The 2021 NFL Draft begins on Thursday, April 29 and runs though Saturday, May 1, and Mizzou is expecting to have multiple players hear their names called at some point throughout the extended weekend. The list of Tigers expected to be selected at some point in the draft includes: linebacker Nick Bolton, offensive lineman Larry Borom, running back Larry Rountree III, safety Tyree Gillespie and defensive back Joshuah Bledsoe. Wide receivers Damon Hazelton, Johnathon Johnson and Jonathan Nance could also find their way into an NFL Training camp.
Rock M Nation is taking a deep dive into each player’s NFL Draft stock breaking down strengths, weaknesses and potential team fit.
Today we’re breaking down Mizzou defensive back Joshuah Bledsoe.
Name: Joshuah Bledsoe
Position: Defensive Back
Age: 23 (2/28/1997)
Weight: 205 pounds
Arm Length: 33 3/8”
Hand Length: 9 3⁄4“
Wing Span: 78 7/8”
Draft Projection: Undrafted Free Agent
Pro Day Measurables:
40-yard dash: N/A
Bench press (225 pounds): N/A
Vertical jump: N/A
Broad jump: N/A
Three-cone drill: N/A
20-yard shuffle: N/A
Player Comparison: Chiefs Defensive Back Daniel Sorensen
Games Played: 44 (22 starts)
Total Tackles: 131 (eight tackles for loss)
Passes Defended: 19 (Led team in PD in ‘19 & ‘20)
Forced Fumbles: Two
Fumble Recoveries: Three
Defensive Touchdowns: One
- 2018 SEC Fall Academic Honor Roll
- 2017-18 First-Year SEC Academic Honor Roll
- He became the first Mizzou safety in more than a decade to post 10+ pass breakups in a single season and it was just the eighth time a Mizzou defender had 10 pass breakups in a single season since 2009, per Mizzou Athletics.
Joshuah Bledsoe was a 3-star high school prospect in 2017 out of the Houston area. He chose to play at Mizzou over offers from Louisiana-Monroe, North Texas, Rice and Tulane. He saw playing time right away as a true freshman at Mizzou and broke into the starting lineup by his sophomore season. Bledsoe was a 3-year starter at free safety in Ryan Walters’ 4-2-5 scheme. He spent plenty of time lining up in the slot as well.
Missouri SAF Joshua Bledsoe (@jiggybled) stood out on film. He is a great tackler and what teams are looking for in a strong safety. Can cover the slot, RBs, and TEs. He does a great job of recovering here in coverage. Also fantastic against the run. #NFLDraft #DraftTwitter pic.twitter.com/W36zTD70ev— Jack Borowsky (@Jack_Borowsky) November 20, 2020
Bledsoe only had one interception at Mizzou, but he was constantly around the ball. He led the team in passes defended each of his last two seasons in Columbia. He’s unafraid to come up in support in the run game and he has the size to defend bigger slot receivers at the next level.
Bledsoe is the type of new-age defender defensive coordinators around the league will be looking for. He might not ever develop into a superstar player, but he has the talent and the work ethic to carve out a role as a nickel safety.
What scouts and analysts are saying about Bledsoe:
From Dane Brugler of The Athletic:
STRENGTHS: Muscular frame with solid thickness…patient at the top of routes with the smooth movement skills to react with receivers…hits another gear when he drives on throws…plays with timing, regardless of whether he locates the football or not…doesn’t panic and clobber receivers with his back to the line of scrimmage…competes with an aggressive mindset, flying downhill as a run defender…communicates well pre-snap, getting teammates lined up…likes to mix things up with receivers…durable and started every game the last two seasons, playing nickel and safety.
WEAKNESSES: Wide, choppy pedal and will get turned the wrong way…when he false-steps, it can often be a death sentence…combinations will catch him offbalance in zone…reacts quickly, but doesn’t consistently anticipate the route path…will arrive too hot as a downhill run defender and make tackle attempts more difficult than they need to be…streaky pursuit angles…physical striker, but needs to be more fundamentally sound with his wrap skills…only one career interception and allowed eight touchdowns.
Been working on Missouri secondary this evening and have had a lot of fun watching Joshuah Bledsoe. Made big plays to set up several Missouri wins in 2020. Wouldn't advocate for him in a high SAF role but figures to have sub value & be core teams player, too. Versatility galore.— Kyle Crabbs (@GrindingTheTape) January 6, 2021
Bledsoe has shown a high level of competency in defeating blocks on the fringe of the set and subsequently has made strong plays in the run game by shooting gaps or shucking blocks and rolling the ball carrier. Bledsoe has had only sparing reps taken as a high safety—and while he has the athletic profile to be successful there, he clearly lacks the same feel and instinct for assignments and making plays as compared to what he does with a more singular objective on any given play. Because of his modest appeal in deep coverage, Bledsoe projects best as a hybrid safety defender in the NFL; but given the trends of the league to play in 11-personnel and subpackage defense, there’s little reason to think a team won’t find value in his skills and make him a priority.
Bledsoe played nickel primarily and had a disappointing ratio of touchdowns allowed to plays on the ball during his career. His hips tend to hang up when he tries to flip and mirror route breaks. He’s missing the make-up burst to close the distance and prevent the catch against NFL-caliber receivers. Bledsoe plays with strength from press and good awareness from short zone, which might be the best option for what he brings to the table. He plays with plenty of toughness and competitiveness, but his coverage limitations and lack of traits are concerns.