Another first-round downhill destroyer of a safety for the Oakland Raiders? Karl Joseph must not be long for the roster, no?
At least, that’s the prevailing notion when general manager Mike Mayock snagged Mississippi State safety Johnathan Abram from the draft pool with the No. 27 pick in the NFL Draft last Thursday. Like Joseph (taken 14th overall in the 2016 draft), Abram is a heat-seeking missile of a tackler bred from the Clubber Lang (Rocky fame) stock of “Pain.”
“Tackling is hard to practice these days,” said Raiders boss Jon Gruden as he and Mayock recapped day one of the draft Thursday evening. “It’s hard to find guys who are natural tacklers. Abram belongs in ’78, ’79, ’80. He’s like one of our old-school safeties. He’s a physical sideline-to-sideline tackling machine in college. I hope that passion continues here.
“He has a passion to find the guy with the ball and bring him down. He’s got versatility, he runs a 4.4 and he does have length and size to matchup with the great “jokers” – the detached tight ends – that cause problems. He’s going to have his hands full.”
Mayock had an even more colorful description of the new safety.
“Abram is a guy you watch tape and there are “aha moments,” Mayock began, “You watch hours and hours of tapes, you click back and forth, there’s good players, ok players and bad players. Every once in a while, you go “Oh shit! That’s an a-ha moment: Things that jump off tape. For me, he’s (Abram) a guy who jumps off tape.”
Strangely enough, when Joseph was selected 14th by Reggie McKenzie three years ago, Gruden had similar sentiments on how the West Virginia University hit man would bring the wallop of yestrday back to Oakland. Present day Joseph, however, was relegated to bench and special team duties before catching up to speed with Paul Guenther’s defensive scheme in the second half and showing the ferocity expected of him. And now Abram, a slightly taller and faster punisher, is among the trio of “foundation” players Mayock added to the roster.
A bit redundant. no? Like how running backs Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington are. Nevertheless, in the Raiders beleaguered secondary, the redundancy of Joseph and Abram isn’t necessarily a detriment. Joseph is acclimated to both the NFL game and the Guenther defense. Why not keep him as he showed both growth and comfort as an enforcer. Moreover, he’s only 25 (26 in September) and on his rookie contract. A fifth-year option can be exercised by the Raiders locking him up for another year after this coming season.
That’ll be the most telling sign of Joseph’s Raider future: If the option is exercised. The Raiders have until the May 3 deadline.