Over the past few years, Texas A&M has put out quality NFL talent and that remains the case this year. Luke Joeckel may be their best prospect in quite some time, and his sound technique and pass protection will be a major draw for NFL teams.
Size: Standing 6’6 310, Luke Joeckel is very similar to LT Matt Kalil from USC, who was drafted last year. He has long arms and is able to keep the defenders away from him. He is a very athletic tackle who will be a dynamite fit in a zone-blocking scheme. His weight isn’t an issue as all, if anything he could stand to add a few pounds of muscle to his frame.
Technique: When watching film on Joeckel, this was what stood out for me the whole time. A lot of times when watching athletic offensive tackles, you notice that they rely too much on their athleticism to beat their opponent. Joeckel only uses his athleticism as a last resort if he struggles against an opponent. This was most apparent against Jackson Jeffcoat from Texas. Joeckel was able to use solid technique and keep Jeffcoat away from Tannehill, but when you really looked back at the film you notice him using his natural athletic ability to match up against a very quick DE in Jeffcoat. He does a very good job keeping a solid base both in run blocking and pass protection. Joeckel keeps his hands on the inside of the shoulder pads and locks onto his opponent and moves him away easily from his QB. He also keeps a very solid pad level and doesn’t overextend against his opponent. Joeckel always seems to be the first guy off the ball in both pass protection and run blocking.
Pass Protection: This is what will get Joeckel recognized as the premier LT in the 2013 class. By developing a great base and not using wasted steps when sliding, he is able to wall off his defender and allow his QB to step up and make the throw. I was most impressed with Joeckel’s ability to correct a mistake and be able to still wall off his opponent. A number of times on film I watched Joeckel get beat a little by a speed rusher and instead of over-correcting and making things worse, he was able to quickly line back up against his opponent and steer him away from the QB. This is actually a very important technique in pass protection. When watching the premier OT’s in the NFL they all have sound technique and rarely are beaten by their opponent. But the few times that they are beaten, they use a small step or two to get back in front of the defender and wall him off. This is something that seems pretty simple, but in reality its one of the more complex things for OT’s to grasp. Joeckel always uses proper footwork while in pass protection and will rarely see him make a mistake with pass blocking technique. He displays a good initial punch to stun his opponent, and then uses his longer arms to keep his opponent far away from his body. While for the most part he picks up defenders well, a couple times on film Joeckel was beaten by missing the proper guy to block. Joeckel by far is the best pass blocker in this class and with his advanced pass blocking technique, NFL Teams will be more than happy to add him as a LT.
Run Blocking: At first watching Joeckel, I had the impression that he was a superior pass blocker who was a decent run blocker. However, after watching him play more it was apparent that I was wrong. Joeckel displayed a good first step and the ability to get to the 2nd level, and is a lot more like Jake Long as an OT than he is Joe Thomas. Jake Long is someone who is very good at run blocking, and also a very good pass blocker, which is what Joeckel is similar to. Joe Thomas on the other hand is more of a great pass blocker and an average run blocker. Joeckel keeps himself balanced while going against his opponent and drives into his blocks well. While watching film, it’s easy to tell that he will be coveted by ZBS teams with his quick feet he displays. Not only are his feet quick, but he doesn’t waste any motion. He does a very good job walling off his defender and then going to the 2nd level. Many times offensive linemen look to block their designated man and that’s it, but Joeckel consistently looks to chip off his one opponent and then move to the 2nd level to help make a normal play turn into an explosive play. He is very solid cut blocking when asked to do so and the few times out on screens he looked good on getting out ahead of the play. There are not many negatives in Joeckel’s game although I noticed a couple of times that Joeckel did get a little flat footed against an opponent and was beaten. This happens to the best of the best in the NFL, but it also is something that does end up being marked as a negative on an evaluation.
Overall: Joeckel easily is my favorite OT of the 2013 class, I rate him as highly as I did Matt Kalil from last year and I feel that he can become one of the top OT’s to emerge in the past 5 years with his unique blend of athleticism and technique. Right now I have a top 15 grade on him but if he performs at the same level he did last year at A&M, then he easily can become a top 10 pick and maybe up to the top 5 level depending on team needs. Zone Blocking Teams will have premium ratings on him compared to other OT’s in this class and over time in the 2012 season, he’ll pull himself away from the competition.