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NFL Draft

2021 NFL Draft Scouting Report: S Joshuah Bledsoe

  • The Draft Network
  • December 29, 2020
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Missouri safety Joshuah Bledsoe is a versatile hybrid defender who will bring plenty of value to an NFL franchise with his ability to play in the nickel or work in the slot. Bledsoe is at his best when he’s rolled down near the line of scrimmage and able to work in man coverage against slot receivers. Bledsoe has shown a high level of competency in defeating blocks on the fringe of the set and subsequently has made strong plays in the run game by shooting gaps or shucking blocks and rolling the ball carrier. Bledsoe has had only sparing reps taken as a high safety—and while he has the athletic profile to be successful there, he clearly lacks the same feel and instinct for assignments and making plays as compared to what he does with a more singular objective on any given play. Because of his modest appeal in deep coverage, Bledsoe projects best as a hybrid safety defender in the NFL; but given the trends of the league to play in 11-personnel and subpackage defense, there’s little reason to think a team won’t find value in his skills and make him a priority. 

Ideal Role: A team’s No. 3 safety; featured in the D-gap/slot.

Scheme Fit: Big-nickel heavy defense featuring M2M coverage assignments.


Written by Kyle Crabbs

Games watched: Florida (2019), Georgia (2019), Alabama (2020), LSU (2020), Florida (2020)

Best Game Studied: LSU (2020) 

Worst Game Studied: Georgia (2019) 

Football IQ: There were a number of mixups on his tape regarding assignments in coverage, but they stemmed from sorting out switch releases or in the rare instances that he was playing high safety. Keep him in his wheelhouse as a slot defender and you’ll get a much more confident football player. And when he’s tasked with shallow zones, he sees and processes the backfield quite well to get a jump on attacking plays to the perimeter. 

Tackling: Impressive illustration of skills here for Bledsoe. He’s effective in wrap up tackling and also processes the need to cut down bigger ball carriers when he’s not protected or in a phonebooth. His aggressiveness from the slot allows him to drive early on plays and set good framing on his challenges at the LOS. 

Versatility: I think there’s a ceiling to play deeper coverages that could be cultivated with more player development, but he currently shines on the B-level of the defense and in the nickel—play him there and prosper. He’s a multi-tool defender who can stack up the point man on perimeter screens, sift through blocks, and deconstruct to shoot and attack the backfield and effectively play turn-and-run coverage in the slot. 

Range: His range in the most traditional sense can be a bit challenging to gauge because of how infrequently he’s playing high safety. With that said, he’s got good short-area agility and quickness to trigger and beat blockers or try to jump the route if he’s playing off. 

Ball Skills: Bledsoe has made a number of big plays for Missouri, including a PBU in the end zone against LSU to seal a win, a forced fumble against Kentucky to help secure another victory, and he notched his first career interception against Mississippi State on a man coverage rep from the slot in which he had to flip his eyes back and locate the ball. With his skills in man coverage, he’s shown to be capable of contesting throws routinely and the turnovers are starting to spring up. 

Run Defending: Bledsoe utilizes his hands well to attack blockers and prevent opponents from getting into his chest. He’ll transition through that punch to string out the block and use his lateral mobility to work over the top and progress to the ball carrier. He’s effective on the edges and shows proper aggression to not get bullied into soft edges. 

Functional Athleticism: Bledsoe will be effective at the pro level with his athletic ability. He’s not necessarily the fastest or the most explosive, but he’s plenty fluid and has enough burst to have success against the vast majority of players he’ll pull in assignment. He’s also an anticipatory player, which gives him more paths to win real estate. 

Competitive Toughness: Bledsoe is relentless. He’s covered a bunch of ground and will retrace his steps to work back into leverage after processing the play. Bledsoe is not afraid or effected by bigger players on the other side of the line and he’s sorted through blocks or contact from much bigger players and still managed to finish the play. 

Flexibility: Bledsoe is a free mover and has a fair amount of dynamic movement skills at his disposal. Because his feet are free to plant away from his hips, he’s got some effective agility to work with. He’ll do well to unlock his hips in turn-and-run and he’s also shown to be effective laterally with his hips to play with pace and beat opponents to the spot, whether he’s shooting a gap, stringing out a block, or scraping in overhang. 

Special Teams Ability: Given his skills in defeating blocks and his prowess in run defending, I’m confident that Bledsoe could play any coverage unit on the field and have success. And, given that his ideal role early on will be centered around subpackages, he should be readily available to take on reps to help maximize his roster value. 

Prospect Comparison: Chauncey Gardner-Johnson (2019 NFL Draft, New Orleans Saints) 


TDN Consensus: 76.25/100

Joe Marino: 75.50/100

Kyle Crabbs: 77.50/100

Jordan Reid: 78.00/100

Drae Harris: 74.00/100

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