clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

2016 NFL Draft: Potential Panther? Karl Joseph

Recently ESPN's Louis Riddick, himself a former NFL Safety, called West Virginia's Karl Joseph the best defensive back in the 2016 NFL Draft, but injuries caused him to miss all but four games last season. Who is he, and could he improve the Panthers' secondary?

Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Karl Joseph, Safety, West Virginia


A Haitian-American that grew-up as a soccer player.  Played all over the field for the Mountaineers. Lined up as a traditional safety, as a linebacker, and as a slot cornerback. Experienced in blitzing off the edge.

Joseph had an outstanding college career, starting with being named both a freshman All-American and WVU's defensive player of the year as a true-freshman, while leading the team with 104 tackles.

In 2013, Joseph notched 68 tackles with four passes broken up and an interception. He played better as a junior and started out the season with 18 tackles against Alabama in an impressive performance. Joseph continued his strong play throughout 2014 as he totaled 92 tackles, three passes broken up, one interception and two forced fumbles on the year.

Prior to his senior season, NFL Media ranked Joseph their top most physical player in college football. Joseph has drawn comparisons to former All-Pro safety Bob Sanders for the way he launches himself into ball carriers.

Unfortunately, Joseph's season came to a sudden end after suffering a torn ACL during a non-contact drill in practice. He only played in four games last season, but impressed scouts/media with five interceptions in that short time frame.

In 42 starts, beginning with the opener of his freshman year, Joseph made 284 tackles, had 16.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, nine interceptions, 14 pass breakups, eight forced fumbles and six fumble recoveries. Had zero penalties the past two seasons.

WVU coaches rave about him.  Team captain.  DUI. Profile

True high/low option with toughness for the box and straight line speed to play rangy center field. His average size and subsequent durability will concern some teams due to his aggressive, attacking demeanor; however, Joseph is talented enough to become an early starter and high­-impact safety down the road if the medicals check out.

NFL Combine/Pro Day

Watch Joseph talking to Deion Sanders and Mike Mayock at the NFL Combine. Mayock ranked Joseph as his first safety in his initial top-fives in February.

CBS Sports' Dane Brugler grades him as an early third-round pick:

"If you watch, the highlights, he's Earl Thomas, but it's hard for me to get on that train when you watch the entire tape and he's flying around missing these tackles. He's getting himself out of position, because he's so overaggressive that it works against him."

NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah called Joseph a "poor man's Earl Thomas" after WVU's Pro Day.

During West Virginia's Pro Day Joseph said:

"I'm on schedule. I think I'm ahead of schedule right now. Dr. Andrews said I'm ahead of schedule and I look good, so I'll be ready by training camp." (Josephs' surgery was done by renowned sports surgeon Dr. James Andrews)

Unable to work-out, Joseph measured 5-9 5/8, 205 pounds, or right in the middle of the Thomas (5-10 1/4, 208) and Bob Sanders (5-8 3/8, 204) comparison.

ESPN's Todd McShay discussed Joseph:

"Karl Joseph is absolutely vicious. I mean the guy could not care less about his body. I mean he torpedoes his body around the field, it's like every single play....he's a great tackler."

While Pro Football Focus graded him very highly, they question:

"Is he big enough to attack the same way he does in college at the next level? Getting into physical confrontations with offensive linemen at 205 pounds is not likely to go well in the NFL"

The Film

Against Alabama (2014), Joseph had a whopping 18 tackles.

My Thoughts

Plays bigger than size, but at just under 5'10/205, he has size limitations.  Of the hundreds of safeties that have went through the NFL Combine over the past ten years, Josephs height puts him in just the 2nd percentile.  While there are exceptions of players that have overcome size limitations, I am not on board with projecting him as the next Earl Thomas, and perhaps not even the next Matt Elam which is why I had Joseph with only a 4th round grade entering last season.

Given his playing style, Joseph has been surprisingly durable, and it's important to note that his torn ACL was suffered during a non-contact drill in practice, and not because of his size or aggressive playing style.

Against the run, Joseph is an instinctive and physical safety who shows no hesitation to stick his nose in the action. Against the pass, he is better in the short to intermediate areas, with great short-area quickness, and ability to close.

While a stand-out against the run, he does not always wrap-up and at times can be overly aggressive, taking himself out of plays. He is even more hit and miss against the pass, where his reputation as a ball hawk is largely unwarranted.

Prior to his senior season, in 38 career games, Joseph had just four interceptions. While everyone points to his five picks in just four games last season, remember three came against Georgia Southern. Joseph didn't almost equal his career interception total in one game, he stumbled upon three picks in ONE HALF. I'm sorry, but West Virginia beat Georgia Southern 44-0, and if trying to evaluate Joseph's projection to the NFL, you'd be better off using his high school film than this tape. Of coarse, his Alabama tape, and four games against Oklahoma are pretty impressive.

Since he is athletic enough to play man over the inside receiver and physical enough to play close "in the box", I feel Joseph projects best as a nickel back. He is a safety with cornerback size who excels when lined up in the slot.  I know I stand alone in my assessment that Joseph is being overrated, but I think a team will be making a mistake if they take Joseph before the third round.