The Scout Team
Featuring – Kyle Crabbs, NDT Scouting.
Welcome to the first installment of “The Scout Team”. We will use this space to talk to some of the brightest minds in scouting, and get an outside perspective on the strengths and weaknesses of Mountaineer players and units. This series will be heavy on football, light on nonsense, and an education for us all. Please enjoy Part 1: Kyle Crabbs on Karl Joseph.
Kyle Crabbs, @NDTScouting, is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association (PFWA), the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and was recognized as a charter member of the Pro Football Draft Writers of America (PFDWA) in 2014. NDT Scouting content can be found at NDTScouting.com and www.DraftBreakdown.com. Kyle has been scouting the NFL Draft since 2010, before founding NDT Scouting in October of 2013. Kyle’s other notable ventures include credentialed media access to players and coaches at multiple 2014 NCAA Power 5 games (including a stop in Morgantown for the Baylor contest), as well as the 2014 East/West Shrine Game in St. Petersburg, FL. Kyle aslo has been a guest on Yahoo’s Sports X Radio show as well as the Ross Tucker Show on Sirius XM Radio.
Q. That’s quite a bio, Kyle, congratulations. Ready to have some fun?
A. I’ve only just begun with NDT Scouting! I already have a lot of fun and exciting things lined up for 2015; you’ll have to stay tuned. And of course, let’s get after it.
Q. Perfect. Let’s start at the beginning – when and how did Karl Joseph first appear on your radar?
A. Joseph came onto my radar watching West Virginia open the season vs. Alabama last year. He was everywhere; his ability to close down angles along the LOS (line of scrimmage) popped on tape in a game filled with NFL caliber talent (10+ players drafted in 2015 alone from the two teams combined). When I realized Joseph is much more than a Matt Elam (Florida) or a DJ Swearinger (South Carolina) caliber talent was against Baylor last season; I had the privilege of observing West Virginia’s victory from the press box in Morgantown that day. It was an excellent display of added versatility for Joseph, who frequently worked 15+ yards off the LOS as a single high Safety and showed the long speed and burst to challenge throws against an offense that is notorious for stressing the defense vertically with extreme spacing and split concepts.
Q. Well you certainly picked the right game to attend. I thought WVU Baylor was one of the more fascinating chess matches of the season. You referenced single high safety, and the NFL seems to be moving in that direction – do you think Joseph can cover well enough to play such a role?
A. Personally I believe that asking Joseph to play man to man coverage is not in the cards. In terms of traditional Safety play, working as a “box” defender is very similar to the role Joseph largely plays now but a role as a single high Cover 1 Free Safety would also be more attractive option than working Joseph in Nickel defenses as a slot man cover player (think similar to how Jimmie Ward was used at Northern Illinois). Joseph has showcased in admittedly limited repetitions that he has the short area burst to challenge perimeter throws. Would it be his best role? No, likely not. But I’ve seen enough illustrated burst to be comfortable in asking him to do so if needed or required.
Q. There were enough murmurs of an early entry into the NFL Draft after last season that Joseph had to announce his return for his senior year on his twitter page – though he did so humor. It was clear to him, and most, that he could benefit greatly from a fourth season in Morgantown. A season in which he can establish himself as the best safety in the country. How does he compare to last year’s top safeties, Damarious Randall and Landon Collins?
A. To be honest, this is the second straight season I failed to have a Safety score with a first round grade. This past year Damarious Randall was my top Safety overall (45th overall rated player) and his versatility was what served him well in my evaluation. That is similar to the strengths of Joseph; Joseph has some quick twitch ability but pairs it with explosive hitting power and a physical presence. Randall was more of a nickel CB option than Joseph but was nowhere near the tackler Joseph is. Landon Collins to me is a traditional box safety. He has physicality and is just as if not more effective in the box than Joseph, but he’s also a bit more prone to laboring in space. Joseph is more of a free mover to me and has much better burst and close ability.
Q. Who are the other early names to watch in terms of draft eligible safeties for the ’16 class?
A. Outside of Joseph and KJ Dillon, Jeremy Cash from Duke and Jalen Mills stand out as additional Seniors at the position. Cash is a monster physically while Mills transitioned from a freshman CB to a Safety. An underclassman and another Jalen, Jalen Ramsey will be the best of the bunch should he choose to declare for the 2016 NFL Draft. He’s a ball magnet and a very special player with high end awareness/ball skills, length and physical quick twitch ability.
Q. There is belief out of Morgantown that Joseph, Dillon, Henry, Worley place WVU in the upper echelon of Defensive Secondaries in the nation. Are you a fan of the unit as a whole?
A. The defensive backfield is loaded in Morgantown. Worley is an impressive corner and the two Safeties, Joseph and Dillon, will appeal to the NFL for different reasons. As previously mentioned, players like DJ Swearinger and Matt Elam have traditionally appealed to NFL teams in evaluation (in spite of mixed results at best from both players) but Joseph brings a lot of the same skills with more looseness and quick twitch ability. I would expect him to be a popular name. KJ Dillon’s size at 6’1 and 203 pounds (listed) will naturally pop to teams as well; especially when you consider he’s shown some success when asked to lock up in man coverage in the slot (again the Baylor game comes to mind). I would be excited to see these two players be tested in more ways in 2015 in hopes of showcasing some more of their versatility.
Q. Thank you Kyle, this was excellent stuff. Please let me know if you have a Morgantown trip this year – pepperoni rolls on me!
A. Haha, can’t wait!