Since the conclusion of the 2020 NFL Draft, we have slowly made our way through our rookie Q&A series, allowing us to learn more about each of the Jacksonville Jaguars’ draftees. We finish the series today with former Michigan State Spartans cornerback Josiah Scott.
Throughout the series, we’ve reached out to the folks who covered these players during their college careers, such as managing editors of SB Nation college sites, beat writers, coaches and more. Today’s piece comes with a twist.
The SB Nation website for Michigan State is The Only Colors, and its managing editor is, well, yours truly. You’re probably not going to find too many people out there who are simultaneously Jaguars and Spartans fans, but I am, and because of that, Big Cat Country’s Ryan Day will provide the questions this time, and I will provide the answers.
Here we go:
Ryan Day: Admittedly, I’d never heard of Josiah Scott (prior to the NFL Draft). Is he as good as advertised? You called him one the nation’s best nickel cornerback prospects.
Ryan O’Bleness: Short answer, yes, I believe he is as good as advertised. Longer answer, I couldn’t have been happier that Jacksonville selected Scott. From a technique and fundamentals perspective, Scott possesses all of the necessary traits you look for in a cornerback — strong coverage ability, willing tackler, physical, fluid hips, good speed, ball-hawking tendencies, instinctive, leadership on and off the field, position versatility and more. He saw a variety of different route combinations at the college level and played multiple coverage techniques, which should give him a leg up as a rookie. Scott was a bit of an under-the-radar recruit in high school, likely due to his small stature, and seems to play with a bit of a chip on his shoulder because of that. But from the moment he stepped foot in East Lansing he earned a starting role as a true freshman and never looked back. Scott was honored with All-Big Ten selections multiple times throughout his college career, and was also a Freshman All-American in 2017, amongst many other accolades.
While of course he will have to adjust to the speed of the NFL and improve his game in certain areas, the knocks on Scott aren’t so much about what he brings from an on-the-field standpoint, and are really more concerns about his size (5-foot-9, 185 pounds) and durability — he’s dealt with a few injuries throughout his college career, including missing eight games in 2018 with a knee injury, but also showed the ability to play through injuries. For more on Scott, check here.
Ryan Day: If injuries or poor performance becomes a problem with our outside cornerbacks, can he fill that role?
Ryan O’Bleness: Yes, while his natural role with the Jaguars will likely be in the slot, I wholeheartedly believe he can play on the outside as well. In fact, Scott played primarily as an outside cornerback for Michigan State, so he has much more experience there than he does in the slot as a nickel cornerback. He played a lot of “boundary” cornerback for the Spartans, which basically meant he was responsible for coverage on the short side of the field. Again, I do expect his role with the Jaguars to be in the slot, backing up D.J. Hayden and becoming his eventual replacement when Hayden parts ways with Jacksonville.
With all of that said, both head coach Doug Marrone and general manager Dave Caldwell said after the Draft that while Scott makes sense on the inside, he could certainly get some reps on the outside. Now, his height would be a detriment at the NFL level if he ever finds himself paired against highly-skilled, tall wide receivers such as Julio Jones, A.J. Green, Mike Evans, Kenny Golladay, Mike Williams, etc., especially in jump ball situations, but his technique and physicality will give him a chance.
Ryan Day: He has some experience as a kick returner in high school and college. Is he fast enough to return kicks in the NFL? What other special teams roles could he fill?
Ryan O’Bleness: Scott returned kicks at the high school level, including taking a 98-yard kickoff return for a touchdown as a senior (according to his MSU bio), and also returned a fumbled punt 42 yards for a score. He was not used often as a returner for Michigan State, however. With that said, Scott ran an even faster time at the NFL combine than I expected, with a 4.42 40-yard dash, which was tied for fifth-fastest amongst cornerbacks —quite the feat given the speed that position collectively possesses. I wouldn’t be totally shocked to see him get reps during training camp as a returner, but I wouldn’t expect him to beat out somebody like fellow rookie cornerback Chris Claybrooks or more experienced options such as Dede Westbrook for the kick/punt returning gig.
In terms of other special teams roles, I think that is likely where Scott will make his money as a rookie, while getting a few reps on the defensive side of the ball here and there. With his speed and willingness as a tackler, he would make an excellent gunner on punting formations. He could also come off of the edge on field goal/extra point block formations and try to block some kicks.
Ryan Day: If there’s a part of Josiah Scott’s game that he *really* needs to work on, what is it?
Ryan O’Bleness: Scott showed off decent strength at the combine with 17 bench press reps of 225 pounds, but the area where he could improve is his play strength on the field against bigger receivers — things like being able to get off of blocks and provide better run support (again, he is a totally willing tackler, but his stature and wingspan could be a problem in terms of execution). Then, of course, his durability. Getting in the weight room and strengthening his body to be able to compete with the athletes in the NFL. As I mentioned above, he has had some issues with injuries and missing games, and while injuries are often out of your control (for example, the knee injury in 2018 I mentioned was actually a non-contact injury he suffered during a drill), doing his best to be available and ready when his number is called is obviously of the utmost importance. There were other games last season where he was forced out of as well, although none were too serious, as he played through those injuries and started every game.
Again, if you look at what scouts were saying about Scott leading up to the Draft, there were fewer concerns about his actual gameplay, but obvious concerns about his size and durability. As a rookie, there will be plenty he needs to learn and work on, but his skillset is ideal for the Jaguars to build upon.
Ryan Day: What’s the likelihood of him making the active roster? 50/50? Better? Worse?
Ryan O’Bleness: Personally, I would put it much higher, maybe around 65/35. Jacksonville needs cornerback depth, and I don’t think the Jags would have used a fourth-round selection on Scott if the team didn’t view him as a part of their active roster moving forward. I think he makes the team as a the fifth cornerback, along with fellow rookie CJ Henderson, Tre Herndon, D.J. Hayden and Rashaan Melvin. If the Jaguars decide to keep six cornerbacks, then Scott should be a lock. What will be interesting is if the Jags value Claybrooks enough as a returner and he takes up the fifth cornerback spot even though he is just a special teams ace. The Jaguars could then try to stash Scott on the practice squad and let him develop for a year, but that would be risky as other teams could sign him. But overall, I would be pretty shocked if Scott doesn’t make the final roster.
That concludes our post-draft Q&A series! It took a while to get through Jacksonville’s largest draft class in franchise history, but hopefully you were able to learn more about each prospect. You can review the entire series here, and if you are interested in more about Michigan State athletics, please follow The Only Colors on Twitter.