As you should know by now, our attention has now shifted to the 2016 NFL Draft as it relates to the prospects. From now until the draft takes place, we hope to profile as many draft prospects as we possibly can for you. Most of these player profiles will be centered around prospects the Pittsburgh Steelers are likely to have interest in.
Looking at hard hitting safety Karl Joseph.
#8, Karl Joseph — WVU/Safety/5’10”/205 Lbs/Senior
-Strong in support against the run
-Sound open-field tackler who showcases ability to break down and wrap up in space
-High-motor player that is constantly searching for the ball
-Able to process what’s happening in front of him quickly
-Physical tackler that strikes fear in opponents
-Effective Blitzer off the edge that can disrupt plays quickly
-Really good ball skills for a safety
-Excels in man-coverage and appears very comfortable in zone coverage
-Impressive closing speed from safety position against the run
-Prone to ducking his head against lead blocker, leading to him missing play completely
-Tends to take some bad angles to ball carrier
-Can be overaggressive at times, which can lead to big plays
-Labors to flip hips and change direction in coverage
-Doesn’t have great speed to cover sideline-to-sideline in deep safety role
-Average instincts in coverage
-Over-aggressiveness can lead him to bites on play-action fakes
-Was never really challenged vertically while at WVU
-Coming off of torn ACL during senior season
-Started in every game he played with the Mountaineers (42 games)
-Team leader and voted captain two straight years
-Holds WVU’s career record for most forced fumbles
-Picked off nine career passes, including five in four games during 2015 season
-First true freshman to start at safety for Mountaineers since 2008
Let’s just get this out of the way first: for my money (if that accounts for anything) Karl Joseph is in the conversation for best safety in this draft class. While he’s not ahead of Jalen Ramsey in my book, he’s neck-and-neck with the Florida State product, which many expect to go in the first three picks in this class.
So where does that leave Joseph? Well, if the West Virginia product didn’t tear his ACL in non-contact drills last fall, the 5-foot-10, 205-pound wrecking ball of a safety is likely in the discussion as a top 10 pick this year.
Alas, Joseph did tear his ACL, but that shouldn’t turn teams away from a one-man wrecking crew that not only strikes fear into opposing players, but can also strike fear into his own coaching staff with his hell-bent playing style as a safety.
Without question, I think Joseph is the hardest hitter in this class. While he is know for laying some serious hits coming up against the run from his safety spot, Joseph is also prone to some missed tackles that could really hurt his team.
Take a look these two clips from the Maryland game this past season.
In the first clip, Joseph processes what’s happening in front of him very quickly, allowing him to plant and go to get downhill fast. By getting to the spot, Joseph is able to make the big play behind the line of scrimmage, wrapping up the running back behind the line of scrimmage to force a punt.
That’s a positive play that Joseph flashes a lot when coming up from safety, but then there are times where he makes you want to pull your hair out.
In the second clip, Joseph does everything right at the snap by reading the play and breaking on the ball carrier quickly. What he fails to do is take a proper angle.
Granted, Joseph is coming from the far side of the field, but by flattening out his angle, he puts himself in chase mode as the running back blows by him for the big gain.
His over-aggression against the run costs him here again against the Texas Longhorns in 2014.
For a guy that really excels as an open-field tackler, Joseph gets hung out to dry here by the Texas running back.
As the last line of defense that just simply can’t happen. Joseph guessed wrong in a big way, which allowed the running back to sprint to the end zone for a touchdown.
I’m sure that play didn’t go over well in film reviews. Neither did this one.
Despite being a strong defender against the run from his safety position, Joseph seems to have a very, very rough time as a single-high safety.
In terms of watching film this year that is easily the ugliest play I’ve seen from any prospect I’ve watched. To just give up and turn and run like that is a poor job by Joseph, but that’s just one play that likely was used as a teaching moment, because I never saw it again in the five games that I watched.
Still in the single-high safety role, Joseph doesn’t have great speed to cover sideline-to-sideline while playing the centerfield role, but when he’s able to get to one side of the field to make a play, he usually makes the play in a big way.
On this play Joseph is lined up in the deep slot before drifting back to the center of the field. From there, Joseph is able to read Baker Mayfield’s eyes, which takes him to the sideline where he de-cleats the Oklahoma receiver, forcing the incompletion.
He’s definitely a head hunter who lives for the big hits, so that could give him problems at the next level with the rule changes, but you need a physical presence or two in your secondary in today’s game.
Joseph will step in from day one to provide that in a big way.
Outside of single-high responsibilities, Joseph really impresses in man-coverage despite having stiff hips and limited change of direction burst.
In both clips Joseph stays right in the hip pocket of the defender, forcing the quarterback to make a perfect throw for the completion.
In the first clip against Texas, Joseph does a great job of turning and running with the receiver while crowding him towards the boundary, which is what he’s expected to do in that instance.
In the second clip, by staying on the hip pocket of the receiver, Joseph is essentially running the route with the receiver. By doing that, Joseph is able to jump the route for the interception, which happened to be the third pick of the game for him against Georgia Southern.
The only major concern outside of the ones listed above is how Joseph will check out medically.
I think it’s safe to assume he’ll lose some of that closing speed burst, but he’s a smart safety that doesn’t take a ton of chances in coverage, wraps up consistently when making tackles and will still possess that feared striking ability.
He’s a guy I’d look at in the late first and consider taking as long as he checks out medically.
Joseph is as close to pro-ready as a prospect can be at this point. Now it’s just up to his next coaching staff to try and reign in his aggression to a point where it doesn’t hurt the team much while not taking away his biggest strength as a football player.
For a team in need of a safety after the top three picks, the first place those teams look should be to Morgantown.
Projection: Late 1st
Games Watched: vs. Alabama (’14), at Texas (’14), vs. Georgia Southern (’15), vs. Maryland (’15), at Oklahoma (’15)