MORGANTOWN. W.Va. — In December 2011, West Virginia beat out Central Florida for the commitment of a three-star recruit from Orlando Edgewater. Rivals rated the kid its 36th-best high school safety that year, while ESPN ranked him 38th at his position and Scout had him 39th.
Karl Joseph immediately began outdistancing those projections.
A starter from his first college game as a true freshman through last October’s practice when he tore an ACL, Joseph became the first safety selected in Thursday night’s NFL draft, going 14th overall to Oakland.
In becoming West Virginia’s 12th first-round pick, Joseph also became the first Big 12 player selected—the second consecutive year WVU has owned that distinction after Kevin White went No. 7 last year.
Joseph was projected to earn a rookie deal worth $11.8 million over four seasons with a signing bonus of about $6.84 million.
Some 207 days removed from his final game at West Virginia, Joseph has yet to regain full clearance on the knee. NFL personnel departments didn’t time him in the combine 40 or watch him shuttle through cones at pro day. Instead they watched him play 42 games’ worth of football and came away convinced that even at a shade under 5-foot-10, this guy can have an impact.
“My film speaks for itself,” he said during the runup to the draft. “I don’t tend to say much, but when I say I’m the best football player in this draft, I believe it. My film don’t lie. I have three-plus years of film and I’ll put that against anybody else in the draft.”
During his senior season at Edgewater, Joseph was thought to be leaning toward his hometown program at UCF before then-cornerbacks coach David Lockwood convinced him to visit Morgantown. That weekend changed everything, and two weeks before Christmas Joseph committed to the Mountaineers.
The ensuing month he enrolled early, fast becoming one of the most revered thumpers ever to roam the WVU secondary.
Next mission: Prove the Raiders right for making him a first-rounder.
“He’s very versatile,” Raiders coach Jack Del Rio told the San Jose Mercury News. “He can play at all the levels of your defense. He can come off the edge as a blitzer. He can play down in the box. He can play center field.
“He’s a guy that does a great job taking angles and he’s a very effective and efficient tackler. He plays with great temperament and we think he’s a really good football player and he’ll have an infectious personality and demeanor about himself.”
General manager Reggie McKenzie pronounced Joseph “ready to roll” after team doctors examined the knee.
Joseph reportedly was visiting family members in Haiti, his native country, during the draft.
“I think I’m always going to have that chip on my shoulder that made me the player I am,” he said this month. “I’ll be ready by training camp.”
West Virginia’s NFL First-Rounders
No. 3 — Dick Leftridge (Steelers) 1966
No. 6 — Adam Jones (Titans) 2005
No. 6 — Joe Marconi (Rams) 1956
No. 6 — Joe Stydahar (Bears) 1936
No. 7 — Kevin White (Bears) 2015
No. 7 — Brian Joswiak (Chiefs) 1986
No. 7 — Chuck Howley (Bears) 1958
No. 8 — Tavon Austin (Rams) 2013
No. 14 — Karl Joseph (Raiders) 2016
No. 14 — Renaldo Turnbull (Saints) 1990
No. 15 — Bruce Irvin (Seahawks) 2012
No. 27 — Anthony Becht (Jets) 2000