The Cowboys lost out on both Jaycee Horn and Patrick Surtain II in the first round, but they found their cornerback with their next pick. After reportedly trying to trade up with a couple of teams, Dallas sat tight and spent the 44th overall pick on Kentucky cornerback Kelvin Joseph.
He may not have been the most highly talked about corner, but Joseph is definitely a player who fits the mold of what Dan Quinn will be bringing to this defense. Standing at 6’1” and 192 pounds, Joseph possesses the size and frame to play the position very well in Quinn’s Cover 3 heavy scheme.
But Joseph took an odd path to get to this point. He committed to his hometown LSU Tigers ahead of the 2018 season as a four star recruit and saw some action as a true freshman. Through six games, Joseph tallied 12 tackles and a pass breakup in a rotational role. However, he was suspended for the team’s bowl game that year and entered the transfer portal. He sat out a year after transferring to Kentucky, but showed some really good play this past season through nine games for the Wildcats.
Joseph finished the year with 25 tackles, a tackle for loss, a pass breakup, and four interceptions. It was enough for Joseph to declare for the draft and get selected this high, but much of his appeal as a prospect is based on upside. Joseph showed some real flashes at Kentucky, but the fact is he has just one season as a starter and one other season in a rotational role.
Much like Micah Parsons, Joseph is a very raw player with tremendous potential. But he offers two things the Cowboys have been craving at the position: speed and ball skills. Joseph ran a 4.34 40-yard dash at his Pro Day, and displays that kind of range and long speed on the field as well. Furthermore, his four interceptions this past year ranked second among SEC defenders. Then there is his performance against Alabama’s highly-touted receivers this past year:
Giving up zero catches to the likes of Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith is obviously very good; Smith won the Heisman, and Waddle likely would have if not for an injury that ended his season. In that game, Kentucky deployed a lot of Cover 3 looks with Joseph dropping back to defend the deep thirds, something he’ll be doing plenty of in Dallas.
That was the case for much of the season too, as Joseph’s best tape shows up in Cover 3 assignments. His length, speed, and ball skills pop up in a big way there, while press man coverage was a bit more uneven for Joseph. Kentucky tasked him with shadowing Kyle Pitts, and things did not go well: Pitts had five catches for 99 yards and three touchdowns.
Joseph will see Pitts again in 2021, but he likely won’t be tasked with locking him down this time. He’s an ideal fit in this scheme, and he has the traits to blossom into a really good cornerback in a couple of years. The interesting thing to see is if Joseph will earn a starting role right out of the gate or not. His limited experience in college makes it hard to properly evaluate where he is right now, but the Cowboys clearly like his upside. For what it’s worth, draft guru Jonah Tuls of The Draft Network loves the pick:
I love the Kelvin Joseph pick so much. First round talent – Dallas is comfortable with the character and lack of experience.
You wanted ball skills on the boundary? You got it with Diggs and Joseph.
— Jonah Tuls (@JonahTulsNFL) May 1, 2021