Career Recap: A few years back, I nicknamed the Big XII college football's version of the Arena league. With the high-scoring offenses and weak defenses, it made sense. One of the teams that fit that criteria was West Virginia, and while the program's defense had some issues stopping teams from scoring, Karl Joseph stood out as he was playing at another level. The quick and physical safety has always been around the ball, starting in his freshman season in 2012 when he had 104 tackles with two interceptions, three forced fumbles, six passes broken up, one sack and seven tackles for a loss.
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.
2015 Season Outlook: Joseph will see some quality weapons during the 2015 season. To start off the year, his run defense will be challenged by Georgia Southern and its dynamic ground attack.
Joseph is going to see a tough test with Oklahoma wide receiver Sterling Shepard and running back Samaje Perine to open October. Shutting them down will be critical to any hope of West Virginia knocking off the Sooners.
Later in the month, Joseph will see the Baylor point-machine. This should be a nice gauge for Joseph's pass-coverage abilities as the Bears have two 1,000-yard receivers in Corey Coleman and K.D. Cannon. Baylor also has a talented running back in Shock Linwood.
Perhaps the toughest quarterback who Joseph will take on is TCU's Trevone Boykin, who had an excellent 2014 season. The Horned Frogs; offense was extremely tough last year and figures to be again this fall.
Skill-Set Summary: 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.
As a senior, it would help if Joseph showed improved ball skills and performed well in pass coverage. If he can illustrate that he has the ability to cover slot receivers and tight ends, it could be very good for his draft stock.
Some NFL teams will ding him for his height and will question his ability to defend big receivers downfield along with tight ends. If Joseph can show that he overcome his height like some other safeties have, that could make a big difference for where he gets selected.
2016 NFL Draft Expectations: Entering the 2015 season, Joseph looks like a potential early-round selection. A first-round grade isn't impossible, but he looks more likely to be a second-day pick.