"I thought I'd be off the board around 15," Joseph said. "But I'm excited about the Giants picking me up."
As the first round unfolded, defensive linemen continued to come off the board as the Giants looked on nervously. New Orleans recorded the Draft's first big surprise by trading up to Arizona's number six spot to land Georgia DT Johnathan Sullivan. After that, Arizona State DE Terrell Suggs went to New England at number 10, Penn State DT Jimmy Kennedy to the Rams at 12, Texas A&M DT Ty Warren to the Patriots at 13 and then Penn State DE Michael Haynes to Chicago one pick later.
Of the aforementioned group, the Giants were seriously interested in at least Warren and Haynes.
But New York's bad luck continued when the rival Eagles jumped from the 30th slot ahead of the Giants to number 15, traded with San Diego and selected Miami DE Jerome McDougle. The athletic former Hurricane, who was strongly endorsed by Jeremy Shockey, was believed to be at or very near the top of Big Blue's wish list.
So, with McDougle long gone, New York went for his teammate, the 6-5, 308-pound Joseph.
"Nine defensive linemen got picked in the first 18 picks, at that point we really did not like our chances," GM Ernie Accorsi said. "We had given some thought to moving up earlier but the price was just too high."
The Giants attempted to deal with the Chiefs, who had the 16th pick, in order to get McDougle. But New York would have needed to move a second-round pick in order to increase its first-round standing. "We were never tempted to give up our second," he said. "I'm not touching next year's draft."
Accorsi admitted the Giants didn't feel comfortable until they were three picks away and they had three players they liked, with Joseph at the top of that list. The other players were Clemson DT Nick Eason and a cornerback.
The agile, powerful Joseph posted 199 tackles and 19.5 sacks during his four-year career. Joseph is widely considered Miami's top DT since Warren Sapp.
"If you've started for the University of Miami for four years, you've done something," Head Coach Jim Fassel said. "I like those Miami guys because they come in here with an attitude. "I was extremely excited (he was there). I think he's going to be a very good player."
"He's clean, he hasn't been hurt, he's got good speed, he's fast, he is a size and speed athlete," said Accorsi, who stated that Joseph caught his eye while New York was scouting McDougle. "This player has an upside. He's kind of untapped."
Joseph is expected to initially begin in the D-line rotation as a run-stopper as he continues to hone his pass-rushing skills.
"I can rush the passer, I can play the run, and I can play a man, I can do it all," Joseph said. "I'm looking forward to coming in and competing and getting into that rotation." So is Defensive Line Coach Denny Marcin, who's glad to add Joseph to his DL stable.
"He gives us a good push in the pocket," he said. "He's played in a winning program so that's important. I think it's a good pick. For where we picked in the draft, I think it was a good thing. We expect him to be a backup at least to start. I'm counting on Keith [Hamilton]; I have my fingers crossed. We do need some rotation guys. I think he can give us some help run and pass, which will be important."
So, why exactly was Joseph only the 10th DL selected? Why was he still there for the Giants at number 25?
He thinks he knows why.
"People thought I was taking plays off, but I was just playing through an injury," he said in response to one of the criticisms levied at him. "I sprained my knee in the fourth or fifth game and it really affected me."
Not to mention that the University of Miami is so talented that they used an extensive D-line rotation. "I played probably 90 percent of the time as a junior, but only about half the plays last year," he stated. "I think that hurt me." Joseph had five sacks last season after recording 10 as a junior. Shockey, the Giants' first-round pick last year and Joseph's former college teammate, also cited the knee injury when asked about Joseph slipping.
The Giants checked Joseph's knee during a pre-draft physical and it "is fine now," Accorsi said. As a senior, Joseph was an All-Big East Conference first-team selection and a semi-finalist for the Lombardi Award, which recognizes the nation's top defensive lineman. He started every game at left defensive tackle for the Hurricanes in '02 and posted a pair of sacks in a late-season victory over Pittsburgh.
"He's got great numbers as far as size and speed (5.0)," Fassel said. "He's a big guy. He's a big, physical guy inside and initially he'll be a guy we can use on the run-stopping downs and he'll learn how to rush the passer. I think he can get better. I think this guy can continue to get better."
Accorsi believes that Joseph will be wreaking havoc on opposing quarterbacks in short order. "The decision was not that difficult," he said. "I believe in pass rushers the same way I believe in hitters in baseball and pure shooters in basketball. You either have it or you don't. They are hard to find."
But for all of Joseph's on-field achievements, it's his classroom conquest that has him most proud. He graduated with a degree in Liberal Arts in December and will walk in graduation ceremonies later this month.
That's quite an accomplishment for Joseph who opted to continue his education despite the fact that he would have likely been a first-round selection had he come out following his junior season.
"I stayed so I'd be the first person in my family to get my degree," he said. "My parents told me to stay in school and get the degree."
The son of Haitian parents, Joseph wanted to make his parents proud. They came to America and did not speak English. To have their son earn a degree was extremely important to them, according to Joseph.
Joseph also leaves behind at Miami his younger brother, Carlos, the ‘Canes starting left offensive tackle.
While Miami teammates used to joke about the quiet Joseph brothers, William is definitely not lacking in confidence.
When asked what he needed to work on to become a better pro football player, he answered simply, "I have to work on my pad level – sometimes it's a little high. But that's about it."
As for the draft slip, Joseph is ready to turn the page.
"I'm over that, but that's a little extra motivation," he said. "I want to come in and compete for a starting job. I'm looking forward to being a starter."
Very agile and powerful lineman who shows impressive aggression flashing into the backfield…Has very good explosion heading upfield, showing no hesitation…Has fluid change-of-direction agility, allowing him to move down the line quickly…Plays with above-average balance and body control…Gets a good inside surge with his initial burst…Needs to work on keeping his pad level down…Still better as a run defender than pass rusher at this point.
Where he fits in At the start, Joseph will be the first tackle off the bench, replacing either Keith Hamilton or Cornelius Griffin. He'll certainly be given a chance to crack the starting lineup. Griffin should be better this season after off-season ankle surgery, but if not, he might have to start looking over his shoulder at big number 96 from Miami.
"William Joseph was projected to be a top 15 pick. We were really surprised he dropped that far. He's a size/speed guy and he's strong. He has natural strength and natural leverage. We're happy to get him. He's going to work very nicely in our defensive line rotation." – Director of Player Personnel Jerry Reesea