A fan-favorite series is coming back to the site as it is officially prospect interview season. For anybody new to the site or for people who need a reminder, every draft season I sit down with prospects that are going to be in the upcoming NFL Draft to talk with them about their off-field accomplishments and some film aspects on the field. While I don’t always talk to star players, I have been able to talk to a few players who eventually ended up with the Colts such as Khari Willis, Marvell Tell III, and Rock Ya-Sin.
Our next prospect interview is with Missouri safety Joshuah Bledsoe. We had a great conversation about his versatility on the backend, an outstanding play he had against Mississippi State, and his week in Mobile for the Senior Bowl.
Weight: 200 pounds
Arm Length: 30.5”
Bledsoe was a three-star prospect out of Andy Dekaney High School in Houston Texas. He stepped into a role immediately for the Tigers defense early on as he played sparingly in 2017 as a Freshman. Over the years, he eventually stepped into the role of the “field safety” for the team and became what some Missouri coaches called the top cover guy on the roster. He finished his college career with 130 tackles, 7.5 tackles for a loss, 18 pass deflections, 1 interception, and 1 forced fumble.
Bledsoe was also a leader on the Tigers defense and three-time All-SEC Academic selection. He also played in the 2021 Reese’s Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama a few weeks back.
ZH: So to start off I wanted to talk about the Senior Bowl. It was a bit different than in years past but how was that experience for you?
JB: Oh it was a lot of fun with good competition. It was good playing against the top players in the country and there was a lot of energy out there competing against the best so I enjoyed the experience a lot.
ZH: Were there any players that you knew about going in that once you saw in person you were like, “wow this guy is legit” at all?
JB: Honestly it felt like everybody was fairly decent so there wasn’t just one guy who stood out to me but like I said it was a lot of high competition and I feel like everybody came down there ready to compete.
ZH: Your versatility was great this past season for Missouri as they rotated you all around from high safety to slot corner to even some linebacker. What actually is your position here as you transition to the NFL?
JB: It’s honestly wherever the defense needs me at. I feel comfortable playing all the positions you just named. I feel comfortable playing all over the place and wherever the team needs me is where I am going to line up.
ZH: So were you lined up at the “star” position for your defense or what did Mizzou call your spot?
JB: In college, we had three safeties on the field at one time. My position was considered the field safety as I would just go to the field and whatever tight end or receiver was in the field, I would have that number two guy. So my role was to have whichever that second player in the slot no matter who it was on the field side.
MO S Joshuah Bledsoe has nice size for the position, able to make plays behind the line and in coverage - as he shows here, recovering to close on a pass to clinch the win vs LSU. #SnapScout21 pic.twitter.com/r6Qvio2yKu— Chad Reuter (@chad_reuter) December 4, 2020
Man Coverage ability
ZH: You lined up in man quite a bit as the field safety in college. How was the process of becoming a complete man coverage guy for you?
JB: Our defense was set up solely on what I could do in the slot area because I had to hold my own against anybody in the slot. So we would load the box up to stop the run and then rely on me and the other DBs to play man coverage on the backend. Our DC trusted me to be able to do what I do, and trust my game, because he felt like we were a man defense. Like, man was our best defense, so that’s what he let us play, and it’s like, an aggressive style of man, with help over the top. I was really just putting that trust in Tyree (Gillespie) and I’m playing anything short aggressively and knowing I had him over top allowed me to play faster and more confident.
ZH: Yeah you and Tyree were a great combo for Missouri last year. What was it like playing alongside another high-level safety in Tyree Gillespie?
JB: He makes my job really easy. Just being able to be aggressive on receivers on anything short was big for me and knowing I have him there and he’s there to cover for me if I mess up so I called us Batman and Robin in college.
Play against Mississippi State
ZH: So I’m going to challenge you a bit. Your best play I saw on film was your lone interception this year against Mississippi State. Could you break down that play from memory on exactly what happened because it was phenomenal?
JB: Oh I know it. So our defensive call was outside leverage man so I knew I had help to the inside so I knew that any inside deep route he was running that I had a safety right there so there is no point in me playing any inside route here. So I was just running outside hip and let him take me where he wanted to go. So when the ball is snapped I slid outside and stayed on that outside hip and once I saw he wasn’t going in than I knew he was running the corner route so I ran the route for him and got my head turned around and caught the ball.
ZH: Getting that head around was huge on this play. Was it one-handed? Because my viewpoint made it look one-handed.
JB: Yeah it was. I kind of brought my secondhand in towards the end to make sure I grabbed it before it hit the ground but yeah it was a one-hand tho (laughs).
Missouri Safety Joshuah Bledsoe is interesting. Good size (6'0" 200 pounds) and physicality. Missouri used him all over the place in the "star" position. Colts are certainly looking to add a guy with his skillset in this draft. pic.twitter.com/HCAwWyJ46t— Zach Hicks (@ZachHicks2) February 11, 2021
ZH: Safeties gotta be physical in the NFL and you bring that on film. How big physicality in your game?
JB: I feel like that goes with my natural size. I’m naturally 200 pounds you know? Like I wake up in the morning and I’m already 202 and that’s my natural wait. Just to be able to have that frame allows me to be physical with these bigger tight ends and be able to be in the box where I can hold my own against tackles or whoever the case it may be.
ZH: There has been this need in the NFL for “tight end eraser” types for a while now. Do you think you could fill that role?
JB: Oh yeah definitely. Like I said I feel like being physical is just natural to me and I don’t even have to try to be that way, it just comes off naturally when I’m playing so yeah I think I could fill that role well.
ZH: What is my NFL team getting if they draft Joshuah Bledsoe in this class?
JB: Just a versatile guy you know. A player that can fit anywhere in a defense that a team needs me to fit. I’m a big special teams player as well that can play on all teams as well. If a team drafts me, they are taking three players in one. A guy who can play high safety, in the box, and on special teams all in one.
Here's a look at Joshua Bledsoe's forced fumble and recovery late in the game to seal the Tigers' 20-10 win. The fans knew after one look on the jumbo-tron that ball was out. @KOMUnews pic.twitter.com/MPCWETgnos— Tyler Driesenga (@tdriesenga3) October 25, 2020
The Colts are very interested in adding a third safety to their defense after the veteran signing of Tavon Wilson simply did not work out this past season. With this third safety though, the Colts want a guy who can be versatile and play all over so they can get back to playing some more three safety looks with confidence. From talking to some prospects, I do know that the Colts met with both JaCoby Stevens (Safety from LSU) and Bledsoe here at the Senior Bowl and like both a lot for this role.
I will say that of all the players I’ve talked to so far this offseason, I’d say Bledsoe is the most likely to end up in Indy. He plays a position or need, is versatile, and has that Chris Ballard touch of being at the Senior Bowl. A safety trio of him, Khari Willis, and Julian Blackmon would be a young and sturdy group for a long time.