2nd overall selection by the Jacksonville Jaguars
Overview: Due to a variety of reasons, the Jacksonville Jaguars have struggled mightily on the offensive side of the ball in recent seasons. One of the major issues for the lack of production has been constant protection issues for their quarterbacks Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne. Despite the presence of Eugene Monroe, a highly thought of and productive left tackle, the inability to protect the quarterback has not only prevented the Jaguars from consistently putting up points but has also hindered the development of Gabbert the 10th overall pick in the 2011 draft. The Jaguars hired Atlanta Falcons director of college scouting David Caldwell as their new general manager earlier this off-season and paired him with rookie head coach Gus Bradley, the former defensive coordinator of the Seattle Seahawks. Caldwell and Bradley did not hesitate to select Texas A&M offensive tackle Luke Joeckel with the 2nd overall selection in this April’s draft to bookend with Monroe and give the Jaguars arguably their most talented offensive tackle tandem in the franchise’s history. Quarterback Blaine Gabbert has had a rough start to his career and is at his worst when under duress, while his time as the quarterback of the future is certainly running out the new regime would like to give him one last chance with a better support system around him. Joeckel brings athleticism, excellent technique, and a little bit of a mean streak with him to the right side where he figures to line up next to right guard Uche Nwaneri. Not only should Joeckel make Gabbert’s job easier in the pocket, but he will be an asset in the running game as well by assisting Maurice Jones-Drew get his career back on track.
Position Battles: After using the 2nd overall selection on Luke Joeckel, the Jaguars have already named him their starting right tackle. Former 2nd round bust Eben Britton has moved on, and last seasons rags to riches UDFA story Cameron Bradfield proved not quite ready for prime time. Though his athleticism and versatility should land him a valuable role as a utility lineman and swing tackle. New offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch’s newly installed system emphasizes tempo and athleticism. Joeckel’s final year at Texas A&M was spent in an uptempo style offense under Kevin Sumlin and his athleticism is one of the reasons he was such a highly sought after prospect. His fit in Fisch’s system is near perfect and the Jaguars are in a very good position to keep edge rushers at bay in 2013.
Notable Match-Ups: No body questioned Joeckel’s talent when the Jaguars took him at the #2 spot, but his fit on a team with Eugene Monroe at left tackle and holes throughout their roster was deservingly called into question. After taking one look at the Jaguars 2013 opponents, it is safe to say that the Jaguars made a very wise decision. Joeckel will be facing J.J. Watt twice a year for the forseeable future and this years battles will come in weeks 12 and 14, so Joeckel should have a better comfort level within the offense and feel for the NFL game before meeting the reigning defensive player of the year. The Jaguars out of conference opponents will be the NFC West, which might be the best defensive division in the entire NFL featuring the San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks along with the rising defensive units of the St. Louis Rams and Arizona Cardinals. Their AFC division match up for 2013 is the AFC west who offer two of the NFL’s best pass rushing duo’s in Denver Broncos Von Miller and Shaun Phillips as well as Tamba Hali and Justin Houston from Kansas City. All in all, the Jaguars will see the top 3 NFL sack leaders from 2012 as well as some of the most productive edge rushing duo’s in the league.
2014 and Beyond
Like his 2013 classmates Eric Fisher in Kansas City and Lane Johnson in Philadelphia, Luke Joeckel will start his career at right tackle but his longterm position is still undecided. While as a rookie he will bookend with left tackle Eugene Monroe, the Jaguars will have to decide what they want to do in the 2014 off-season when Monroe’s contract is up. Monroe graded out as a top 10 left tackle in 2012 and is still only 26 years old, it would be surprising if Jacksonville would let that type of talent get away. However, if the Jaguars envision Joeckel as their left tackle of the future they could slap the franchise tag on Monroe and simply deal him to the highest bidder for multiple draft picks in order to further bolster the talent on their roster. The safest move and the smart money is on the Jaguars ponying up enough to keep Monroe around for the duration of Joeckel’s modest and affordable rookie deal. Once Joeckel’s rookie contract is up and he starts demanding left tackle money, Jaguars general manager David Caldwell will have to make the tough decision, but for the time being the Jaguars should enjoy one of the most talented offensive tackle tandems in the league. Luke Joeckel has the ability to be an upper echelon tackle on either side of the line, that type of versatility is a valuable commodity.