate games last season. Can be undisciplined and overly aggressive. Technique gets sloppy. Freelances and guesses — falls for makes and double moves.

Character must be fully cross-checked at two schools. Has trouble with authority — butted heads with both coaching staffs. Could require a patient, nurturing DBs coach and mentor to keep him focused and grounded at the next level.

Best-suited destination: Any team that drafts Joseph will have to sign off on his character first and have a plan for his development. If it goes well, he could be one of the steals of the draft. He’s best in a man-heavy system where Joseph can be brought along at a proper pace before he’s ready for extensive duty.

Did you know: Joseph’s nickname is “Bossman Fat,” and it’s also his stage name for his budding rap career.

Player comp: Shades of Marcus Lattimore, but any Joseph comp is tough because of his limited experience.

Expected draft range: Round 2