What I like: Joeckel goes against the grain of what this supposed new breed of offensive tackle should be. He’s not an elite athlete at left tackle, although he has the prerequisite size and length any team could ever want. He doesn’t excel in triangle numbers and drills. Instead he’s great because he’s smart and efficient and physical.
Where some tackles prefer to set up and wait on a defender to come to them, Joeckel prefers to take the fight right at them. In pass protection this means he can often neutralize even great pass rushers counter moves because he engages them so quickly and with such force. He steps out, gets those strong arms out there and just puts them where he wants. The defender has to re-direct and Joeckel has time to go get them again.
Another big plus for Joeckel is that he is accustomed to having a mobile quarterback behind him. This means that he excels in man protection and when the play gets extended he never lets up. Easily the best finisher in this draft in terms of pass protection.
As a run blocker Joeckel is slightly less experienced, primarily because of the non-traditional run game the Aggies have. But he approaches it the same as he does pass protection. He attacks. It’s cliche’ to call a lineman a violent blocker, but that’s exactly what Joeckel is. He’s not experienced with zone blocking but there’s nothing to say he can’t learn it and be great at it, just as he is at everything else.
Joeckel does great with his reads and fires off the ball with explosion. He keeps his head up and drives defenders with nice pad level. His ability to get into linebackers and defensive backs shows what a gifted natural athlete he is much more than any combine numbers. He initiates contact, uses his leverage to his advantage and once he’s got his mitts on you, it’s as good as over.
What I don’t like: While I could have expounded on Joeckel’s strengths for many more paragraphs, picking Joeckel’s game apart is more difficult. That’s not to say his game is perfect because it isn’t.
Joeckel’s strength is kicking out in pass protection, catching the edge early and pinning defenders without a great deal of turn. In the NFL there will be rushers who he’ll face who can get that edge. How well he’s able to drop that outside foot and force rusher wide when he can’t get his hands on them at the snap will be something to track. This isn’t a huge problem, but it will be something in a new offensive system he’s going to learn to deal with.
Also, as I studied Joeckel closely he did try hard to anticipate what the rushers–particularly the smaller speed guys–were going to try and do, and did get beat inside on occasion as he cheated the edge a little and let the end get across his face quickly. It will be interesting to see in the NFL in a more traditional blocking set up, how he’ll deal with that.
What it all means: In recent drafts the only offensive tackle I have graded out higher than Joeckel is current Cleveland Browns offensive tackle Joe Thomas. Thomas was a similar type of player, physical and aggressive and a vault of great film coming out of college against top talent.
Where some of the other top tackles in this draft are all about guessing if they can be great, Joeckel has already shown he can be great. He’s a smooth athlete on the field without appearing so finesse as to be overpowered. He’s got gobs of experience in college that only adds to his NFL-ready resume’.
Yes, there will be things from a scheme standpoint that Joeckel will need to adjust to, but the concerns are so minor in comparison to his strengths. With all the hype about wanting these uber-athletic tackles to be able to deal with these outside speed rushers, I’ll take Joeckel who can lock up a massive 5 technique end in a 3-4 or stonewall a 300 pound defensive tackle coming on a stunt, and still athletic enough to execute an inline cut block on a blitzing linebacker.
This is a young man who at times makes what he does look very simple and coaches love that. He’s my top player in this draft, and aside from all the hype surrounding the other top tackle prospects the gap between he and the next group of players is wide for me.