Jacoby Stevens raises his fist after a stop

Vogel’s All-Versatile Team: ROVER JaCoby Stevens, LSU

  • 2021 NFL Draft
  • All-Versatile Team
  • Cincinnati Bengals
  • Jacoby Stevens
  • LSU Tigers
  • NFl Draft
  • Philadelphia Eagles
  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers
By John Vogel January 4, 2021 0 Comment
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The Brawl Network’s Senior NFL Draft Writer John Vogel breaks down how NFL teams can utilize LSU Safety Jacoby Stevens at the next level.

Let’s face it – we all love versatile football players. They always seem to capture our intrigue as it is astonishing to see a man compete in so many ways on the football field. Versatility piques the interest of NFL teams too. The NFL is always looking to add wrinkles to their teams on both sides of the ball, especially as the league becomes more about match-ups. LSU safety JaCoby Stevens can most certainly introduce wrinkles to an NFL’s defense.

Introducing the first annual 2021 Vogel’s All-Versatile Team – a breakdown of the most versatile players entering the NFL Draft and discussing how they can fit into an NFL offense with their unique skill sets.

In this series, the goal isn’t only to break down the best players entering the 2021 NFL Draft – it’s to break down some of the more interesting players. An initial 22 players will be announced on the “team.” Following the initial 22 release, we will add eight more players to provide some depth to the squad. After all, this was a difficult list to compile due to the extraordinary number of interesting players in this class.

The All-Versatile Team so far

At the moment, only four players have been revealed on the team, via Twitter. This is the second player named to the team as a part of the series.

WR DJ Turner, Pittsburgh
TE Xavier Gaines, Marshall

OLB Jabril Cox, LSU 
ROVER JaCoby Stevens, LSU

Introducing ROVER JaCoby Stevens, LSU

As many people around LSU know, the #7 jersey is a tradition handed to the leader of the secondary, affectionately called “DBU” by locals. Some of the best LSU defensive backs have proudly worn the number on the field. Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu, and last year during the National Championship run, Grant Delpit. “I know the history behind the number,” former LSU running back Leonard Fournette explained, who also wore the number. “But number seven is the number for big-time playmakers like myself, Patrick Peterson, Tyrann Mathieu. As I mentioned on Twitter, that number changes the program and there’s a lot to come for players wearing that number.”

Stevens donned the number seven this year, following in the footsteps of those great players. He did not disappoint. In ten games this season, Stevens logged 63 tackles, six tackles for loss, three sacks, and three fumble recoveries.

The Five-Star almost chose Georgia

Before JaCoby Stevens was a star player at LSU, he was a five-star safety out of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, from Oakland High School. In fact, he committed early in the process. He de-committed before the start of his senior season of high school when he was pursued by Kirby Smart, Mel Tucker, and the Georgia gang. Smart and Georgia had gotten Stevens to re-open his recruitment. After all, they were building something special with highly rated recruits all over the defense, including safety Richard LeCounte III. Stevens grew up an LSU fan and everyone knew it was his dream to play there someday.

Over the summer of 2016, Stevens seriously considered committing to Georgia, even going as far as to record a commitment video with SEC Country and Dawg Nation. It was a done deal. What changed Stevens’s mind?

The super genius that we know as Nick Saban. Alabama started recruiting Stevens.

Saban has a reputation for sending safeties to the NFL. He’s sent some of the league’s best over the years and not all from the same cookie cutter. Saban pretty much invented the ROVER position with Mark Barron, who NFL teams eventually moved to linebacker after being drafted in 2012. Stevens has always drawn comparisons to Barron, for being about the same body type with the same style of athleticism. It only made sense.

Coming back home to LSU

Once the door was blown open on recruiting, so was LSU’s chances to resecure him. In mid-October of 2016, LSU fired long-time coach Les Miles and named Ed Orgeron as the team’s interim head coach. The program rallied around him, as did the recruiting. JaCoby Stevens was certainly influenced.

“I was leaning toward two schools and those schools did a great job of recruiting me,” Stevens explained. “So I did my research and they did a great job trying to persuade me. But LSU always had that special place in my heart and I listened to it here.”

Stevens committed to LSU in November 2016. Somehow, he knew that a National Championship run was in order. “When I committed to LSU, even before I signed, I told my dad that our junior year is the year we beat Alabama and go to the National Championship,” Steven recalled later to reporters. “It’s cool seeing all of this come to reality.”

Pass Coverage Ability

JaCoby Stevens is a nightmare in zone coverage situations. He’s a big safety with the ability to play coverage out of the slot, including press if needed. I don’t think that Stevens is necessarily elite in man-coverage, but he has the reactive athleticism that makes him effective in those types of situations.

His real strength is in the middle of a field, generally where teams put their linebackers. Stevens shows a natural ability to gather his depth late as the quarterback is beginning to assess his situation and make his decision – and effects the play.

