I have never been a scout or a NFL general manager, but I am willing to watch a ton of football. By watching about 200 snaps of each prospect, we can really get a feel for a player and then know what we are talking about a bit better. It is no exact science, but the NFL hasn't quite figured out drafting either, so we are going to do the best we can. To read more about the 2016 NFL Draft Project, click here.
Karl Joseph, safety, West Virginia - 5-foot-10, 205 pounds - senior - No. 8
Over the years, it has always been a principle point of emphasis when discussing the safety position to remember the reason it is named "safety." You are the last line of defense. You are the only thing keeping a big play from becoming a touchdown. You are often our only hope to keep disaster from happening. So, when in doubt, play safety safely. Otherwise, there will be bad things happening frequently and losing games will become all too common.
That is why when you see a safety that is unbelievably aggressive and an absolute blur on the screen, it often makes people nervous. There is no way you can always feel safe and secure with a safety that is out looking for victims and getting everywhere he goes in a hurry. And that brings us to the complex study of Karl Joseph, the incredible play-making safety from West Virginia.
Joseph has four years of tape out there, which is a very good thing given that he has not played in a game since October 3 at Oklahoma -- where he was putting on an absolute show. Unfortunately, a few days later, he tore an ACL and has not finished his recovery. So, we have a somewhat complicated evaluation with no true 40 time and will need to count heavily on his medical exams to make sure that this isn't a case of damaged goods. If that knee checks out (like Todd Gurley last year), then this is one of the more exciting prospects in the entire draft. But, of course, that is an expensive "if." We used three of the four games he played in this year -- Georgia Southern, Maryland and Oklahoma.
What I liked: There is quite a list of exciting things as he makes plays. Lots of them. Interceptions are there with fine reactions, ball skills and the interest in jumping routes. Tackles for loss and sacks are found with blitzing with fine speed and purpose. Forced fumbles are there as he hits as hard as any player in this draft. And he is a tackling machine. One thing you find when watching him is that even big receivers start tip-toeing through his area, as his reputation as an assassin in the secondary precedes him, and obviously, in the current climate of the NFL, he will have to be aware of the trouble that can lead to if his technique isn't precise. He rocks players, but unlike some big hitters in previous drafts (Baylor's Ahmad Dixon in 2014), he also has amazing range to get from center field to the sideline, or can chase down a wheel route with quality hip movement and wheels. He seems to be a pretty special safety who is also a player his team adores and follows into battle.
What I did not like: His aggressive and collision settings are all the way to the maximum, which will give any coach indigestion for a safety. He will go for the big play, but the opposition has some players who can occasionally make you miss -- this will only increase at the next level -- and that means you can find tape of either a bad angle or an overaggressive angle that results in Joseph missing his mark, and then allowing a big play. Can he tone it down? Can he play safety a bit more safely? Also, the "kill shot" player is an endangered species in today's football world. I assume it won't happen overnight, but if you were to project Karl Joseph at the next level, he seems more likely than many to be the type to hear from the league office a time or two for taking out a player too high or too low in a league that is mindful of the issues they are facing. It also stands to reason that his body -- 5-10, 205 -- may not be the type to survive the long-term effects of playing that physically.
Summary and potential fit with the Cowboys: I think Karl Joseph is a very enticing player in the second round, but that's assuming his knee is raring to go. The Cowboys have not had an intimidating safety in years and years, and that one (Roy Williams) did not have the hips to play in the secondary of today's NFL. Joseph does not have those issues, but he does have a few warts in his game.
But a safety that can make plays, scare opponents and go get the ball? I watched him during his run and again yesterday for this report, and this is the type of player that I would really like at the right price. I assume the ACL injury is going to cause him to fall a bit, but that type of player is generally rare enough that someone is likely to take a chance in the top 40 or so. He seems like he has a real chance to be a special player and the type of guy who teams are going to regret passing on over a short-term injury. I like this player a lot and would have no problem with him at No. 34 -- and I'd be over the moon if he falls into their laps at the top of Round 3 (No. 67).
He is the type of player Dallas has been missing for a long time.