Talent-wise, Johnathan Joseph is well-thought of. He's strong against man coverage and a good rush defender (ranked 15th in the NFL amongst all cornerbacks in 2009). With nine interceptions over the past two seasons, Joseph has also posted touchdowns in three of the past four seasons. There's a reason he's the top free agent priority for the Bengals; there's a reason many debate whether or not he's the best free agent cornerback when the new league year begins.
Yet the issue with Joseph isn't his talent. Nor his production. It's injuries. Joseph has missed 12 games in the past three seasons; though he did deal with injuries that he mostly played through in 2007.
It's because of those injuries that Pro Football Focus ranked Joseph as the 36th best free agent available.
A tricky player to assess. Joseph had his breakout year as a number two cornerback to Leon Hall, and then missed a lot of 2010 with injury. So, how do you evaluate him? Would like to see him have proved himself a number one corner before paying him that kind of money (which no doubt he will get).
In our opinion, Joseph is the team's top cornerback.
Even with his injuries last year, Joseph led the secondary in tackles during multiple games. Helped limit Peyton Manning to a season-low 185 yards passing and no touchdown passes. Two tackles against the Colts were on third down that stopped the offense's possession. Two interceptions (one returned for a touchdown) and three tackles against the Bills, leaving in the second quarter with an injury. And during Cincinnati's unlikely win over the San Diego Chargers, Joseph knocked down two passes and posted six tackles.
Back to Pro Football Focus' list, which ranks Joseph as the third-best free agent cornerback. Nnamdi Asomugha is listed as the best free agent and cornerback with Josh Wilson ranked as the second best cornerback. We're not saying that Joseph should be ranked ahead of Wilson, but if it were for the injuries clouding judgments, we're fairly certain that Joseph would be a top-five free agent this year.