Safety Karl Joseph
Oakland Raiders General Manager Reggie McKenzie hit the jackpot during the 2014 draft when he selected defensive end Khalil Mack with the No. 5 overall pick, and quarterback Derek Carr in the second round (No. 36 overall). The following year, McKenzie swooped former University of Alabama wide receiver Amari Cooper, adding a dynamic playmaker to the offense. While those three are the most-notable draft picks in recent memory, McKenzie has been able to pluck other quality players through the draft process.
There's no denying the Raiders secondary has needed to add depth the past few years, and in 2016 McKenzie addressed that need by selecting safety Karl Joseph No. 14 overall. In his first season as a member of the Silver and Black, the former University of West Virginia Mountaineer was limited due to injuries – most significantly an ACL tear he suffered during his senior season. Even though Joseph was only to participate in 12 games, starting in nine of them, he managed to force a fumble, haul in an interception, and total 60 sacks in the process.
With a year in the league under his belt, and a healthy body, No. 42 is showing signs of improvement, and is a bright spot in the Raiders defensive unit. At 5'10", and 205 pounds, Joseph gained a reputation as a hard-hitting player, but has shown he's capable of much more than just that. Through a little more than a season and a half, the potential in the 24-year old is obvious, and McKenzie has seen it all along.
"He's impactful," said McKenzie when asked about Joseph during his chat with the media Thursday. "I mean his mindset is trying to knock people from the ball, that's his… he's more that type [of player] than a ball hawk, but if he gets the opportunity to catch it he will. I know he's been having a little minor injury where hasn't been available in games, but he's been good for us, and he'll continue to get better the more he plays."
Joseph might've been the noteworthy pick of the 2016 class, but he's not the only one making a contribution. From Day One, Raiders right tackle Vadal Alexander has done what's been asked of him, and at a high level. In his rookie season, the former LSU Tiger started in five games, as he filled in for former Raiders Austin Howard and Menelik Watson. Not only has the seventh-round pick (No. 234 overall) been a reliable backup, but he's been durable, as well as consistent.
"He's been able to put out the fire," McKenzie said in regards to his ability to step in when called upon. "He did it last year, and he's done it this year. He's been a good addition for us, a true backup that's for sure. You can count [on him]."
Regardless of the fact Alexander is listed below fellow right tackle Marshall Newhouse on the depth chart, he's finding ways to be productive, and establish himself as an important member of a strong Raiders offensive line.
When you have veteran players like Mack, linebacker Bruce Irvin, left tackle Donald Penn, and guard Kelechi Osemele to help mentor players like Joseph and Alexander, it pays huge dividends for their development. In the brief time they've been on the team, both have shown maturity and a willingness to learn from their peers.
With the team entering its bye week, the coaches will take the time to evaluate what's transpired to this point, and while the rest of the Raiders season remains to be seen, I think it's safe to say that the production from Joseph and Alexander has been a blessing.