Every NFL defense loves having versatile athletes who can make plays all over the field. LSU’s JaCoby Stevens is one such player in the 2021 NFL Draft class.
Stevens wore several hats for the Tigers’ defense while roaming the entire field based on the down and distance. It can be hard to keep up with Stevens’ film. On any given down, you could catch him lined up at EDGE, safety, linebacker, or nickel corner. Wherever the team needed him to go, that’s where Stevens went.
Stevens recently spoke exclusively with The Draft Network about his unique skill set, where he thinks he’ll best fit at the next level, and why an NFL team should take a chance on him in this year’s draft.
JM: The first thing that your LSU bio reads is, “The undisputed leader of the Tigers. A leader on the field, in the locker room, and in the community.” What does it mean to you to be viewed by your school in that light?
JS: The chance to represent LSU always meant everything to me. It’s always been my dream school. To have done that in such a way where they recognize me as the undisputed leader both on and off the field, it means the world to me.
Growing up as a kid, I already knew that I wanted to go to LSU. The fact that I did that while leaving a positive mark there, it’s surreal. To be recognized by my peers in this light is everything. I don’t know how else to put it. It speaks volumes of what I did for the program.
JM: It absolutely does. You saw time as a wide receiver your freshman year (2017). You’ve obviously spent most of your time on the defensive side of the ball since then. Was that ever difficult for you?
JS: It wasn’t difficult. I was doing the same thing in high school. Playing different positions, playing all over the field; it comes naturally to me. I’ve been doing that since I was a kid. Playing receiver wasn’t difficult at all.
They even asked me to play tight end for a minute (laughs). That wasn’t hard either. I’ve always played all over the field. I’ve been doing it since middle school and I’ve always enjoyed it.
JM: That’s great. You made sure that players on your team who were eligible to vote were registered to do so. You’ve also taken part in several social justice initiatives. These are the types of activities that led to you earning your amazing reputation. Why was that so important to you?
JS: I found it important to make sure that everybody had the correct information to make their own decisions. It was always about being informative for me. I just wanted to allow them an opportunity to make their own decisions.
A lot of people think that social justice initiatives means taking a political side. It was never about that. It was never about pushing a political agenda. It was far from that. I was more or less just trying to make sure that my teammates understood what was going on. That’s why I pushed everybody to register to vote. You’re allowed that right as an American at the age of 18. Why not use it?
JM: That’s the truth. I love that. I want to talk about your time on the field. You’ve been such a versatile player. You lined up at EDGE, as a nickel corner, at safety, and off-ball linebacker just to name a few. LSU moved you around and used you all over. What was your favorite part of playing such a versatile role?
JS: It’s exactly what you said. I loved playing all of those different positions. You can do different things from different positions. Teams don’t know what you’re going to do when you line up at a different position. Playing all of those positions gave me a chance to show off my football IQ. It proved that I’m a student of the game. It proves that I can execute at a high level. I wouldn’t be playing all of those positions if I couldn’t handle it.
Every NFL team is looking for another Jamal Adams. Somebody that can tackle in the open field, record sacks, rush the passer, cover wide receivers, running backs, and tight ends. I did it all. I feel like I’m the best person to do all of those things at the next level because I’m the one that actually did it in college. When you look at my stats in 2019 and my senior season, there’s nobody in this draft that has the season or career numbers to match up with mine.
JM: It’s been so much fun to watch you play all over the defense. Where do you think you’ll fit in best at the next level? Did you receive any feedback or insight into this at the Senior Bowl?
JS: For me, it’s the same as it was in college. It doesn’t matter which position I’ll play. I know everybody wants to pigeonhole me into one position. People are asking if I’m a linebacker or safety. At the end of the day, just let me play. You see offenses moving to a position-less game. Guys like Alvin Kamara or Christian McCaffrey aren’t classified as just running backs anymore. They line up everywhere. Why can’t it be the same way for the defense? That’s my argument.
Coming from the Senior Bowl and listening to what some of the scouts and coaches had to say, a lot of teams asked me if I was willing to play linebacker. Some people asked me about safety as well. At the end of the day, I’m always going to put the team first. It depended on who was asking me, but I’m going to play wherever they need me to play. That’s what I’ve always done.
JM: What was your overall experience like at the Senior Bowl?
JS: I had a great experience. It wasn’t a regular Senior Bowl in terms of all the things they would typically have us doing. COVID-19 changed some things, as it’s been doing for a while now. Other than that, I had a great experience. I feel like I had a good week. I played a lot of WILL linebacker. All in all, the Senior Bowl was a success for me and I enjoyed my time there.
JM: Did any of your team meetings stick out to you in particular as a great meeting?
JS: I thought I had great meetings with every team but the ones that stuck out to me were the Colts, Jets, Bills, and Falcons. Those teams stuck out to me.
JM: What was it like playing for coach Ed Orgeron?
JS: Every day is a workday (laughs). You have to get after it every single practice. There’s no such thing as a day off or a lighter day. He’s going to push you to the best of your ability. He’s just trying to get the best out of you. He’s a motivator. He’s always going to get you to play at a high level.
JM: You guys faced a lot of challenges in 2020. In addition to dealing with COVID-19, you lost so many amazing players after that historic 2019 season. That must have been tough on the team.
JS: We lost a bunch of guys that went to the NFL. We had to replace those guys with younger players. We rolled out a bunch of players that were getting their first taste of game time in 2020. Mixing that in with COVID-19 and a couple of new coaches, it was an adjustment year for us. We didn’t have a true offseason to install and really teach the team. All of that, it’s a bad mixture. It’s not a recipe for success and it was out of our control.
If you go back and look at the teams that won in 2020, the teams that had success this past year, they were older teams with veteran players; experience was so important in 2020 and we just didn’t have a lot of it. To summarize, this wasn’t a great year to have so many guys depart the program. It wasn’t a great year to have a bunch of new coaches that couldn’t install their systems and teach the younger players. But that’s what we dealt with. I think at the end of the year, we established some good things. We finished with a .500 record. We put some good things out there. LSU will be better next year. The foundation and building blocks have been laid down.
JM: All of that makes sense. I’ve really appreciated your time today, JaCoby. In closing, why should an NFL team use one of their draft picks on you?
JS: You’re going to get multiple positions in one with me. I’m one person that can take care of multiple needs for you. Like we’ve been discussing, I’ve always worn many hats on defense and I plan to continue to do so. I can play several positions on defense. You’re getting a student of the game that always puts the team first.
When I’m on the field, I’m going to play hard. You’re getting a physical, fast, explosive player. There’s not another player in this draft like me. I’m the most versatile player that played at such a high level. You can try to look elsewhere, but you won’t find anybody with my resume.
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