Linval Joseph: Lots of upside but still raw

When looking over the 2010 defensive tackle class, it’s easy to focus on top-tier prospects such as Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy, both of whom have impact-caliber potential in the NFL. But what if I told you there’s a potential second-round pick who might have more upside than either of them?

It’s true. East Carolina standout Linval Joseph (6-5, 328 pounds) has been flying up draft boards in recent weeks and now looks like one of the hotter second-round commodities.

What makes Joseph so unique is that he possesses a really rare blend of burst and overall athleticism despite his size. At this year’s NFL Combine, he recorded a 40 time in the sub-5.1 range, leaped 30 inches on his vertical and pounded out 39 reps on the bench, impressive when you consider the guy has nearly 35-inch arms.

So with his overall size and power, Joseph should be considered one of the draft’s top nose tackles, right? Not exactly. Watching tape of him, he looks more content to shoot gaps inside and penetrate up the field than take on blocks at the point. To me, he projects as a more capable three-technique despite his impressive size.

When breaking down his game, I saw a defensive lineman with an impressive first step who had the ability to gain the initial advantage off the snap and fight his way into the backfield. He also showcased some suddenness as a pass rusher when slipping a block inside as well as natural power vs. the run game. However, despite his size, he doesn’t generate nearly the type of pop on contact you’d expect, mainly because he struggles to keep his pad level down out of his stance. Joseph consistently allows himself to get too upright into blocks and rarely is able to gain leverage on his opponent using his hands. So if he doesn’t win or gain an advantage with his first step, he struggles to disengage from blocks and find the football.

What we have is a defensive lineman who has all the physical tools and upside but overall is still pretty raw at this stage in his development. However, it’s quite rare to find a 6-5, 328-pound lineman with his first step get-off and athleticism, and because of that, he looks like someone who will draw considerable attention early in round two.

I also suspect he will be on nearly every team’s draft board because he not only looks like a potential three-technique but also has the natural power and length to play on the outside as a possible five-technique defensive end.

He’s a guy who hasn’t put it all together yet and maybe never will. But because of his overall physical skill set, it will be hard for an NFL defense to keep his talent off the field.

Bottom line: He looks like a real boom-or-burst prospect to me in the Tommy Kelly mold.

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