Brandon Joseph NFL Draft Scouting Report
SAF, Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Notre Dame safety Brandon Joseph projects as a starting free safety in the NFL. His ability to diagnose route combinations and make plays on the football serves as his starring trait and he should be charged with living in coverage frequently in order to put him in the best position to have an impactful role on his next defense.
Originally a 3-star recruit, Joseph played his high school football for College Station High School in College Station, TX. He was initially committed to playing his college football career at Texas Tech before switching and signing with the Northwestern Wildcats. Joseph served a redshirt season during his true freshman season before being named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 2020 during the COVID-19-shortened season. Joseph’s play featured a lot of complex coverages for Northwestern, equipping him well for life in the NFL. But his play fell off as the Wildcats floundered in 2021 and he transferred to Notre Dame for his final seasons of eligibility before ultimately declaring for the 2023 NFL Draft.
Joseph will move the needle for teams looking for a ball-hawk safety in the NFL. As a redshirt freshman in 2020, he led the team in interceptions (6) and added an additional eight passes defensed in just nine games played. He’s got tremendous ball skills and good instincts on the back end and, most importantly, he’s shown this skill across multiple NFL-caliber defensive systems.
His zone coverage in the deep portions of the field is excellent. Northwestern implemented a lot of middle-of-the-field open coverage and showed a lot of quarters and charged Joseph with manning deep-middle-of-the-field regions. Joseph played a variety of coverages at Notre Dame and was charged with moving around as a high safety and also serving as a robber and shallow zone defender as well—you can consider the menu of options underneath to be pretty expansive. He’s long and fluid in transition and was even given assignments in the red area to work in the slot. I wouldn’t consider man coverage to be a strength relative to his abilities in zone coverage, but I do feel as though he’s got capabilities to provide versatility on the back end.
There’s not a lot that you should feel apprehensive about him being capable of handling in the pass game—he’s got a high football IQ and diagnoses route combinations quite well. I appreciate his hustle and when he’s leveraging the football to the perimeter or triggering to collision the ball at the catch point, you see some really nice striking ability as a tackler as well. He’s capable of big hits and the pursuit is present to offer really nice range from depth.
That said, this is a player who I think has a scheme-specific skill set and I don’t believe he’s a one-size-fits-all player by any means. Throughout the course of his career, he’s been charged with plenty of roles but his assignments closer to the line of scrimmage offer more variance in his play. Joseph has struggled with consistency in his run fits, trending closer to the traditional free safety who you ideally don’t ask to be accounted for in the box. The angles from depth can be too sharp and offer too much space for ball carriers to set him up in space and there are other times where he’s late to collect and come to balance in head-up tackling situations. When needing to strike in the heart of traffic, you don’t see the same gusto and enthusiasm as when he’s greeting the football. As an example, Michigan tested him greatly in the run game in 2021 with the kind of tape that is hard to forget if you’re going to ask him to insert into run fits in the NFL with consistency. Continued refinement in angles and further improved anticipation in the run game could help protect him, but simultaneously I’d lean into protecting him with the role he fills. Fangio-rooted defenses will need to be mindful of him getting trapped into rolling down into fits in the box.
Joseph should assimilate into an NFL defense during his rookie season. Whether or not he commands early playing time is likely to be predicated on team expectations and willingness to let him fail forward and learn on the job as compared to being developed more intentionally. I think from a coverage perspective, he’s a feasible starter as a rookie, but he will need time to adjust to the speed of the game and continue to find better balance as a tackler and support player beyond playing the passing game in space.
Top Reasons to Buy In:
- Very high football IQ in the passing game
- Plus ball skills and strong nose for creating turnovers
- Has played in complex defenses at the highest levels of CFB
- Effective striker as a tackler
Top Reasons For Concern:
- Appeared to plateau in 2020 with Northwestern; ball production has fallen off since
- Head-up tackling and run support resume offer a lot of questions and room for growth
- Likely needs open-field tackling growth to serve as a special teams contributor
Size (NFL Combine):
Height: 6′ 0”
Weight: 202 lbs
Arm Length: 30 7/8”
Hand Size: 9”
Athletic Testing (NFL Combine):
40-yard Dash: 4.62s
Vertical Jump: 30.5”
Broad Jump: 9′ 10”
Bench Reps: 17 reps
Ideal Role: Starting free safety
Scheme Fit: Middle-of-the-field-closed heavy coverage systems
Prospect Comparison: Jessie Bates III (2018 NFL Draft)
TDN Consensus Grade: 79.50/100 (Third-Round Value)
- Crabbs Grade: 79.50/100
Written By: Kyle Crabbs
Exposures: Stanford (2022), Fresno State (2022), Washington State (2022), Utah (2022), Notre Dame (2022)
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