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Sep 10, 2011; Tallahassee, FL, USA; Florida State Seminoles safety Lamarcus Joyner (20) runs the ball past Charleston Southern Buccaneers defensive back Michael Parker (26) in the second half at Doak Campbell Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Melina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

2014 NFL Draft: Pre-Season Breakdown - LaMarcus Joyner, S Florida State

As the Florida State Seminoles get ready for the 2013 season, their defense comes in having lost a significant amount of talent to last year’s draft and will be looking for new players to step up and fill in the gaps.  One reason to believe in their ability to bounce back is because of their safety LaMarcus Joyner, who is a leader and in many ways, represents the best of that defense in terms of their effort and heart for the game.  Joyner is significantly undersized and plays an all-out style to succeed and works harder and plays each snap like it could be his last on a football field.  Joyner posted 27 solo tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, 5 pass deflections, an interception as well as a 23.56 yard average per return on kickoffs as a junior.

Joyner is the type of players Florida State fans will miss when he is gone, but while his best football might end up being in college, he does have potential for the NFL.  His size is going to be an issue just like it has been at every level of football he has played, but he could be a nickel package player as well as a great contributor on special teams with the potential to crack the starting lineup.  Because of everything he can bring on the field as well as the benefits he can bring to a team’s locker room, Joyner could end up right around the fringes of day two and day three.

Vitals & Build

Joyner is listed at 5’8” 195lbs and while he is short, his low center of gravity enables him to have fantastic feet and body control.  He accelerates extremely well and does have impressive top end speed.  And at that height, he is built extremely thick and has a great deal of strength like a running back but he does not always play in a way that enables him to show what he can do.  One of the things that will hurt Joyner for some in addition to his lack of height is the fact that there is not much athletic potential for him going forward.  For the most part, he will enter the NFL as the player he is going to be from an athletic standpoint, but whichever team takes him will get a player with a nonstop motor and an aggressive player who never gives up on plays as well.

Tackling

Joyner functions by playing full speed all the time and throwing his body around with reckless abandon.  As a result, he makes plays and can be a good player on the field, but fundamentals can fall by the way side and too often, his tackling is where it suffers most.  Because he is playing so fast, he is often out of control and does not break down to tackle.  Rather, he ends up throwing his body at tackles and trying to catch up with technique as best he can when it comes to wrapping up the ball carrier.

Despite his lack of height, he can end up tackling high, around the shoulders or end up trying to shoulder bomb the ball carrier.  The fact he does not break down will result in some swings and misses on tackle attempts.  If he can find a way to incorporate more technique in his tackling and find a way to slow himself down before making plays, he would be a better tackler and have better results.  The problem is with a player like Joyner, he has likely played his whole life with this type of style and used it as a means to survive with his height, so getting him to use better tackling technique might be difficult: the times he does show good form, his speed and momentum enable him to make some good tackles with some impressive results, particularly with his power.

Run Support

In run defense, Joyner does a fantastic job of reading and diagnosing plays.  He comes downhill from the back end of the defense at full speed and is able to contribute and make plays.  Joyner shows the ability to occasionally negotiate blocks and find a way to make plays, but he is inconsistent in this area and can be overwhelmed at times.

His compact build actually works to his advantage here as he has a natural leverage advantage and guys tend to have to bend down to try to block him, which can be a difficult adjustment.  In addition, his feet and body control can get him out of trouble quickly.

Joyner’s size does not prevent him from being an effective cog in the running game.  He is extremely aggressive and willing.  His instincts are good and he takes the right angles to the ball carrier.  Joyner also seems to have shown a real ability to contribute against the read option, following the right keys and having the speed and mindset to chase down plays.  The only thing that hurts Joyner is his technique as a tackler and his length to get to the play.

Coverage

Joyner tends to work from deep and come up and make plays, but he does have experience in the box as well as in man coverage.  From a physical standpoint, he has the ability to contribute in man coverage, but he needs more experience to get more comfortable.  In zone, Joyner has great range and can fly around the field and make plays but obviously has a fair amount of trouble making plays on the ball while in the air when opponents have a size advantage.

Joyner has range and is able to intimidate opponents by being able to separate them from the football as a hitter.  This comes with an amount of risk as it can come with a personal foul penalty, but done correctly, it can be clean and send a message.  He will occasionally bite on fakes and give up plays over the top, but he does have good speed to make up ground.  His lack of length becomes problematic in that area, however.

