As with most first round NFL picks, Karl Joseph was being compared to former NFL greats before the ink on his contract dried. The fans and the media love to unfairly crown players who have yet to step on the field as “the next ____.”
Joseph’s reputation for being a brutal hitter and hard-nosed player was well known heading into the draft, but after being selected by the Oakland Raiders in round one, the comparisons began to fly.
By being drafted by Oakland, Joseph was already going to be in the spotlight as Charles Woodson’s replacement and some draft experts were already comparing Joseph to Seattle’s All-Pro safety Earl Thomas.
But the moment the Raiders assigned Joseph number 42 as his jersey number the comparison got loftier. Wearing number 42 and Joseph’s toughness and style of play conjured up talk of Joseph being the next Ronnie Lott.
Ronnie Lott the legendary Hall of Famer played with the Raiders for two seasons (1991 and 1992) after 10 glorious years playing for San Francisco. Lott might be the best to ever play the position so to expect Joseph to mimic Lott’s accomplishments is just not reasonable. Even Joseph seemed in awe at his opportunity calling the chance to wear Lott’s jersey “an honor.”
However, when you break down Lott and Joseph from a physical and collegiate standpoint, there are some interesting similarities.
Ronnie Lott throughout his NFL career was listed at 6’0″ and 203 pounds. At the 2016 NFL combine Karl Joseph came in just slightly shorter at 5’10” but a tad heavier at 205 pounds. So at least physically, Lott and Joseph are pretty close in stature.
Ronnie Lott was a three year starter at USC while Joseph started all four years at West Virginia. Lott had 14 career interceptions at USC while Joseph had 9 picks during his time at WVU. Both were named team captains and known for their leadership in college. Both Lott’s and Joseph’s style of play are almost identical. In college Lott and Joseph were known as sure tacklers who despite spending a lot of time around the line of scrimmage also displayed impressive ball skills.
While it’s not likely Joseph will enjoy success on a level of a Ronnie Lott, it is certain that Joseph possesses the talent and intangibles to continue the tradition of greatness in the Raider secondary.
Who knows maybe fifteen, twenty years from now the Raiders will draft another young WVU safety and will we all argue whether so and so can stack up to the likes of Ronnie Lott, Jack Tatum, Charles Woodson, and Karl Joseph.