DALLAS — The Dallas Cowboys selected former Kentucky Wildcats cornerback Kelvin Joseph with the No. 44 overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft Friday in Cleveland, Ohio.
The pick of Joseph provides the Cowboys with another cornerback who can complement former 2020 second-round cornerback Trevon Diggs.
Joseph provided the Wildcats with 25 combined tackles, a half-tackle for loss, a pass breakup, and four interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown over his nine games in 2020.
The 6-1, 192-pound defensive back from Scotlandville Magnet High School in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, initially played for the LSU Tigers in the 2018 season. However, in July of 2019, he entered the NCAA transfer portal and sat out the entire season. In his lone season with the Bayou Bengals, Joseph collected 12 tackles and a pass breakup through six games.
Joseph's vital statistics are comparable to Diggs, who is listed at 6-1, 205 pounds. Pro Football Focus had Joseph listed as their 108th best prospect overall in the draft.
What the Cowboys will be looking for when it comes to Joseph is his ability to play both man coverage and zone, as both are pivotal on the back end in the NFL.
“Got to be able to play both in this league," coach Mike McCarthy said on April 27. "I think you look at all of those things. When it comes to all these positions, and especially the corner position, we want to be more aggressive. Obviously, you want to be able to play more man than zone and match coverage, however you view it. But it’s really the development, the upside."
Joseph brings a lot of swagger to the position. Ahead of the Kentucky vs. Florida game in November of 2020, Joseph provided the Gators bulletin board material as he said Florida's biggest challenge would be facing him.
Kentucky coach Brad Smith said at the end of the Wildcats' fall camp in September of 2020 that he hoped Joseph would respond well to competition.
“The nice thing is we’ve got a lot of guys that are going to push and it forces Kelvin to stay locked into his playbook," Smith said via Larry Vaught of YourSportsEdge.com. "He’s really working hard at that. Again, it’s not a small playbook and there’s a lot of nuances in it.”
Joseph will really have to stay locked into defensive coordinator Dan Quinn's playbook as the Cowboys seek to recover from a season that saw Dallas tied for the fifth-fewest interceptions with 10 and a unit that allowed opposing quarterbacks to compile a 100.4 passer rating, the seventh-highest in the league.
If Joseph can get on the Cowboys' coaching staff's good side, it will be on his ability to make plays on the ball.
"As far as the length and the short-area quickness, I’m very focused on the ability to make plays on the ball," McCarthy said. "I think the ball skill grade is something that we pay close attention to, because it’s about the football. Turnover differential is the most important focus of our football team outside of winning the game. That will be reflected in all of our defensive players, especially defensive backs.”
Joseph has his work cut out if he is to have as impressive of a rookie season with the Cowboys as his counterpart in Diggs.
How do you feel about the Cowboys landing a cornerback in the second round? Share your thoughts with Mark on Twitter @therealmarklane.