Because of his size, scouts and coaches may want Stevens to neutralize running backs out of the backfield who can be threats to the passing game, like Alvin Kamara and Christian McCaffrey.

While he’s very athletic, I don’t believe he will test as well as some of the other safeties in this class. The biggest issue that he had at LSU was playing in Bo Pelini’s defense, who didn’t quite know how to use him. Stevens isn’t your prototypical safety, nor is he really a linebacker. He’s the perfect definition of a ROVER.

Pass Rushing Prowess

Don’t forget that JaCoby Stevens was very effective as a pass rusher in several types of situations. He ended his collegiate career with 9.5 sacks – an impressive number for a college safety. In fact, Stevens ended this season with an 89.2 pass-rushing grade, according to PFF.

There are several different ways that Stevens finds himself in the backfield. He’s effective as a blitzer off of the edge. It takes him a little bit of effort to get off of a block, but once he does, he stays with the play, especially if it extends outside of the pocket.

Stevens also times his rushes very well if sent late – he understands pass blocking concepts. He’s sly working with creases and impacting behind the line of scrimmage. In fact, Stevens made 12 plays behind the line of scrimmage according to PFF; four hits and five hurries.

Stevens is impactful in pass rush when asked to, and that’s something that can take an offense by surprise.

Smart, relentless, intelligent field presence

JaCoby Stevens shows the football intelligence to make big plays at big times. He’s done so throughout his career. His athletic interception against Mississippi State last year shows to a very large extent the playmaking ability that he has. In that particular play, Stevens dropped into coverage late in the rep and baited the throw.

I think that it’s worth pointing out that people may point to the regression that Stevens showed statistically. His run defense grade on PFF dropped 16 points, and his tackling grade dropped 10. I think that a lot of that has to do with Pelini’s scheme, as it was pointed out to me by @slymsuknhogs on Twitter.

How the NFL will use JaCoby Stevens

NFL teams will use JaCoby Stevens as a nickel defender in the league. If they want a bigger, more physical defensive back, like the ROVER position that I have him designated as Stevens will probably be their number one guy. They want Stevens to be able to go with tight ends and take away running backs out of the backfield from being receiving options. That’s what he does best.

Stevens can also be strictly a strong safety. He certainly has the ability to develop into a very good one. He’s shown the ability to read and diagnose, which means that he can impact the back end. I think that his biggest concern with being a strong safety is tackling and taking good angles downhill without over pursuing. Stevens tends to be aggressive when coming downhill which is better suited for the line of scrimmage.

Lastly, Stevens can be that versatile piece that you need to fill. He can play some outside linebacker, slot cornerback, even an inside linebacker if you needed him to. I’m sure some staff would love to make him their mismatch weapon to neutralize match-ups with running backs and tight ends.

JaCoby Stevens best team fits

Cincinnati Bengals

The emergence of the big slot receiver is going to prove to be a tremendous problem in the NFL – and Cincinnati is going to want to jump on it quickly. Chase Claypool has broken the league open, and now they have to deal with whomever the Baltimore Ravens draft as well as Rashard Higgins/Donovan Peoples-Jones in Cleveland. They already have the big slot issue across their division.

The Bengals would love to get their hands on JaCoby Stevens to create a problem for those teams with the big slot receivers. Bumping Claypool before releasing him into the seam for the safety could be tremendous for helping slow down a Steelers attack, especially with Stevens ball skills. The same applies to Cleveland and their slot receiver – and remember, the Browns have Kareem Hunt too. Stevens could develop into that neutralizer that would help them tremendously in divisional play.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

As I mentioned before, running backs utilized out of the backfield as receivers are the Achilles heel to a lot of NFL teams. Tampa Bay has to play Alvin Kamara and Christian McCaffrey twice a year. Arguably, Kamara and McCaffrey are the two most impactful receiving backs in the league. The Buccaneers have two great inside linebackers, between Devin White and LaVonte David. So far, with those players, they have been able to keep running backs contained in those big games. However, it leaves the seams open to be attacked, and when teams get those rolling, the Buccaneers gave up a lot of points this past season.

Their nickelback currently has rotated between Jamel Dean and Ross Cockrell. Needless to say, it could use an upgrade. The addition of Stevens could really help Tampa Bay get their linebackers to focus back on the inside of the field, and use Stevens to match-up on these running backs stretching them horizontally.

Philadelphia Eagles

Jim Schwartz, the defensive coordinator for the Philadelphia Eagles, plans to retire at the end of the season. This leaves the Eagles’ defensive scheme in a state of flux. When in limbo, teams often start drafting the most versatile players that they can and find places where they can play. The Eagles should be looking to improve their secondary. JaCoby Stevens would be a great place to start.

The secondary currently doesn’t help too much with run defense. Part of the reason is that there are a lot of undersized players on their back end. Adding Stevens would help the team tremendously with that size aspect and give them a weapon that can play around the back end. Stevens can be a culture-setter for the defense, too. Stevens would be a great addition to the team.

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