JaCoby Stevens - S/LB, LSU
By the numbers:
6'1", 216 pounds per Senior Bowl measurements.
2020: 63 tackles (6.0 for loss), four passes broken up, three fumble recoveries and three sacks in nine games played.
JaCoby Stevens is at his best when he's playing downhill. He makes good reads in run defense and is a hard-hitting prospect. He possesses great instincts and also embraces physicality from opposing players. It shows up near the line of scrimmage against blockers and also in coverage, where Stevens welcomes tight ends or wide receivers and often attempts to reroute them.
Bo Pelini used Stevens in a variety of roles last season, lining him up as a deep safety, box safety, slot corner or linebacker. Stevens is tough and physical enough to get his hands dirty and he thrived in all of those roles throughout his tenure at LSU. His football acumen is a plus, as is his leadership. Things like this matter to NFL coaches.
Stevens is a linebacker in a safety's shoes. His top speed is less than ideal and he isn't a very explosive player, nor does he have the most fluid hips. His reaction time in coverage is solid but when asked to transition from a backpedal to a pursuit, it's not as smooth as it should be. Stevens' smarts and length help him make up for a lack of great athleticism at safety, but leaving him in a deep zone would be misusing his diverse skill set.
The size discrepancy between what LSU listed Stevens at compared to his Senior Bowl measurements also raises some questions. If he indeed did lose up to 14 pounds, perhaps he's a quicker player now. If that's the case, it could impact his draft slot and overall profile. His athleticism pops a lot more at linebacker, but he is more than capable of staying at safety — especially if he's even a bit faster.
How Stevens fits with the Chiefs:
The Chiefs are bringing Daniel Sorensen back for another season, so the team's immediate need for a third safety isn't pressing. Anthony Hitchens and Willie Gay Jr. project to be Steve Spagnuolo's starting linebackers, so the same rules apply there as well. With that said, Stevens brings versatility to the table and could even spend time as a SAM linebacker or work in the dime sub-package. He also offers immediate special teams value while he works his way onto the field on defense. In 2022, a more prevalent role for him would likely open up.
Stevens is a menace on the field when the play is in front of him. As a run-defender, he can stay clean from blockers and attack with the best of this year's safety class. As a coverage piece, he acts like a linebacker with his willingness to take on opposing tight ends or running backs. He could fill a variety of roles for a team, although he's best suited to play closer to the line of scrimmage. Stevens grades out as a fourth-round pick who could be a very useful sub-package player early in his career.