Luke Joeckel has declared for the 2013 NFL draft and his draft stock couldn't be much higher.
Per Billy Liucci:
I've been able to confirm from multiple sources that A&M offensive tackle Luke Joeckel has made the decision to enter the 2013 NFL Draft— Billy Liucci (@billyliucci) January 8, 2013
Joeckel is the best overall player on my board, and he rates higher than Matt Kalil did last year—the man who ended up becoming the No. 4 pick of the 2012 NFL draft.
If he puts up impressive numbers at the NFL Scouting Combine, it wouldn't shock me to see Joeckel become the second player taken this upcoming April after Geno Smith (disclaimer: Smith isn't close to being the best player available, but the Kansas City Chiefs may fall in love with him, nevertheless).
So, what makes him so good?
Play after play, game after game, Joeckel displays flawless technique, and he possesses ideal size and athleticism to go along with his excellent technical skills.
In fact, it's hard to find anything to complain about when scouting this young man.
Here is my scouting report on Joeckel based on what I saw from his games against LSU, Florida, Texas and Mississippi State.
- Solid Base: Joeckel rarely gets knocked off his block on the outside. He has an incredibly strong base, meaning he keeps his knees bent, his shoulders squared and keeps a low center of gravity—no small task for a man of his size.
- Prototypical Size: At 6' 6" and 310 pounds, Joeckel has long arms and enough bulk to anchor the left side of an NFL line.
- Strength: Rarely did I see Joeckel get shoved around. Even against strong pass-rushers like Sam Montgomery, Joeckel was able to hold his ground on passing plays and get a good push in the running game. He'll continue getting stronger into his mid-to-late 20s, and unlike many young tackles, strength isn't an issue that will keep him from excelling right out of the gates.
- Excellent Technique: Watching Joeckel play at left tackle is like watching Andrew Luck play quarterback. When he drops back into pass protection, his feet are always in perfect position, his knees stay bent, his shoulders stay squared and his arms are always where they should be. His kick-step is top notch, and it's rare to see a pass-rusher get outside of him. Joeckel simply has flawless technique, except for a few minor hiccups here and there.
- Tremendous Balance: This could be married to his base, strength and technique, but Joeckel's balance is good enough to warrant its own mention. It's a rare occasion when he gets knocked off balance or shoved to the ground.
- Improved Run Blocking: Joeckel has always been better as a pass-protector than as a mauler in the running game, but he added some weight and strength for the 2012 season and it's clearly paid off. He does an excellent job with directional run blocking and he can drive his man back when asked to do so.
- Phenomenal Agility and Athleticism: In addition to being an excellent pass-blocker, Joeckel excels in space in the screen game. He is really agile and fast for his size, and he locates and devastates defenders with ease while on the run.
- Excellent Hands: Joeckel uses his hands well, but he doesn't rely on them to keep pass-rushers at bay. He uses his feet in concert with his hands to stick to his man and he does this better than any offensive tackle I've seen the past three years.
- Highly Intelligent/Football IQ: One of the most impressive aspects of Joeckel's play was his ability to make quick decisions on blitzes, oftentimes breaking off one man to block another with great effect. His ability to see the field and make correct decisions on the fly is an invaluable trait in a young player.
It's honestly hard to find much to criticize when watching Joeckel play. He does everything so well that listing negative traits feels like nit-picking, but nit-pick we must.
- Flat Footed: This rarely happens, but on occasion, Joeckel got caught off balance and was knocked off the balls of his feet. More often than not, he was able to recover his balance and continue fighting, but this could be troublesome against the more powerful pass-rushers in the NFL.
- Run Blocking: We mentioned his improved ability as a run blocker, but Joeckel still gets caught reaching and bending his waist at times—usually as he's attempting to get to the second level. The problem with this is that he loses power and control over his defender when he reaches, rendering himself ineffective.
- Lack of Punch: Joeckel rarely initiates contact as a pass-protector. He tends to let defenders come to him, which usually works in his favor. Joeckel will need to improve his arm strength and become more aggressive at first impact as a pro.
As you can clearly see, Joeckel's positives vastly outweigh his negatives, and he'll be one of a few players teams will consider at the top of the draft.
Joeckel will certainly be a top-five pick.
Elite left tackles are in high demand in the NFL, and teams picking at the top of the draft are usually there because they either need a quarterback or their quarterback needs protection.
This year is no different.
Best NFL Fits
Jacksonville Jaguars (No. 2 Overall)
There's a chance the Jaguars aren't ready to completely give up on Blaine Gabbert (shudders), but it doesn't really matter who stands behind center—Jacksonville needs help on its offensive line.
The Jaguars gave up 50 sacks this year—the third-worst mark of any team in the NFL—and featured the No. 30-ranked rushing attack in the league. Joeckel would bring help to both areas of need and I won't be surprised to see him be taken with the second pick of the draft.
Philadelphia Eagles (No. 4 Overall)
It's no secret that the Eagles had trouble protecting the passer in 2012, allowing 48 sacks (fifth-worst in the NFL). Both Michael Vick and Nick Foles were injured during the season, and drafting help for the offensive line will be of utmost importance for this franchise.
Joeckel fits Philadelphia perfectly, too, with his ability to make big blocks on screen plays. Bryce Brown and LeSean McCoy both excel on screen passes, as do receivers Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson.
Arizona Cardinals (No. 7 Overall)
If Joeckel somehow falls to the Cardinals at No. 7, there's no doubt he'll head to Arizona.
The Cardinals allowed an astonishing 58 sacks in 2012 (worst in the NFL), and though Nate Potter and Bobby Massie did improve in the last month of the season, Joeckel outclasses both of them by a country mile.
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