Round 1, Pick 14: Karl Joseph, S, West Virginia
This was a logical choice for most observers and prognosticators, though some – including this author – thought the Raiders would make a move for a linebacker or interior defensive lineman here. Joseph was widely regarded as the best safety in this draft class, though that was debatable, and his selection by the Raiders to compliment Reggie Nelson in the near term and to be a long-term starter in the defensive backfield makes sense.
Joseph is a hard-hitting safety who has great range and speed to get from inside the numbers out to the boundary as a single-high or cover 2 safety. He excels at tracking and closing on the ball and finishing with an interception with ball skills that rival those of many wideouts at the college level. He draws comparisons to Antone Bethea but his hard-hitting style combined with a small but strong frame remind me more of Bob Sanders.
Unfortunately, injuries kept Bob Sanders out of some of the Colts’ most important games during his time in the league and ended his career prematurely, and that is a concern for Joseph. While he hasn’t yet paid the price for his reckless hitting style, he did suffer a torn ACL during practice this past year and missed most of the 2015 season. His knee shouldn’t prevent him from competing in camp or during the 2016 season, but it is a risk. Also, Joseph’s “woo-hitting” style may not work in the NFL, where receivers are heavily protected from the most savage hits. While Raider fans may see him as a throwback to the days of Jack “The Assassin” Tatum, I’d warn fans to keep in mind that Jack Tatum would likely be drummed out of the league if he played today.