Any NFL team in need of versatile players on defense would be wise to target JaCoby Stevens in the upcoming draft. The former LSU safety is perfect for today's generation of hybrid defensive backs that can also play linebacker.
Stevens had a breakout season in 2019, finishing with 92 total tackles, five sacks and three interceptions. He was a key contributor on arguably the greatest college football team we've ever seen.
LSU lost a handful of impact players to the NFL Draft in 2020, but Stevens chose to come back for his final season. Though his senior campaign didn't end the way he may have envisioned, the 6-foot-2 safety still had 63 tackles, three sacks and a forced fumble.
NFL scouts recently had a chance to see Stevens' versatility on full display at the Senior Bowl. In fact, there were a handful of teams that built a "strong connection" with the do-it-all safety down in Mobile, Alabama.
With the NFL Draft nearly two months away, JaCoby Stevens sat down with The Spun to discuss the past two seasons for LSU, what position he wants to play at the next level, which quarterback he can't wait to face, and much more.
The Spun: How has this entire draft process been for you?
JaCoby Stevens: It’s been great. It’s a great experience. Like most guys, I’m training three times a day and taking care of business so I can put my best forward when the opportunity comes for me to showcase my abilities at my pro day.
The Spun: What was the Senior Bowl like?
JS: It was cool playing with and against guys from all around the country. Just being able to get one-on-one contact with scouts was a big deal. So overall it was a cool experience.
The Spun: Which teams did you get to meet thus far?
JS: I felt like I had a connection with just about every team. The teams that I felt were really excited and the conversations went in-depth were the Bills, Colts, Falcons, Eagles and Jets. There are a couple of teams that I can’t put my finger on right now, but those are teams I feel like I had a true connection during the interview process.
The Spun: What do you see yourself as at the next level: linebacker or safety?
JS: Just whatever the team needs me to do. I have the perfect size and capabilities to play safety or linebacker. We sit here and we talk about certain other guys saying they’re willing to play safety, but when you look at their film they never played the middle of the field before. You kinda just go back down and say they’re a linebacker. As for me, I can play middle of the field safety, in the slot against tight ends, and in the box. It doesn’t matter, I’ll do whatever the team needs.
The Spun: Who’s one quarterback you can’t wait to go up against?
JS: Oh, man. I can’t wait to go up against my former teammate Joe [Burrow]. Getting a sack on Joe would be pretty cool because, of course, that’s a guy who I’m rooting for and think can become one of the best quarterbacks to come through the NFL. To be able to sack Joe Burrow after two years of not being able to since he was protected at practice would be funny to me.
The Spun: You mentioned your former quarterback. Did it feel like when you played every other quarterback in 2019 it was easy for the LSU defense because you practiced against Burrow?
JS: It was super easy. That’s what made that year so special. Practices were way harder, skill wise, than it was in the games. They [LSU offense] never really saw a defensive like us when it came to talent, and we never saw an offense like them when it came to talent. It was just a really special team, so when we played different quarterbacks, wide receivers and tight ends it felt easy.
The Spun: What do you feel like was the main reason for LSU’s down year?
JS: We were young, we had new coordinators, and COVID-19 took away our offseason. I spoke to the coaches about it. The offseason is a time for guys to connect and build chemistry. And with a new coordinator coming in on defense, we just didn’t have the time to get that hands-on learning for the young guys. Add in the SEC-only schedule and I think that’s why you saw us go from 15-0 to 5-5.
The Spun: I got to ask you since you were one of the leaders in the secondary. Who do you think starts at quarterback in 2021, and who’s that next star to watch on defense?
JS: In terms of the quarterback question, that’s going to be a very competitive room. Who’s going to get that job? That’s a Coach O question to answer [laughing]. All three of those guys in that room can do different things at a high level, so they can’t go wrong with the one they pick. And the guy I think is going to have a big year that people don’t know about - people obviously know about Derek Stingley and Eli Ricks - I think Ali Gaye and BJ Ojulari are going to have outstanding years.
The Spun: Have you been able to talk to any former LSU defensive backs about what to expect in the NFL?
JS: No, I haven’t talked to any former LSU defensive backs about their NFL experiences. But I’ve talked to Patrick Queen and picked K’Lavon Chaisson’s brain about their experiences.
The Spun: Please settle the LSU vs. Ohio State debate regarding ‘DBU?’
JS: Oh because they don’t have the quality and quantity part of DBs that go to the league. We can talk about the numbers, the amount of people in the league, but the two big names we have, Tyrann Mathieu and Patrick Peterson, that alone destroys Ohio State’s list. We can keep going down to Donte Jackson, Tre’Davious White, we can keep comparing and contrasting. We have true No. 1 corners and big-time safeties that come out of LSU.
LSU has sent plenty of defensive backs to the pros over the past few years. That trend will certainly continue, as JaCoby Stevens should hear his name called during the 2021 NFL Draft.
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