Back in September, I wrote a scouting report on Karl Joseph and made the claim that he was one of my favorite players to watch in the 2016 NFL Draft because of his aggressive playing style. Seven months later, the Raiders selected the West Virginia safety with the 14th overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft. Here is an updated look at the ball-hawking safety and what he brings to the Silver and Black.
Weight: 205 lbs
Arm Length: 32 1/8"
Hand Size: 9 3/4"
2015 (4 games): 20 Tackles, 5 INT
2014: 92 Tackles, 1 INT, 3 Pass Breakups, 3 Forced Fumbles
2013: 68 Tackles, 1 INT, 4 Pass Breakups
2012: 104 Tackles, 2 INT, 6 Pass Breakups, 3 Forced Fumbles
2014: First Team All-Big 12
2013: All-Big 12 Honorable Mention
2012: All-Big 12 Honorable Mention, Freshman All-American
I've said it over and over but Karl Joseph is a heat-seeking missile. He has a nose for the ball and routinely comes flying out of nowhere to make a tackle. Despite his small stature, Joseph has the ability to punish receivers with his big hitting ability. While these impressive plays have gained him a reputation, his coverage skills are equally impressive as he recorded five interceptions in just four games last season.
Joseph has the leadership qualities that the Raiders covet and he was the team captain of a talented West Virginia defense. As a four-year starter in the Big 12 Conference, Joseph has plenty of experience playing against top competition including when he led the Mountaineers with 18 tackles against Alabama.
An underrated aspect of Joseph's game is his excellent versatility as he can play single high safety, in the box, in the slot as a nickelback, and is also effective coming off the edge as a blitzer. This allows defensive coordinators to use him in many different ways which helps throw off opposing offensive game plans. S&BP staff writer Ted Nguyen highlighted this topic with greater detail in his excellent analysis of Joseph.
The two primary concerns draft evaluations have with Joseph are his size and injury history. At 5'10", 205 lbs, Joseph is a smaller safety that plays with the mindset of Kam Chancellor. Unless he learns to take better angles, injuries could plague his career just as they did with All-Pro safety Bob Sanders. Ultimately, I am not too concerned with his size and I compare him to Seahawks All-Pro Safety Earl Thomas who is also of identical size and playing style.
The other question Joseph comes with is his knee as he suffered an ACL tear in 2015 that caused him to miss the rest of his senior season. Luckily, it was a clean tear and Joseph is expected to make a full recovery and hopes to be 100% for training camp.
What he brings to the Raiders
The addition of Reggie Nelson provides the Raiders flexibility where they play Joseph. I expect him to be utilized as a free safety, strong safety, nickelback, and also a blitzer off the edge. Joseph's aggressive playing style will provide a spark for the defense. As for pass coverage, Nelson and Joseph are both ball-hawks and should provide an upgrade at the position formerly held by Pro Bowl safety Charles Woodson. The Raiders secondary has drastically improved from 2015, and Karl Joseph is one of the primary reasons behind the change.