The 2019 NFL draft has come and gone, with the Buffalo Bills adding eight new faces over the three-day event. Now that we know who the Bills picked, let’s get to know some of the players we didn’t get a chance to scout beforehand. With two young starters at linebacker already, the Bills selected Vosean Joseph in the fifth round of the draft with eyes on making sure this group is set for the future. The former Florida Gator may be the next late-round gem that Buffalo seems to keep turning up.
Vosean Joseph spent three years with Florida, appearing in 30 games. His stats trended up each year at the program, ending his junior year with 93 total tackles. Joseph added nine tackles for a loss and four sacks to his stat line last year as well. Passes defended also trended the right way, with a career high of five in his junior season.
There aren’t any significant red flags for Vosean Joseph. Language purists may cringe that Joseph talked about himself using the third person perspective by saying “Whoever wanna draft Vosean Joseph, just draft him and you gonna get a dog.” Aside from that, Joseph was reportedly sidelined for a series to open a game when he “failed to meet the Gator standard.”
Usually injuries would go in the red flags but they work better for Vosean Joseph here. While no major injuries crept up during his time in Florida, he injured his hamstring preparing for the draft. This led to Joseph not participating at the combine and limited participation at his pro day. Physically, Joseph is average height but very light for the position.
Despite the lack of official numbers, the consensus opinion is that Vosean Joseph is incredibly athletic. Praise is both specific and varied with positive notes on his range, “pop,” twitch, lateral agility, and downhill speed to name a few. Joseph’s aggression is often brought up as a desirable trait.
From a physics standpoint, Joseph’s lack of weight is mentioned frequently as a negative. Specifically, the inability to play through contact is brought up. Joseph is universally felt to have poor instincts and on-field recognition. Pairing with a 5.50 ranking from Lance Zierlein (chance to become NFL starter) an AFC defensive coach indicated “His tape has no middle ground, it’s either really impressive or really ugly.” This same coach felt the ugliness could be coached out, which we’ll all be hoping is true.
Smaller linebackers aren’t exactly unheard of. Darius Leonard and Telvin Smith have done alright for themselves near or below the 230-lb mark. Joseph is listed right around that. More athleticism in the linebacker role has seen increased usage as teams look toward top-flight speed to go nickel, dime or even quarter heavy to counter the quick passing game.
In Buffalo, fans should be familiar with Matt Milano who is actually slightly smaller than Joseph. Fans also probably realize neither Milano nor Tremaine Edmunds are going anywhere. And Lorenzo Alexander, the third starting linebacker for the Bills profiles nearly the exact opposite of Joseph. Fans might recall, though, that Buffalo loved putting out faster packages to counteract the passing game. With Alexander frequently becoming an underweight defensive tackle, don’t be surprised if Sean McDermott and Leslie Frazier experiment with putting Joseph on the field as a big nickel defensive back.