PFF Grades: How Did Karl Joseph And Reggie Nelson Compare In 2017?

Karl Joseph may be a former first-round pick, but the latest word on the streets of NFL gossip is that the new Raiders coaching staff isn’t particularly high on him.

The Athletic’s Vic Tafur believes 34 year-old Reggie Nelson may actually end up starting over Joseph – the thought of which was not particularly well received by the masses.

Joseph and Nelson played in the same system last year (albeit different positions) and neither played particularly well based on the Pro Football Focus analytics.

But with the assumption that Joseph will move to free safety in 2018, did Nelson play well enough last year to be an early favorite to steal Joseph’s playing time this year?

This is how the two players graded, according to Pro Football Focus:

Run Defense

Karl Joseph had a respectable 80.7 grade against the run. Known more for his hard hits than his textbook tackling, Joseph doesn’t have the size to consistently be a physical presence against the run when playing in the box.

Reggie Nelson was very efficient defending the run in 2017. His 84.6 grade was the highest grade against the run given to anyone in the Raiders secondary last year.


Karl Joseph was asked to cover many of the top tight ends in the league last year and it showed in his coverage grade (56.2). Joseph is just too small (5’10”) to go one-on-one against big athletic tight ends.

Joseph’s coverage grade was bad, but Nelson’s was terrible. Nelson let receivers of all ages, shapes, and sizes run by him last year. Somehow, his 44.7 grade in coverage actually feels generous.


Joseph, it turns out, wasn’t actually that much better than Nelson in 2017, according to Pro Football Focus.

Joseph earned an overall PFF grade of 80.8 and Nelson was just behind at 75.3.

Given his history with new Raiders defensive coordinator Paul Guenther, Nelson probably does have a snowball’s chance of entering training camp with equal odds of starting as Joseph.

Unfortunate as that may be.

twitter: @raidersbeat


11 thoughts on “PFF Grades: How Did Karl Joseph And Reggie Nelson Compare In 2017?

  1. If Joseph is going to be what he was touted to be? He’ll need to have an amazing year. I haven’t been impressed by his tackling as he takes bad angles. I think other players I really liked in that draft are standing out, while Joseph has been ok. I hope Karl proves me wrong.

  2. KNJ didn’t do any favors for any of tree Raiders defenders last year, and unfortunately that’s all the new coaches have to go on. Hopefully PG sees that KJ was used improperly and gives him a chance before signing the job over to his buddy Nelson.

  3. I enjoy you pulling in the PFF comparisons. Thank you. However, this is where analytics is flawed in pro sports. I will safely assume that the analysts giving the grade are watching the entire game, specifically for each team.

    Karl Joseph plays light years ahead of Reggie Nelson. He has the instincts of a true safety and he’s rarely ever out of position in coverage. His grade from PFF is fair, however it needs to be footnoted that the Oakland secondary was broken. On top of that, the scheme and coordinator was worst in the NFL. In the LAC tape, the Chargers repeatedly placed Hunter Henry in the slot, directly beneath Joseph. Knowing that Joseph had tight end duty all of the Chargers WR ran underneath routes and Henry would run a post to the sideline – sweet spot of 25 yards. Phillip Rivers knee the Raiders would not make an adjustment, essentially pulling Joseph out of the safety position and into a Nickel CB on someone double his frame. Joseph was not “beat” – he was right there, but Henry is too big and that is an elementary throw for Rivers to complete.

    In conclusion, I believe Joseph has shown glimpses of what he can offer. He is a ballhawk who is a sure tackler. The one thing I would like to see him do is secure turnovers. He was in position to make interceptions and failed to make it happen. With Dexter McDonald on the field and Antonio Hamilton filling in at times, the secondary stood no chance. Reggie Nelson legitimately couldn’t move with his assignments. There are times he’s beaten by 20 yards. With Conley, Melvin, Worley, Nelson – the secondary actually has a chance to give the Raiders safeties an opportunity to succeed.

  4. Well now I’m wondering why we did not draft a safety, Boston, Reid, Branch all available

  5. Thanks for blowing a first rounder, McKenzie! How many top draft picks are no longer with the team now?

  6. If Nelson starts things are terribly wrong ! Gruden on the phone talking to Tatum about a possible return ! WTF??

  7. It simple. If you do not have a pass rush then your secondary will suffer. The less time a QB has to throw the ball the less time a WR has to get open. Mack being double and tripped teams\ed, Irvin asked to drop in coverage and not D-lineman not worth a **** in terms of applying pressure makes the analysis of the the defensive backfield skewed. I look to see big improvement this year with Irvin at DE concentrating on getting to the QB. The moves made will make it hard for teams to double team Mack. Somebody is going to get free. We have two new studs in the middle at DT.. Its all good!!!!

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