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Instant analysis on the Detroit Lions’ selection of Kerby Joseph

A closer look at what the Detroit Lions are getting in Illinois safety Kerby Joseph, their third-round selection.

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Illinois v Purdue Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

The Detroit Lions finally addressed one of the team’s most pressing needs with their selection of Illinois safety Kerby Josephy at the end of the third round.

Joseph, a converted wide receiver, brings the hands of a pass-catcher to the defense. Though he only started one year for the Illini, he tallied five interceptions last year and was PFF’s highest-graded safety in the country with a 90.4 PFF grade. Here’s what PFF’s live draft tracker had to say about the pick:

Joseph is still very much learning the safety position, but he has uncoachable ball skills and length. He’s also such an easy mover and should get looks at split-field safety and in the box in Detroit. He just needs more experience at the position to really develop into a legitimate starter in the league.

At 6-foot, 203 pounds with 10.25-inch hands and 33-inch arms—both near the top of this class at safety—Joseph has all of the physical tools to be a good safety in this league. However, with just the one year at safety, his game will need to develop.

Joseph’s instincts as a cover safety are actually more developed than his skills as a run defender, a trait he credits to his history as a wide receiver.

“I feel receiver also helped me learn what offenses are looking for, like what are the goals as offense, like concepts and all that,” Joseph told reporters on Friday night.

This is a solid pick for the Lions because it converges need, talent, and value. Joseph was 73rd on PFF’s big board, 103rd on Dane Brugler’s, and 138th on The Draft Network’s. He should compete for a starting job with DeShon Elliott with the expectation to overtake the job in the long term. And getting a potential starting safety in the third round is obviously good value for a team with so many defensive needs. Even if Joseph doesn’t win the starter job right away, he was a fantastic special teamer in college and could very well win the gunner job in Detroit right away.

Interestingly enough, the Indianapolis Colts jumped the Detroit Lions right before this pick to take Maryland safety Nick Cross. Detroit still got a safety of equivalent value with Joseph, and because they had so many pre-draft visits with Joseph (NFL Combine, Senior Bowl, and a top-30 visit), it’s reasonable to believe they liked him more anyways.

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