The Buffalo Bills’ defense has been inconsistent throughout the 2015 season as they’ve transitioned to Rex Ryan’s hybrid 3-4 defensive scheme. Some players throughout the front seven that were productive in Mike Pettine and Jim Schwartz’ defensive schemes that were based on 4-3 concepts haven’t been able to replicate that success in their new roles. So, going into the offseason and most notably the 2016 NFL Draft, it’s likely that the team will look to acquire defenders that fit the archetypes for the positions needed for Ryan’s system to thrive. Today, we’ll take a look at West Virginia safety Karl Joseph.
Previous Prospect Breakdowns
Karl Joseph is a rangy and physical safety that started 41 consecutive games since his true freshman season in 2012 before suffering a knee injury four games into his senior year. In those 3+ seasons, Joseph has recorded 280 tackles, 16.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, nine interceptions, 13 pass breakups and forced seven fumbles. In 2012 he was a Freshman All-American and in 2014 he was named First-Team All-Big 12.
Karl Joseph Physical Attributes
Karl Joseph is undersized for the safety position, standing 5’11” and weighing 197 pounds. However, he’s got incredible speed that allows him to cover from sideline-to-sideline and plays as physically as any safety in the nation. Joseph is small, but he has an incredible burst with closing speed and is a powerful hitter that will set the tone for the defense.
Karl Joseph Run Support
Despite weighing just 197 pounds, Karl Joseph is one of the most physical run defenders and best tacklers at the safety position. Whether he’s playing deep, in the box, or on the edge, Joseph has a knack for filling his lane and bringing down opposing running backs.
Against Alabama, a team known for running the ball down their opponent’s throats, Joseph recorded 18(!!!) tackles, with the majority coming against two big backs in T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry. In the following clip, Joseph is in the box at the top of the screen. At the snap, he delivers a hit to the oncoming receiver looking to block him and chases down Yeldon, tackling him at the sideline.
In the next play, Joseph walks down to the line of scrimmage and chases Yeldon down from the backside of the play, bringing him down for a loss.
Karl Joseph has great instincts, especially against option offenses. Here against Maryland, Joseph’s lined up about 10-12 yards as a single-high safety. West Virginia’s edge defender rushes the quarterback who pitches the ball to the running back. Joseph flies down the field and blows the play up for a loss.
Against Georgia Southern, Joseph single-handedly defends this option run—staying patient in between the quarterback and running back, before showcasing his agility by turning and bringing down the quarterback who keeps the ball.
Karl Joseph is one of the more aggressive run defending safeties in this year’s draft, but that aggressiveness can also backfire at times, as he’ll take poor angles to the ball-carrier that result in big gains for the offense.
Joseph sets the tone with his hard-hitting ability, but at times he’ll lower his head and leave his feet in order to deliver the knockout hit, rather than wrapping up which results in missed tackles.
Karl Joseph Pass Coverage Ability
Karl Joseph has incredible range and lateral agility that allows the West Virginia defense to run a variety of coverages. Joseph can defend the deep middle 1/3 of the field in Cover 1 or Cover 3 due to his sideline-to-sideline range.
Joseph doesn’t have the best route anticipation, but his speed allows him to quickly close on receivers and prevent additional yardage after-the-catch.
Joseph’s speed allows him to recover even when he takes a false step, as you can see in the following play that ultimately results in a great interception. Joseph steps down before turning and running with his man, gains inside leverage and boxes him out to intercept the pass.
Here, he makes a ridiculous interception on an errant pass that’s thrown behind him.
Potential Fit With The Buffalo Bills
Rex Ryan loves hard-hitting safeties that can line up in the box and fill against the run, but Karl Joseph is much smaller than the safeties he’s used in the past. However, Joseph’s range and physicality are reminiscent to that of an Earl Thomas-type of free safety. Rex’s scheme relies on a lot of man-free coverage (Cover 1) so having a player like Karl Joseph who can play the deep middle and strike fear on receivers running in-breaking routes could be valuable.
Joseph also might transition to nickel corner, where his ability to play the run, blitz and short-area explosiveness could be best used. All-in-all, Karl Joseph is a talented player that’s incredibly fun to watch. If his knee is cleared by the draft, he’s a lock to be selected among the top 50 picks of the upcoming draft.