Is Luke Joeckel capable of being the top pick in April’s draft
Johnny Football is all the rage in college football after his remarkable performance against Alabama last Saturday. As good as Johnny Manziel has been, his star left tackle has been just as impressive.
For Texas A&M, they have two of them. As good as Jake Matthews is, Luke Joeckel is even better. The last time a quarterback was not taken first overall in the draft was 2008 when Jake Long went with the first pick. Not ironically, Long is a blindside protector for the most important position in all of football, the quarterback.
The 2013 quarterback class has left a bit to be desired, leaving everyone in search of a top player for this class. The season started with Matt Barkley atop everyone’s draft board but that hasn’t panned out. Barkley is in risk of falling out of the top 20 picks with some significant concerns with his game. Then it was Geno Smith. Smith started the season ablaze as he was looking Robert Griffinesque. But the heart of his Big XII schedule has proved to be more difficult than anticipated. Smith’s overall skillset still has many clamoring for him to be the top pick but even those supporters are looking for an out. The list of defenders has been rolled out with names like Jarvis Jones, Star Lotulelei, and even Manti Te’o being thrown about. Jarvis Jones has medical concerns that may prevent him from manning the top spot. Star Lotulelei has consistency issues. And Manti Te’o has positional issues.
So, we are left scratching our heads for a top pick, when it’s right in our face. Enter Luke Joeckel.
A look at the teams (possibly) atop the 2013 NFL Draft exposes that a left tackle could certainly be a position that many of these teams are in search of. That said, we take a look at the need of the top teams based off today’s projections. I will put each team in one of three categories; a lock, possibility, and no chance.
The two 1-8 teams:
Kansas City Chiefs: The Chiefs have to re-sign Branden Albert which will be a costly but necessary move for this front office, whoever that will be making the decision. Albert has been a bright spot for this abysmal offense. The question for the Chiefs will be how much do you want to invest in Albert, as this has been his most consistent season in his fifth NFL season and it’s a contract year. How will he respond to getting a big contract? He will be 29 years old mid-way through next season. I’m not suggesting the Chiefs don’t re-sign Albert but these are all questions that need to be answered. My hunch is that KC doesn’t consider taking a LT but it’s not completely out of the question. Eric Winston hasn’t been the greatest and a Joeckel/Albert combo at tackle isn’t a bad option, albeit an expensive one. I’m putting this one in possibility category but weighted towards the no chance.
Jacksonville Jaguars: The Jags have Eugene Monroe in toe on the left side and he’s been a more than formidable option. That said, Monroe ranks in the middle of the pack in total pressures allowed. The right side is a different story. Cameron Bradfield hasn’t been D’Anthony Batiste bad but he’s not exactly what you are looking for in terms of providing protection for a young quarterback. Bradfield ranks right outside the bottom fifteen in the league in total pressures allowed. It may be a long shot for the Jags to look at Joeckel but it’s not out of the question. If the Jags decide to stick with Blaine Gabbert past this season, they need to upgrade his protection. They opted for a receiver in last year’s draft, so a LT would be a nice addition for Gabbert and the Jags. I think this one is a possibility weighted towards a lock.
The 2-7 teams:
Cleveland Browns: Completely out of the question. Joe Thomas is locking down the left side and rookie Mitchell Schwartz is playing a decent right tackle, giving them a solid tandem. No chance.
Carolina Panthers: Jordan Gross will be 33 at the start of next season and the Panthers protection of Cam Newton hasn’t exactly been spectacular. Gross could use a move to the right side. I think this is where things start to get interesting in terms of Luke Joeckel. The Panthers other area of need would be at DT. While there’s some solid DT’s in Star Lotulelei and Johnathan Hankins, would either be worth the first pick? The Panthers are all in with Cam Newton and having Luke Joeckel locking down the left side of this line would be an investment in Newton’s future. If Carolina wound up with the first pick, I think Joeckel becomes a major option. Carolina is falling in the lock category, despite DT getting a major look. This team needs to find out just how good Cam can be and it won’t be with the current OL.
The 3-6 teams:
Oakland Raiders: The Raiders have Jared Veldheer at LT and some major needs on the defensive side of the ball, particularly at defensive end and linebacker. Even with all those factors, I wouldn’t rule out Luke Joeckel if by chance the Raiders locked up the first pick. The 3-6 teams are probably a stretch with the way the Chiefs and Jaguars are playing but it’s worth a look. The Raiders have nothing at RT as Khalif Barnes is an aging and has been injured for a large portion of the season. Another longshot with the Raiders but not out of the realm of possibility.
Washington Redskins: This pick belongs to the St. Louis Rams. Do I even need to give analysis on this one. Rodger Saffold needs move to his more natural right side and the tandem of Barry Richardson/Wayne Hunter have no business as starters in this league or any other. Wherever the Rams are picking, if Joeckel is on the board, he’s the pick. This is as lock as you can get.
Philadelphia Eagles: Demetress Bell ranks as the fifth worst tackle in football in terms of total pressures allowed. Jason Peters has missed the entire season due to injury and is set to make over $10 million next season. This offensive line is abysmal, even if Peters is healthy. Not to mention, Peters will be 31 at the start of next season. If Philly had the first pick, I would be shocked if it weren’t Joeckel, despite their need at QB. I’m putting this one in the possibility category but leaning towards lock.
New York Jets: D’Brickashaw Ferguson ranks as one of the top offensive lineman in football consistently. Unfortunately for the Jets, their RT’s have ranked near the bottom of the league three years running. Austin Howard ranks as the sixth worst tackle in terms of pressures allowed. While the Jets have a bunch of needs, including pass rusher, wide receiver, and possibly a quarterback they could look at Joeckel with the first pick. Probably a longshot, I’ll go with no chance. Not that the Jets don’t need a tackle but the pass rushers probably rule the day on this one.
So, let’s analyze what I just said. I think Joeckel is a lock to be the first pick if Carolina or St. Louis winds up with No. 1. He becomes a possibility if Kansas City, Jacksonville, Oakland, or Philadelphia are selecting first. And if Cleveland or the Jets wind up selecting first overall, there’s no chance.
This article came to fruition as I was looking at updating my top 100 players in the 2013 NFL Draft. Without a sure-fire No. 1, I am strongly considering Luke Joeckel. When I was thinking of the possibilities, he was the cleanest of any I considered. Joeckel has owned some of the top pass rushers in college football, including Barkevious Mingo, Sam Montgomery, and Corey Lemonier to name a few.
I’m not a fan of comparing former and future prospects but the most obvious comparison for Joeckel is Joe Thomas. Both are incredibly light on their feet and as technical as blockers as they come. Joeckel won’t overpower anyone but his technical skill as a blocker wins the day against even the best. Joeckel becomes the only player in the draft that I struggle to find much downside with, therefore making him a logical No. 1 prospect.