Ball Skills

Although his size can make it difficult to show them off all the time, Joyner has pretty good ball skills.  His hand eye coordination is good and he tends to make the most of his opportunities when he has the chance.  He has made himself into someone that offenses have to account for in order to avoid making a huge mistake his way.

Joyner has shown a knack for being able to read the hands and eyes of receivers when his back is to the quarterback and he cannot see the ball coming. In part because he is so short, this is key for him to be successful, because he has an incredibly difficult time going up and defending tall receivers and knocking the ball away.  As a result, he is better off reading where the ball is going and timing it so he can attack their hands when the ball comes in or trying to rip it out as they try to secure it on the way down.

When he is able to get the ball in his hands, he is absolutely a threat to take it back the other way and put the offense in great position.  He is so quick in the open field with long speed that is not afraid to be aggressive and try to make big plays.

Special Teams

Little of what Joyner does is typical and a safety being a good kick returner fits in that mold.  Being a punt returner is far more valuable and there is nothing that would suggest Joyner should not be able to function in that role as well given the opportunity. He will occasionally make some bad choices in terms of backtracking and trying to make plays that are not there and losing yards in the process, but he is effective overall and his aggressiveness tends to pay off going for bigger plays.

Because of his issues with size, Joyner is going to basically have to find a way to contribute on every special teams unit possible in the NFL.  His aggressive style, raw speed and agility make him a good prospect to player on coverage units.

System Fit

It would not be a huge surprise to see him in the starting lineup as a free safety but failing that, he still offers a team a great deal of value and versatility potentially.  Joyner could offer a tremendous nickel option.  In a big nickel type package, Joyner could come in as an extra corner but enable teams to maintain a level of toughness to play against the run when the opponent spreads them out wide.  Joyner needs more work and experience at corner but he has the athletic ability to do it while having safety ability as a run stopper.  His instincts as a run defender could make him effective in that role and his speed and acceleration off the edge could make him a good option to blitz as well.  It appeared as though the Seminoles employed this type of role with Joyner against the triple option of Georgia Tech.  He could provide depth for both corner and as a safety, especially free safety but he could play strong safety in a pinch.

Beyond that, Joyner can contribute on special teams.  He can return kicks and it seems like he should be an option to return punts, but he looks like he could be terrific on coverage units for kickoffs and punts as well.

2013 Schedule

Mon, Sept. 2 at Pittsburgh
Sat, Sept. 14 vs. Nevada
Sat, Sept. 21 vs. Bethune-Cookman
Sat, Sept. 28 at Boston College
Sat, Oct. 5 vs. Maryland
Sat, Oct. 19 at Clemson
Sat, Oct. 26 vs. N.C. State
Sat, Nov. 2 vs. Miami(FL)
Sat, Nov. 9 at Wake Forest
Sat, Nov. 16 at Syracuse
Sat, Nov. 23 vs. Idaho
Sat, Nov. 30 at Florida

Notable Games

The game at Clemson is huge for both teams as it could be an elimination game for the Atlantic Division of the ACC.  Florida State got the best of the Tigers last year and Tahj Boyd, Sammy Watkins and company will be trying to get revenge at home.  Joyner will be tested both in run defense and in coverage.  Two weeks later, the Seminoles take on Miami in Tallahassee and Stephen Morris is going to test Joyner deep while Duke Johnson represents a significant threat on the ground.  The regular season finale is important as it is a huge game, but also puts stress on Joyner to prove his toughness in run defense against a big, strong SEC opponent in Florida in the Swamp.

NFL Comparison

Joyner could end up as a similar player to Ahmad Black of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  Like Joyner, Black was a fan favorite for the Florida Gators while having the same size issues Joyner has.  Both players stand out as guys who have to find other ways to contribute as they tend to be talented but undersized.  Black plays on special teams and provides depth for the safety spot.

Draft Projection

Joyner backs a ton of talent into a tiny package and offers a lot to NFL teams, so it would hardly be a shock if he goes slightly earlier than people expect.  He has the potential to start but might be a real threat as a utility, big nickel option as well as special teams.   Joyner projects as someone who goes right around the top 100 area for a team willing to be creative with all of the things he can do.  While Joyner might not be a starter in the NFL, he could be a terrific asset for a team that brings his style of play every week that have made Seminoles fans love him during his career.

Tags: 2014 Mock Draft 2014 NFL Draft Florida State Seminoles Football LaMarcus Joyner Safeties

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