Oakland High School graduate and LSU safety JaCoby Stevens getting drafted was a surprise to virtually nobody.

However, switching from safety to linebacker in the NFL is a move that not many saw coming. That’s exactly what Stevens is doing after being drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in the sixth round of the 2021 NFL Draft.

“Literally as soon as I got off the phone, tears just came out of my eyes,” Stevens told reporters after his selection. “I'm just really excited. It's a dream come true I'm able to come to Philly and play in front of some loyal and good, supportive fans. 

"…At the end of the day, my thing is about coming in and being able to contribute any way possible. So, if they ... want me to play linebacker or safety, regardless of what position ..., my job now is to contribute to the Philadelphia Eagles defense."

Stevens appeared destined for big things after committing to LSU in 2016. He starred for the Oakland Patriots, where he was a five-star prospect and the No. 18 overall recruit in the country in 2017. He was ranked as the No. 1 safety in the nation and the No. 2 overall recruit in Tennessee behind Tennessee offensive lineman Trey Smith — viewed by some prep talent evaluation services as the top-ranked recruit in the country.

Stevens recorded 61 tackles, nine interceptions, 34 receptions, 673 receiving yards, 12 receiving touchdowns, two punt return touchdowns and one kickoff return touchdown as a senior, helping to lead Oakland to a 14-1 record and a Class 6A state runner-up finish.

Playing several positions in college including safety, linebacker and cornerback in dime packages, Stevens showcased his effectiveness as a blitzer and an ability to move around the field. At 6-foot-1 and 212 pounds, the Eagles believe Stevens has the size, strength and athleticism to translate to an NFL linebacker. 

Philadelphia lacks depth at the position behind Eric Wilson, Alex Singleton and T.J. Edwards, and Stevens could get his feet wet as a rookie on special teams while he learns the linebacker position.

“We were fortunate enough to spend time with [Stevens] in Mobile at the Senior Bowl,” said Andy Weidl, Eagles VP of player personnel. “(We) took advantage of the opportunity. He's a very productive blitzer [and] tackler. He's tough, he's physical. And he's a guy we're excited to add.”

Stevens finished his LSU career with 190 tackles, 21.5 tackles for loss, 9.5 sacks, four interceptions and four forced fumbles. He was named an All-SEC second team selection in 2019 and led LSU in tackles in 2020 with 63.

Follow Michael Gallagher on Twitter @MGsports_

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