Karl Joseph came into his senior season at West Virginia University near the top of everyone's NFL Draft boards, but an ACL injury during a non-contact drill at practice in October left everyone wondering what impact it would have on Joseph's NFL hopes.
Joseph came to West Virginia out of Orlando, FL as a three-star recruit, and immediately made an impact on the Mountaineer program. Joseph earned the starting safety job in his Freshman season, due to the lack of depth on the Mountaineer roster, and never looked back. He earned Freshman All-American honors that year, and his legacy at West Virginia began to grow.
Throughout his career as a Mountaineer, Joseph racked up 208 solo tackles, 16.5 tackles for loss, 9 interceptions and 8 forced fumbles. He was a first team All-Big 12 player in 2014, and a second team All-American in 2015, despite only playing in four games.
Due to Joseph's ACL injury and recovery, he was unable to participate in the NFL Draft Combine in Indianapolis, IN. Joseph also decided against a full workout in front of NFL scouts at West Virginia's pro day on April 5th, but did participate in the bench press.
|Bench Press||19 (225 lbs)|
Despite being unable to workout in front of NFL scouts, Joseph still considers himself to be the best player in this year's NFL Draft.
"I do think I'm the best football player in this draft, not just defense. The film don't lie. I have plenty of film that speaks for itself."
Joseph is a natural team leader that brings physicality and great football IQ to the field. He is a play-making safety with the ability to play tight coverage, take away a receiver and come away with the interception. Through four games in 2015, Joseph lead the NCAA with five interceptions, three of which came in one game. Joseph has a nose for the football and you can count on him to find his way into virtually every play whether it is dropping a runner in the backfield, throwing a bone-rattling hit in the open field or breaking up passes to an intended receiver. Joseph manages to stay rather healthy despite his affinity for the big hits, and played in every game of his career at West Virginia leading up to the practice where his knee injury occurred.
Joseph is a bit undersized for a prototypical NFL safety, much like Arizona Cardinals and former LSU Tiger safety Tyrann Mathieu, but due to the way the game has evolved that shouldn't deter his play-making abilities. Karl likes to go for the big hits, and because of that he sometimes leaves his assignment a step too early causing a breakdown in his fundamental techniques. Some NFL scouts are leery of Joseph's love the bone-jarring hits, and believe it could lead to injuries throughout his career.
The Raiders are in need of a safety after Charles Woodson's retirement following the 2015 season, and Karl Joseph would be ideal in Oakland's defense. The Raiders have the 14th pick in the first round, but will most likely pass on taking Joseph that early due to the questions surrounding his ACL injury. Should Joseph still be on the board when the Raiders are back on the clock in the second round with the 44th overall pick, Karl may find himself on the same team as another Mountaineer favorite in Oaktown.
The Redskins have an immediate need at safety, and Joseph's ability to play as the eighth man in the box or to drop into coverage is exactly what the Washington Redskins are looking for. Washington has the 21st pick in the first round of the draft, and that may be the right time to jump on Joseph before someone else can steal him away.
The Steelers are also looking to build their secondary, and they might not have to look farther than their own backyard to find what they need. Joseph has the blue-collar work ethic that Pittsburgh is known for drafting. Pittsburgh has the 25th pick in the first round, and head coach Mike Tomlin met with Joseph at West Virginia's pro day and brought him to Pittsburgh for a pre-draft visit. Pittsburgh hasn't picked a safety in the first round since selecting Troy Polomalu in 2003, but Joseph may be the type of player they believe they can't let slip past them and into the second round.
Outlook & Projection
Joseph is still considered the top safety prospect in this year's NFL Draft by many experts, and has found himself back in the first round on several mock drafts. The only thing that may stop him from becoming the fourth West Virginia Mountaineer selected in the first round in five years will be the questions surrounding his ACL injury and recovery. Joseph was a sure fire first round pick prior to the injury, but teams may be hesitant to pick him that early if he can't come in and participate in training camp.
Projection: Late 1st round - middle 2nd round