Joshuah Bledsoe had to hear 187 names get called before it finally was his turn to come off the board in the NFL’s 2021 Draft. The New England Patriots decided to take a flier on the defensive back in the sixth round, ultimately giving him a professional home after three days of waiting.
The Patriots being the team to draft him was not a surprise to Bledsoe, though. As he pointed out during his post-draft media conference call, the outcome was what he expected all along.
“I definitely thought this was going to be where I ended up, so I’m just glad they took me,” Bledsoe said.
The 22-year-old is now joining the Patriots after what was a successful college career at the University of Missouri.
Bledsoe appeared in a total of 46 games for the Tigers, including the final 22 as the team’s starting free safety. The former linebacker also proved himself a playmaker in the secondary: while he registered only one interception, he managed to register a sack, force a pair of fumbles, score a touchdown on a fumble return and break up 19 combined passes — leading Missouri in the latter category as both a junior and a senior.
His productive play did not just allow Bledsoe to get himself into the draft conversation, it also turned him into a confident football player. His media conference call was proof of that.
“I’m a football player. I’m a dog. You turn on my tape and you can see it. You see me out there, I’m just doing everything. I play with high energy, with fundamentals and I’m going to get the job done,” the youngster said when asked how he would describe his style of play.
“I’m a real exciting player to watch. When you see me on the field, I’m doing everything whether it’s special teams or doing what I can on defense. I’m out there making plays and it’s going to be fun to watch. My brand of football is just fun to watch, it’s exciting to watch.”
The Patriots have obviously not been strangers to high-quality play from their safety position through the years. Devin McCourty and Patrick Chung formed one of the best safety tandems in the league after 2014, with Duron Harmon — properly nicknamed “The Closer” for his clutch play and timely interceptions — joining them as a valuable rotational piece.
Harmon left New England last offseason, however, with Chung announcing his retirement earlier this year. McCourty is still around, but the end of his tenure is also in sight: he will turn 34 in August and is headed into the final year of his contract.
The times are changing for the Patriots’ safety group, with a new generation of players taking over. 2020 second-round pick Kyle Dugger looks like a lock to play a prominent role within the secondary for years to come, while Adrian Phillips was added to the equation last year as well. Now, Bledsoe is the latest player to join the group.
While it remains to be seen whether or not the rookie will actually be able to carve out a role on New England’s roster, he will try his best to earn one. His openness to play all over the formation is a good starting point for that.
“Honestly, I’ll play wherever the defense needs me,” Bledsoe said after getting drafted. “I’m good playing wherever I need to be playing. I’m good with helping the team out wherever they need me to go.”