Luke Joeckel May Be 2013's Best Pro Prospect, but Is He the Top Pick?
The Kansas City Chiefs hold the first overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft, and they are in the unique position of holding the No. 1 pick when there isn’t a player who appears worthy of it. It isn’t like other years when players were clearly No. 1 overall guys like Andrew Luck in 2012 and Cam Newton in 2011. The Chiefs are in a bind, and they will have to make a smart choice, but it won’t be easy or popular.
At this point in the process, no player has emerged and etched his name in stone to the Chiefs. Historically speaking, the pick should be a quarterback as eight of the past 10 first overall selections have been quarterbacks. It is clear that poor quarterback play will lead a team to selecting at the top of the draft.
The Chiefs have to consider how critical the quarterback position is and why they are in the position to select first overall to begin with. They must find a way to get better play out of their signal-caller, either through the draft, via free agency or in a trade. A new regime has taken over the Chiefs, and they will start with their own quarterback.
The Chiefs’ problems are compounded by the fact that there isn’t a quarterback available who looks worthy of leading their franchise into the future. We are still several months away, and a lot of information is still being gathered, but it is hard to see a quarterback going to the Chiefs with the lack of top-tier talent in this draft class.
However, quarterbacks will always get drafted higher than players at other positions because it is the most influential position on the field, and it’s not close. Finding a high-quality starter can take a team from drafting early to the playoffs in a hurry.
The Indianapolis Colts and Washington Redskins had the first and second overall picks in 2012. They added Luck and Robert Griffin III, respectively, and, with the addition of a top talent at the quarterback position, each team went to the playoffs last year.
If the Chiefs use their first pick on a quarterback, look for West Virginia’s Geno Smith or USC’s Matt Barkley to be the pick. Either player could break from the pack with a good meeting with Andy Reid and company at the combine and a solid pro-day workout.
The Chiefs can also look to free agency for a quarterback, or they can trade for a backup. Nick Mensio of Rotoworld provides a list of free-agent quarterbacks, and the list is less than impressive. Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco is on the list, but there is no doubt that the Ravens are going to pay him, and he isn’t realistically an option.
If the Chiefs are going to add a quarterback, it will be through the draft or via a trade for a player like Seattle’s Matt Flynn or San Francisco’s Alex Smith. Both players would be terrific options for the Chiefs, and both would significantly upgrade the talent behind center for them.
It would certainly cost the Chiefs some draft stock to acquire a proven player from another team, but it makes sense for them to find their quarterback through a targeted trade. Trading for a quarterback who has had success in the NFL is much less a gamble than selecting one in the draft.
With the acquisition of a proven veteran quarterback to lead their offense, the Chiefs could use the first pick on a player who will emerge as a player who is worthy of the pick. That player is Texas A&M’s Luke Joeckel, an athletically gifted left tackle. I believe that he will emerge to be the consensus No. 1 player on most boards as we get closer to the draft.
Bleacher Report’s NFL draft expert Matt Miller broke down Joeckel's strengths and why he is the logical choice for the Chiefs.
Below is a video of Joeckel's highlights against South Carolina State. It is not too hard to see his elite footwork and skill as a left tackle, even though this video is against lesser competition. Joeckel is a technician and a player who has a very bright NFL future ahead of him.
The problem with adding Joeckel is that the Chiefs already have a franchise-type left tackle in Branden Albert. Per Pro Football Focus, Albert was the No. 17-ranked left tackle in 2012, allowing only one sack, four quarterback hits and 12 hurries.
Albert missed four games in 2012 and is dealing with a bad back. His injury will drive the Chiefs' free-agency and draft decisions. Their choice to sign or not sign him will tip their hand when it comes to the draft.
Per Mike Garafalo of USA Today, Albert passed a physical in early February and considers the injury something that is in the past. Time will tell what the real story is here, but Albert is a significant piece of this puzzle.
If the Chiefs don’t sign Albert, they have to get Joeckel in the draft, and it won’t be hard to project Joeckel and the Chiefs together in 2013. Even if they do sign Albert, it might be wise to select him and slide Albert inside to play guard.
In summary, the Chiefs have an enormous decision on their hands. The reality is that there are only two choices they can make in the draft. They can go quarterback and select their franchise quarterback in a player like Geno Smith or Matt Barkley.
The other option is to pass on quarterback and select the draft’s best player in Texas A&M left tackle Luke Joeckel. He is this draft's top player, and he would unquestionably be worth the top pick in 2013, even if Albert is brought back. He is a tremendously valuable commodity in today’s pass-happy NFL, as teams spread out their offense and throw the ball all over the field.
If there was a perfect solution, it would be this. First, the Chiefs should re-sign Albert if he is fully healthy. Then, they should follow up free agency by trading for a proven NFL quarterback like Alex Smith and select the draft’s best player in Joeckel.
This fixes their quarterback woes, solidifies their offensive line and ensures that they get full value out of the first overall pick in April. There may be other ways to go about doing this, but passing on Joeckel for any quarterback in this class could be a decision the Chiefs look back on with regret.
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