As the stretch to the 2013 NFL Draft enters its final days of anticipation, the suspicion surrounding the top overall pick seems to be clearing, with offensive tackle Luke Joeckel lighting up the leaderboard. The former Texas A&M 2012 First-Team All-American started every game with the Aggies during his four-year career there, culminating in the team’s biggest season last year when they dominated the SEC en route to a 41-14 victory over Oklahoma in the AT&T Cotton Bowl. In that game, Joeckel anchored an offensive line that did not allow a single sack over 60 minutes of game play.
Joeckel is an interesting prospect because of his style and size. He is not as fierce as many NFL tackles, nor did he need to be when he was with the Aggies, working in a two-point stance and opening holes for Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel, who already possessed the ability to edge out a pocket in an opposing defensive stance. This may seem a huge detriment in the standing of a potential pro candidate, but Joeckel possesses two things that easily make up for it and, thus, secure such a high position on the draft board.
First, the one word always surrounding Joeckel in his various analyses is “technical.” This is the key word in any up-and-coming NFL player because of the flexibility it implies, something especially important for O-line players who need to adapt to different systems even after their pro careers get underway. Joeckel not only adapted but he was able to excel in Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin’s new offensive approach after Sumlin took the reigns from Mike Sherman just before Joeckel’s senior year. In fact, he had his best year statistically speaking after the switch.
Joeckel further illustrated his mental faculties of the game during the NFL Combine in March when he ran a 7.40 for the three-cone drill, displaying his technical focus. But his top performance in that particular drill also put his agility on display. Some scouts see Joeckel’s lanky physique as detrimental in his prospect as a pro-level tackle, preferring their linemen to have more brawn, less length. For Joeckel, this is the best problem to have. In drills and scrimmages, Joeckel showed the ability to close gaps and to recover quickly if his lack of ferocity gave way to a stronger push from his defender.
Being a blocker with mental toughness, subpar physical toughness is easily overlooked by teams with NFL-standard conditioning programs. All collegiate athletes, no matter their position, come in needing to bulk up. It is the determination to do so and their knowledge of the game that separate out the top picks. NFL.com gives Joeckel a 94.3 grade, translating to “Immediate Starter.”