Karl Joseph, S, West Virginia: Early Scouting Report


Nov 2, 2013; Fort Worth, TX, USA; West Virginia Mountaineers safety Karl Joseph (8) during the game against the TCU Horned Frogs at Amon G. Carter Stadium. West Virginia won 30-27. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The next featured prospect of the “Early Scouting Report” series is the small, but violent Karl Joseph, safety from West Virginia. As I have said before about the safety class of 2016, this is going to be best at the top end since the year of 2010. Three Pro Bowl safeties were drafted that year: Earl Thomas, Eric Berry, and Devin McCourty. I not only expect there to be three safeties taken in the first round this year, but I think that at least one of these guys can reach All-Pro status as well. With that being said, one player who is in that discussion is Karl Joseph.


Has started all 38 games that he has played in showing durability is not a factor here. He was also the team captain for the Mountaineers in 2014. Named 1st Team All Big 12 honors with 92 tackles, three pass breakups, three forced fumbles, and one interception. He is listed at 5’11 197 lbs, but he looks like he is 5’9 and I believe that scaling was a bit inflated.


+ Joseph is easily one of the best open field tacklers in the 2016 NFL Draft class regardless of position. What makes him a good open field tackler, is how he puts himself in the best position to make the play one on one, and finishes with his pad level low with excellent technique. Here is a short clip where he makes a disciplined, fundamental open field tackle on Blake Sims.

+ He is a force in run support when in the box and will rarely take a poor pursuit angle. Joseph is not afraid to stick his nose at the LOS either, in fact, he will blow it up if you blink. Just an extremely physical player who lives off of the contact he brings to opponents.

+ Very good when asked to cover man to man in the nickel. Joseph gets a lot of heat for his deficiencies to play in the back end, but his ability to play physical at the LOS and derail the WR off of his route in the slot makes him especially valuable. Plays with patience and doesn’t get flustered when the WR makes a quick jab, for example.

+ He has the necessary athleticism and ball skills that a typical NFL safety possesses. Joseph doesn’t necessarily rack up the interceptions, but he will always go for the ball in pass breakup situations and will try to strip the ball. Just has the innate feeling and nose for the ball as he is a magnet to wherever the football lands.


– One of the biggest concerns about Karl Joseph is his lack of height. I wouldn’t be too worried about it, but NFL GM’s and scouts are surely going to be a bit wary to put him as an elite safety when only 5’9.

– In my opinion, the biggest knock on Karl Joseph is his questionable play in the back end. He over-estimates his range and takes a bad angle over the top to get in between the WR and the ball. This explains his deficiencies in zone coverage in the back end. Is he just a box safety? That is my overall question, but I do think he can improve in this area. He has the athleticism necessary, but just needs to put it all together in taking better range angles.

– Something that was evident on film, and occurred more than I was comfortable with was the fact that he gets a bit lost in zone coverage, and will lose track of the receiver in the open field. This is because of the lack of mental processing and read/react skills he has in zone coverage. I would like to see him receive his run/pass keys from the OL quicker, which in turn, will give him the necessary boost to put him in an advantageous position. Here is an example.

NFL Comparison

TJ Ward/Matt Elam

* I put two players here for a reason. First off, he can be a Pro Bowl caliber safety if he can just take better range angles over the top as well as becoming more aware in zone coverage. Like TJ Ward, he is a sure-fire tackler that is a force in the box in run support. However, if he stays on the same path of over-estimating his range and failing to acquire skills of a centerfielder, he will end up on the Matt Elam side of things. I cannot wait to see the improvement in Karl Joseph in 2015, and I believe he can be a top tier prospect, if he can shore up these issues in zone coverage.

Projection for ’15/’16

* Will cement his status as a top tier safety of the 2016 NFL Draft and will surely be in the discussion for a first round selection in the mid to late part of the round. Expect him to live up to his production as Preseason All Big 12, as he could enter the 2016 NFL Draft as one of the most productive college football players in the entire class.

Next: Jonathan Jones Early Scouting Report