If you are like me, you probably have West Virginia safety Karl Joseph as possibly being one of handful of players who the Pittsburgh Steelers will ultimately select in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft. With that said, not having access to the medical records related to the knee injury that Joseph suffered during a practice last October that resulted in him missing most of the 2015 season certainly doesn’t help when it comes to projecting whether or not the Steelers will ultimately be willing to make him their first round selection.
During Monday’s annual pre-draft press conference, Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert was asked to talk about what goes into the process of evaluating injured players who they don’t get an opportunity to see run or go through individual workouts ahead of a draft.
“We have to evaluate them based on what they did,” said Colbert. “We won’t be able to verify certain things, like 40-yard dashes or change of direction, so you evaluate them based on what they did and then you follow that up with what our doctors will tell us, when they will be healthy. And It’s a projection, it’s a guess and we have to take a calculated risk, and we’ll try to do that.
“But, we can just go on the information we got from watching them play. We have no workout information and as you mentioned, we drafted a guy like Heath Miller who had a great career. But our doctors have to be part of that decision and they have to give us an idea about when and if that player can return from that injury. And there will be risk involved, but part of that falls on our evaluation and part of that will fall on the doctors’ medical evaluation, as to whether or not they think they can make it back, and we just have to put those two together.”
Colbert was then asked if he would ever draft a player who he was convinced wouldn’t be ready to start the season because of an injury.
“I think we already did that with Heath, I can’t remember specifically the discussion,” said Colbert.
Colbert was then reminded that Heath Miller was ready for the start of the 2005 season as he had fully healed from his offseason hernia surgery.
“I can’t remember at this point and time whether we knew that when we drafted him,” said Colbert. “He was coming off of the hernia surgery. Again, the doctors will project whether he should be ready, but you won’t know that until minicamp, OTAs or maybe even training camp. So a lot of times you go into it with the mindset that this player may have to start the season on PUP, Physically Unable to Perform, and then factor that in to your evaluation. if he is only going to be a PUP guy, can we take him in a certain round? If he exceeds that, then it’s a bonus.”
As for Joseph, he said at his pro day that he expects to be ready for the start of training camp even though since then there was one report following his combine medical re-check that indicated he might miss the first quarter of the 2016 season. With all of that said, I’m sure the Steelers and their medical staff have finished their pre-draft medical evaluations when it comes to Joseph and assuming his knee checked out, you would really have to think they wouldn’t have an issue spending a first round draft pick on the top-rated safety.
While Joseph was only able to play in four games last season before suffering his injury, he played in and started a total of 42 games while at West Virginia and so that’s a lot of tape for the Steelers to evaluate. Not only did they attend Joseph’s pro day, they also brought him to Pittsburgh for a pre-draft visit a few weeks ago.
In my opinion, Joseph stands a good chance of being the Steelers first round pick this year and should that wind up being the case, a worst case scenario would be that he misses the first six weeks of the regular season while finishing up his rehab on the team’s PUP list. A best-case scenario, however, would be that he’s ready for the start of training camp.
Either way, even if Joseph was fully rehabbed right now, the chances of him cracking the starting lineup by the start of the regular season would be very, very slim. So with that, it’s not a huge deal that he could potentially wind up missing the first six weeks of the season.