Without Lamarcus Joyner and Marcus Maye for much of the 2021 season, the Jets were forced to trot out a number of free safeties who likely wouldn’t start for any other franchise in the NFL.
Ashtyn Davis spent 400 snaps at free safety, Elijah Riley 152, Jason Pinnock 122, Sharrod Neasman 113, Adrian Colbert 91, Jarrod Wilson 80 and then you have others with a handful like Sheldrick Redwine. Put quite simply, the free safety position was an area of weakness for the Jets in 2021, and Ashtyn Davis is not the answer for a deep-lying playmaker.
The Jets re-signed Lamarcus Joyner to a $2.6 million contract for 2022, with the indication that he will be fulfilling that FS role next to free agent acquisition, strong safety Jordan Whitehead.
I was a big fan of the Joyner signing last off-season but he managed just 9 snaps against Carolina before leaving with an elbow injury which landed him on injured reserve, missing the entire season. We also can’t forget that Joyner was used as a slot corner while in Oakland, appearing at Free safety for just 18 snaps over two years.
Heading into the season relying on a 31-year-old safety who hasn’t played the position since 2018 (while with the Rams) is a risky strategy. It may not be the #1 priority of the Jets as we head into the draft, but it certainly should be an area that Joe Douglas looks to improve.
This brings us to Kerby Joseph, the Illinois safety who many consider being a mid 2nd round to mid 3rd round selection. The Jets will be familiar with Joseph a 6’1 203lb safety, he was part of the national team at the Senior Bowl that was coached by the Jets, and impressed throughout the week. That shouldn’t come as a surprise when you look at his college resume.
Entering spring practice for Illinois, Joseph wasn’t even guaranteed a starting spot. Fast forward to the end of the season and he was named First-Team All-Big-Ten thanks in large part to his 5 interceptions and 4 passes broken up. He was the first Illinois safety in the last 50 years to receive that honor, and he was also PFF’s highest-rated coverage safety in college football last season.
In addition to those 9 plays on the ball, he allowed just 2 touchdowns into his coverage and just a 47.4% completion, as well as allowing just 32 yards after the catch.
So why is he likely going in the 3rd round?
People are often put off by players who don’t dominate throughout their college career and interceptions at the college level can be hard to project to the professional level. Both are valid concerns with Joseph, and those concerns will likely see him drop to late 2nd at best, but more likely early 3rd.
Joseph may not be an elite athlete, but he’s a very good athlete with the range to make plays in the deep third. He’s a good and reliable wrap tackler with elite ball skills and a nose for the football, and it’s those instincts that I really like in Joseph, a free safety can go a long way when he has elite instincts.
If the Jets want to make the free safety position a priority with one of their second-round picks, they should look to the more athletic and more dominant safeties in Nick Cross and Lewis Cine, but if the Jets want to pick up someone with a lot of potential without spending a top 50 pick, Kerby Joseph is the man.