The roar inside the Edberg-Olson Football Complex spilled on to West Diamond Street in Philadelphia last week. It grew louder every time the kid on the bench press threw up another rep: Ten. Twenty. Thirty. FORTY….
By the time Eli Joseph finished his handiwork by logging 43 reps of 225 pounds, the NFL scouts a few feet away had one question dancing in their heads:
Who is this guy?
Player personnel executives flocked to Temple’s Pro Day last Friday to take a closer look at first-round defensive line prospect Muhammad Wilkerson.
They received an unexpected show from Joseph, who played in Wilkerson’s shadow for the better part of the season as the nose tackle in Temple’s revamped 3-4 scheme. The anonymity, frankly, suited the 6-2, 290-pound Joseph just fine.
“I think it actually helped me,” Joseph said of playing next to Wilkerson. “A lot teams thought I was a junior. They didn’t know anything about me. But they had a chance to see me because they came out for Muhammad.”
Joseph took advantage of the Pro Day platform with an eye-opening bench press performance, solid 40-yard dash times (4.94 and 5.00) and vertical (28 inches).
“The measurables are good and that makes you take a second look,” said Joseph’s agent, Joe Linta. “Then, when you watch the film, he just doesn’t get moved. He really clogs up the middle. If a team has a little bit of patience, this kid can become a pretty good player.”
“You watch the film of (Wilkerson), there’s not seven rounds of difference between him and Eli,” Linta added. “The film doesn’t lie. This is a draftable kid, for sure.”
The Patriots have already taken notice. Joseph worked out for the Jets’ division rivals on Thursday. There are several teams interested in Joseph, including Gang Green. He’s projected as a late-round (6th-7th round) pick at this point.
“He was overlooked a little bit in the scouting process,” said one AFC scout. “We’ve taken notice now.”
Although Joseph earned first-team All-MAC honors in his first year as a 3-4 nose tackle, he’s undersized to play that spot at the next level right away. He projects as either a three-technique lineman in a 4-3 scheme or a 5-technique end in a 3-4 alignment.
It’s conceivable that Joseph could pack on more pounds to morph into a nose tackle at the next level. After all, he was a 195-pound tight end playing for Harry Bellucci (Eric Mangini’s brother-in-law) at Hartford High in Connecticut.
“Eli is a guy who progressively got better from the day he stepped on campus to his last game,” said Kevin Jones, who coached Joseph and Jets’ offensive lineman Vlad Ducasse on a high school all-star team and now works for Linta. “You’re going to see that progression. Somebody needs to notice how well he’s played down the stretch to really see what kind of player he is.”
His work ethic (first-team academic All-MAC) and character are pristine.
“I just want to show them I can compete with the best,” Joseph said. “I don’t really shy away from competition. I want to compete. I love the challenge of going against the best. I work hard. Whether it’s practice or the meeting room, I give it my all. That’s the kind of person I am. I give it a 110 percent no matter what each and every day.”
The Jets have also shown interest in Joseph’s twin brother and teammate Elijah (aka Peanut), who was Temple’s leading tackler as a linebacker before suffering a season-ending knee injury in November. Peanut is expected to work out for teams a week or so before the draft. The Jets will bring the 6-1, 243-pound Joseph to their Florham Park facility for a visit in April.
NOTE: The Daily News has learned that Hampton defensive lineman Kenrick Ellis will visit the Jets' facility in April as one of the team's 30 allowable out-of-town visits.