Historically, the Bills have drafted a player who visited them pre-draft with their first-round pick. Leading up to the draft, we'll be looking at key visitors for Buffalo, to see who makes sense for them at No. 19 overall.
One recent candidate for Buffalo's first round pick was one of the final reported visitors to One Bills Drive: West Virginia safety Karl Joseph.
Joseph grew up in Orlando, Florida. At Edgewater High School, Joseph finished his senior year with three sacks, four forced fumbles, four blocked punts, and two blocked field goals (along with 126 tackles). He was a two-time Orlando Sentinel Defensive Player of the Year. As a three-star safety prospect, he was recruited to West Virginia. He majored in multidisciplinary studies, made the honor roll, and is a graduating senior.
Joseph was an immediate star for the Mountaineers. He was named freshman All-America and the WVU Defensive Player of the Year, starting 13 games at free safety. In 2014, he was named a team captain for the first time. An extremely productive player, here are Joseph's stats in three full seasons plus an abbreviated senior year: seven forced fumbles, nine interceptions, two sacks, 16.5 tackles for loss, 14 passes broken up, and two fumble return touchdowns.
Unfortunately, we don't have a chance to directly compare Joseph's athleticism to his peers, because a knee injury four games into his final season with the Mountaineers shut him down for the pre-draft process. At 5'10" and 205 pounds, Joseph is a bit undersized for a safety, although he has potential to bulk up further since he was likely sidelined from certain workouts during his rehab process. He has long arms and big hands for his frame.
As for the rest of his talent, you have to make do with what you can see on tape. You know, stuff like this (h/t Rob Quinn at BuildingTheHerd.com):
Joseph is a lot of fun to watch in the run game. He's a sledgehammer tackler with the downhill burst to close on a tackle right at the line of scrimmage. He once lambasted Marquise Goodwin as a freshman. Joseph reads running plays well, knowing where the gaps in the offensive line will be. He usually prefers to tackle with his arms rather than his shoulder, something that should preserve his longevity. On occasion, Joseph will take a poor angle to the runner, end up behind the play, and give up a huge gain.
Joseph's burst is also useful as a blitzer, something that has to appeal to Rex Ryan.
Joseph has the potential to be a monster in pass coverage. He has excellent range for the position, and I think he could hold up as a single high safety in a Cover 1 if he needed to. Joseph has fluid hips, and can run in man coverage with slot receivers. He knows how to use his hands to redirect a receiver's route.
In zone coverage, Joseph moves well and does a nice job drifting toward receivers in his zone. Occasionally, he can be caught choosing the wrong option to bracket, leaving a receiver with a step on his defender down the field. He reads quarterbacks' eyes, which helps him mirror routes and prepares him to make a play on the ball.
Joseph has the potential to be a turnover machine in the NFL. He has a great understanding of how to undercut a route to be in position for an interception, and he's a natural hands catcher who can make some nice grabs. A hard hitter, Joseph also has a knack for forcing fumbles, another asset in the run game.
Buffalo's safety position is in worse shape than you'd think, despite returning two veteran starters. Aaron Williams could choose to up and retire at any point in the season depending how his summer goes, and Corey Graham was a big liability at times as a safety last year. The depth is rather uninspiring, with Robert Blanton and Duke Williams as the best options off the bench.
Joseph would be able to start for the Bills immediately. He's a tone-setter and a playmaker that would continue to bolster Buffalo's strong group of defensive backs. All things considered, the team can do a lot worse than picking the best safety in the draft not named Jalen Ramsey.