Dallas Cowboys expectations for Kelvin Joseph: Assessing 2nd round CBs
Ready or not, here he comes. I’m not really going out on a limb by saying the Dallas Cowboys want – neigh – need, second round pick Kelvin Joseph to claim a starting cornerback spot. Their lack of activity in free agency essentially requires that one of the rookies seize a starting role here in 2021.
Aside from second-year man Trevon Diggs, the cupboards are bare in boundary cornerback talent. Granted, Dallas could slide nickel cornerback Anthony Brown outside if they absolutely must. He has the speed and experience where he could hold down the fort, in a pinch, if he needed to. And the Cowboys re-signed fellow inside man Jourdan Lewis to make such a move possible.
Rookie cornerbacks struggle in the NFL so don’t set unrealistic expectations for the Dallas Cowboys rookie
But as far as halfway reasonable long-term solutions, it’s really rookie-or-bust on the outside. And unless you expect the controversial third rounder, Nahshon Wright, to shock the world and win the job right away, you’re likely relying on Kelvin Joseph to take the job.
But how realistic is that? Better yet – how much can we expect from the rookie CB out of Kentucky?
Today we dive into the past couple draft classes and assess how well the second rounders played their rookie seasons. A look at recent history should give us an idea how much to expect from Joseph his first year as a pro and allows us the properly set our expectations accordingly.
2nd round CBs from last two seasons
In 2019, Byron Murphy, Rock Ya-Sin, Sean Bunting, Trayvon Mullen, Joejuan Williams, Greedy Williams, and Lonnie Johnson were all drafted in the second round. This especially deep cornerback class offered talent of all types, with some eventually playing inside at the slot, and other moving out to safety.
One common trait of these second rounders? None of them were all that good in Year 1.
According to Pro Football Focus’ grading, not one of them finished inside the top-50. Understanding there are about 64 starting boundary CBs in the league – that’s not exactly great to hear. Also worth keeping in mind, the top ranking rookie second rounder, Sean Bunting, played primarily inside in the slot.
Last year there were just three cornerbacks taken in the second round: Jaylon Johnson, Trevon Diggs, and Kristian Fulton. Diggs graded 58th, Johnson 84th, and Fulton failed to even meet the minimum snap requirements for a grade.
Looking at that recent two year sample, it’s not exactly what you want to see from your starting cornerback if you’re a team with postseason aspirations.
These kids weren’t bums either. Being a starting NFL cornerback is a tough job. It takes time to settle in. And frankly, some never do.
That 2019 second round cornerback class is still trying to find their footing. Last year (their second season in the NFL), only one graded in the top-50, Byron Murphy. But like Bunting, Murphy played mostly inside last year. So it’s a whole different animal than boundary corner.
In all fairness, the jury is still out on Joejuan Williams. The 6-foot-3 outside cornerback stood out in the opportunities he was given. He just wasn’t used enough to be ranked among his peers. At his size, he may never be a full-time boundary cornerback since he’s built more as specialty cornerback.
Note: Like Dallas, New England uses a lot of Cover 1 and Cover 3 looks, so it’s possible Nahshon Wright will follow Joejuan Williams’ career path.
All of this is important to see because it allows the Dallas Cowboys and their fans to set reasonable expectations. We shouldn’t expect the rookie Kelvin Joseph to walk onto the turf a star. Second round cornerbacks rarely do.
Consider also, Joseph comes into the NFL with an abnormally small amount of experience. We shouldn’t expect a guy with nine career starts to be some sort of exception to a rule, should we?
The Dallas Cowboys did this to themselves. They set themselves up for a difficult situation in 2021 and we need to keep that in mind. The blame is on Dallas and not on the two rookie cornerbacks.
I’m optimistic about Kelvin Joseph. I just don’t expect him to defy adds like Trevon Diggs did last year. Even if Joseph struggles his first year it doesn’t mean he’s a bust. Second round CBs struggle early – it’s a fact of the position.