The Raiders fortified their secondary in Thursday’s NFL Draft, adding hard-hitting West Virginia safety Karl Joseph with the No. 14 overall pick.
“You can feel his passion,” Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie said. “You can feel his intensity, the way he plays. You can feel his toughness. He has a very aggressive mentality. He’s versatile. He plays all over the field. He’ll run and hit anything that moves.”
Joseph may have been a mild surprise at No. 14. He had been projected more as a late first round pick thanks to a senior year knee injury. McKenzie would’ve considered a trade back to later in the first round, but nothing materialized.
“If anything would have come up, I would have entertained it,” McKenzie said. “We’re just happy we got him. Wherever we got him, it wouldn’t have mattered. He was our 14th pick and we’re happy to get him.”
Even Joseph admitted some surprised at being selected so soon. He said he had a good interview with the Raiders at the NFL scouting combine in February, but his other contact with them had been minimal.
“I’m so happy the coaching staff with the Raiders took a chance on me,” Joseph said on a conference call. “Once I picked up that phone, I promised they won’t regret that pick.”
Joseph did not attend the draft and instead watched from Haiti, where he was born and still has family on his mother’s side. Joseph will spend the next few days in Haiti as well and won’t come to town until the team’s rookie mini camp begins May 13.
“Everybody dreams of going and walking across the stage,” Joseph said, “but me, I wanted to do something that meant a lot more and being with my family.”
The 5-foot-11, 200-pound Joseph tore his anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee to end his senior season after just four games. He’s expected to be ready to go by training camp.
“The knee’s feeling good so I’ve just got to keep strengthening it and get ready,” Joseph said.
McKenzie also said they received positive reviews from the Raiders’ medical team.
“He’s going to be ready to roll,” McKenzie said. “Our doctors gave us the thumbs up.”
Joseph is yet another addition to a secondary that was Oakland’s chief concern entering the offseason. They signed Sean Smith in free agency to pair with David Amerson at cornerback and also added safety Reggie Nelson. Joseph figures to have a good chance to start at alongside Nelson in the defensive backfield.
“We’re looking to be really good on defense,” coach Jack Del Rio said. “Obviously we’ve talked about secondary play and our desire to have it perform at higher level. The temperament that he brings and the intensity that he plays with, the instinctiveness that he has, those are things that we covet. It’ll be a real competitive group. We’ve added a couple of guys in free agency and now to be able to add a player like Karl is awesome for us and now we get to work.”
Like McKenzie, Joseph raved about his own passion when asked to describe himself as a player.
“I’m a dog,” Joseph said. “I play with that intensity. I play with a chip on my shoulder. I’m very confident in myself. I play with a deep passion and love for the game. I don’t think there’s anybody in this draft that plays with more passion than me.”
The flash in Joseph’s game comes from his hitting ability and support in the run game, but he’s equally skilled against the pass and has good ball skills.
“I wouldn’t take anything away from his ball-hawking ability,” Del Rio said. “I think his instincts, his ability to read quarterbacks, to catch the ball, not just knock them down, but catch them. He’s a playmaker and he’s a playmaker that takes good angles and also tackles and is known for his hitting, but he’s more than just a hitter.”