The Detroit Lions drafted Illinois safety Kerby Joseph in the third round of the NFL Draft with the 97th overall pick on Friday.

Joseph is the highest drafted Illini safety since Henry Jones went in the first round (No. 26 overall) to the Buffalo Bills in 1991.

CBS Sports graded the pick an A, adding that Joseph is “one of the longest, rangiest-in-coverage safeties in this class. … He’ll be a playmaker in Detroit.”

Joseph had a breakout 2021 season under first-year head coach Bret Bielema and defensive coordinator Ryan Walters. He was an All-Big Ten first team selection by the media, Illinois’ first safety since 1989 to earn first team honors, after tying for the national lead in interceptions during the regular season with five.

Joseph recorded 57 tackles and three fumble recoveries on the season.

He was the only player in the nation with at least 5 interceptions and 3 fumble recoveries during the regular season and one of only three Illini in the last 50 years to reach both marks.


The Associated Press contributed to this report.