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Player Spotlight: Karl Joseph

A detailed look at Karl Joseph's fantasy prospects for 2016.

A VOID IN THE BLACK HOLE

Though future Hall of Fame cornerback Charles Woodson was thirty-nine when he hung up his cleats, he had managed to stay productive until retirement.  In his final year, Woodson logged 59 solo stops, five interceptions, nine passes defensed, and a forced fumble. Oakland’s Head Coach Jack Del Rio recognized Woodson’s contributions by issuing the following statement when Woodson announced he would not be returning for a nineteenth season:

Charles Woodson is the consummate professional. He is what I would call a generational player. His leadership, toughness and work ethic are unmatched. He loves football and, like many of the game’s greatest players, he loves to compete. He has been a pleasure to coach and he truly is a Raider great.

Knowing that the up-and-coming defense had such a big void to fill in the backfield, Oakland got busy in free agency and the Draft. They first recruited Reggie Nelson to take over the free safety spot vacated by a demoted Nate Allen. Then, with the fourteenth pick of the first round of the Draft, the Raiders selected West Virginia’s Karl Joseph.

HIGH CHARACTER HITMAN

By all accounts, Joseph is well respected by both his peers and coaches. He was a team captain for both the 2014 and 2015 season. West Virginia’s Head Coach Dana Holgerson gushed about Joseph on a radio station interview:

In today’s day and time, there’s a lot of kids that don’t do the right thing and they want things to happen for them very quickly and right now and make bad decisions in the meantime. This is a guy that makes the right decisions. He made the right decision coming back to school. He made the right decisions every day. It was a joy to coach and everybody’s going to fall in love with him.

Aside from being a high character guy, Joseph is best known for his hitting. He delivers punishing blows, so much so that he has been branded with the nickname “hitman” by fans.Though he loves to hit, Joseph can be used in multiple ways. He has demonstrated the ability to cover man-to-man when asked to do so. Though he is most at home operating in the box, he has the range to play free safety if needed. Joseph has a real propensity for turnovers. He demonstrates understanding of how to play the ball in the air to come away with an interception. In 2015, he was leading the college game in takeaways before his injury shut him down. His jarring hits also forced a fumble or two each year.  These things make Joseph a versatile chess piece with which new Defensive Coordinator Ken Norton Jr. will enjoy scheming.

CRITIQUING KARL

Joseph comes with both potential and existing health concerns. He suffered a non-contact ACL tear in 2015 that ended his season. It’s very possible that he could get off to a slow start due to needing to adjust to the speed of the game and to acclimate to playing with his repaired knee. Joseph has drawn many comparisons in playing style to former Colts safety Bob Sanders. While he is two inches taller than Sanders, Joseph does sacrifice his body in the same ways. There are concerns among those in the scouting community that like the oft-injured Sanders, the reckless way Joseph plays with paired with lacking a thick frame could lead to constant injuries. Some other issues with Joseph seen on film are that on rare occasions, he gets so enthusiastic to make a big play that he blows his coverage responsibilities. He will sometimes be so intent on delivering a big hit that his tackling form breaks down and he misses.

POSITIVES

  • A very complete player, Joseph will immediately start when he has fully rehabbed his ACL injury.

  • Joseph’s versatility will mean he will not come off the field, even in subpackages.

  • A prolific tackler and turnover generator, Joseph ultimately has top-ten safety potential in IDP formats.

NEGATIVES

  • Joseph may get off to a slow start as he continues to recover from a knee injury suffered in 2015.

  • Somewhat careless with his body, Joseph’s style of play could land him on the injury report more often than some of his peers.

  • Joseph may need to put on some “man weight” to help mitigate the risk of injury.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Joseph is a diligent worker who is passionate about the game. Have faith in him to put in the work in the weight room to develop a sturdier frame. Combining his knee injury with the adjustment to the pro game, Joseph may get off to a slow start. However, when he gets rolling, he has what it takes to become a perennial top-ten safety. In typical IDP leagues, defensive back production is less scarce than any other position, a subject covered in this article. That being said, Joseph should be considered in the mid-to-late third or later of dynasty drafts where IDPs and offensive players are mixed in the rookie draft pool.

2016 PROJECTIONS

JOHN NORTON'S PROJECTIONS

G

TKL

AST

SCK

FF

FR

PD

INT

TD

FPT

16

69

21

1

2

1

10

4

0

163.25

AARON RUDNICKI'S PROJECTIONS

G

TKL

AST

SCK

FF

FR

PD

INT

TD

FPT

16

64

24

1

1

1

8

4

0

146.00

OTHER VIEWPOINTS

In his 2016 NFL Draft Prospect Preview, Charlie Campbell praised Joseph:

There is a lot to like about the way that Joseph plays. He is a physical safety who is a good form tackler, covers a lot of ground and packs a real punch. His playing style is similar to Baltimore's Matt Elam, Tampa Bay's D.J. Swearinger and the Giants' Landon Collins. Joseph is just smaller than a few of those recent first- and second-round picks. Joseph has shown some ability to play deep as a free safety and is very aggressive in the tackle box. He has demonstrated zero hesitation to stick his nose in with linemen and make tackles. In the tackle box, Joseph has the aggressiveness and physicality to make plays. He has good playing speed and covers a lot of ground. Joseph will enter the NFL with plus instincts and has a lot of experience.

In the negatives section of Joseph’s scouting report, Dane Brugler lists the following criticisms of his game:

“Joseph doesn't have ideal size. Although he has his highlight-reel hits, Joseph needs to be a smarter striker to avoid flags at the next level and he also needs to improve in the open field, often overpursuing and losing the ballcarrier in space.”