Notre Dame lost an All-American safety from its 2021 defense, and that player – Kyle Hamilton – eventually got drafted in the first round of the most recent draft. Thanks to the arrival of Northwestern safety Brandon JosephNotre Dame is able to replace its star safety with another defender that is capable of being an All-American and a first round draft pick himself.
If Joseph returns to his 2020 form he will have a chance to be part of an elite Fighting Irish defense, and the Notre Dame newcomer could vault on draft boards.
home town: College Station, Texas
High School: College Station
Weight: 192 pounds
BACKGROUND: Joseph is a rare player for Notre Dame, coming to the Irish as a non-graduate transfer from Northwestern.
As a part of the Wildcat program, Joseph was amongst the best safeties in college football over the last two seasons. After a redshirt season in 2019, the 6-1 192-pound defender set the college football world on fire in 2020, selected as an AFCA All-America First Team (Unanimous), Associated Press First Team, Sporting News First Team, AP All -Big Ten First Team and AP Big Ten Newcomer of the Year.
In eight games in 2020, Joseph led college football with six interceptions to go with 46 total tackles for the team. He went into the 2021 season with massive expectations, selected as an AP First Team Preseason All-America selection. Joseph also was a member of several prestigious award watch lists, including the Walter Camp Award Watch List, Bronko Nagurski Trophy Watch List, Chuck Bednarik Award Watch List, and Thorpe Award Watch List.
He was also a member of pretty much every All-American or All-Conference team prior to the campaign, while also being selected as a team captain despite being just a redshirt sophomore. I have recorded 79 total tackles and three interceptions in 12 games during that second season as a starter.
STRENGTHS: Joseph’s ball production speaks for itself. Despite his interceptions of him being slightly down in 2021 (three), he still remains arguably the best ball hawk in college football, recording nine over the last two seasons.
His ball skills are outstanding, boasting good tracking ability and a strong pair of hands. So much so that Joseph is also in contention for punt returner duties in 2022 with the Irish.
Joseph possesses good length and range on the back end, covering a good amount of ground working from depth. He is a flexible and smooth mover who has even shown some upside as a man cover guy in the slot in spurts while at Northwestern. His biggest impact on him comes from working from depth.
With good overall range and outstanding proactiveness in coverage, Joseph is able to consistently play around the football.
AREAS TO IMPROVE: Joseph’s 2021 campaign had far more inconsistency compared to the year prior. His biggest shortcomings of him came with trying to do too much. The team around him was not nearly as good and that caused Joseph to press too much.
There was also some inconsistency as a tackler, coming in at times with less than ideal angles and a bit out of control. For a player who is more smooth than explosive, it is important that Joseph plays within himself and does not try to stray outside of his responsibilities from him on the backend.
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SUMMARY: It’s very possible that the secondary could be improved in 2022 with the presence of Brandon Joseph, which is saying something after losing the No. 14 overall selection in the 2022 NFL Draft in Kyle Hamilton. If Joseph plays closer to the 2020 version, it’s possible that Notre Dame has a first-round caliber safety in back-to-back years. His impact on him working from depth is amongst the best in college football. The proactiveness that Joseph exhibits help to create a large number of big plays.
ONE LINER: “Versatile defensive back who makes his best plays working from depth. He has ball skills for days.”
EARLY PROJECTION: 1st-2nd round
COMPARISON: Jessie Bates, Cincinnati Bengals
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