The Oakland Raiders and head coach Jack Del Rio were pleased to pick Karl Joseph in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft. Photo by Terry Schmitt/UPI | License Photo
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- A reach? The consensus would probably say yes, but Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie and head coach Jack Del Rio were ecstatic over getting West Virginia safety Karl Joseph Thursday night with the No. 14 pick in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft.
Joseph played in five games before being lost to a torn ACL last season. Most draft prognosticators had him as a late first-round or early second-round pick.
The Raiders, who have been diligent about addressing weaknesses in hopes of going from 7-9 to being playoff contender in 2016, felt good enough about Joseph's recovery to add him as a probable starter alongside free-agent acquisition Reggie Nelson.
"The medical is checking out fine," McKenzie said. "He's going to be ready to roll. Our doctors gave us the thumbs up."
The Raiders went into the offseason in desperate need of help along the back line of the defense with the retirement of Charles Woodson. Nate Allen, who struggled last season after an MCL strain and took a pay cut to return, was the closest thing to a starter to go along with Nelson.
Assuming Joseph is healthy -- and he said he expects to be ready to by training camp -- that situation has been changed. Joseph described himself in canine terms -- the junkyard kind.
"I'm a dog. I'm sure all the coaching staff will tell you that," 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 else in the draft that plays with more passion than me."
Joseph (5-foot-11, 200 pounds) earned his stripes as a fearless hitter, but intercepted five passes before being lost for the rest of the season with the right ACL tear. Described as a Bob Sanders-type enforcer, Del Rio sees Joseph as more than that.
"He's very versatile. He can play at all levels of your defense," Del Rio said. "He can come off the edge as a blitzer. He can play down in the box, he can play center field. He does a great job taking angles and he's very effective and efficient as a hitter and tackler."
McKenzie and Del Rio also had the possibility of choosing another player with knee issues: UCLA linebacker Myles Jack. Not that they were divulging whether that was an option.
"I'm not going to get into the guys we considered," McKenzie said. "Who we considered was Karl Joseph -- and we got him."
But what about when tackle Laremy Tunsil tumbled all the way to No. 13, one pick before the Raiders?
"We were scrambling to make sure we had the right number for Karl Joseph," McKenzie said.
Joseph said No. 14 was about as high as he had heard, but did say several other teams -- including Atlanta, Tennessee, Indianapolis, Houston and Buffalo -- had expressed interest.
McKenzie did say the Raiders were willing to listen to offers to trade back, but nothing struck his fancy.
"I would have entertained it," McKenzie said. "We're just happy we got him. Wherever we got him, it wouldn't matter."