In what seemed like a curious move at the time, general manager David Caldwell made offensive tackle Luke Joeckel the first draft selection in a new era of Jacksonville Jaguars football. Selected 2nd overall after fellow offensive tackle Eric Fisher, Joeckel was slotted to play right tackle since veteran Eugene was manning the left side. It seemed overkill to spend the 2nd overall pick on a right tackle, but Caldwell’s plan became clear when he traded Monroe to the Baltimore Ravens before week 5.
Joeckel looked every bit like a rookie in his 4 games at right tackle, but he seemed to be getting into a groove at left tackle against the St. Louis Rams before injuring his ankle and losing the rest of his rookie season. Heading into his second season, Joeckel is looking to live up to his high draft position.
Todd McShay over at the worldwide leader had Joeckel as his top-ranked player in the 2013 draft, and he now – in an article available to ESPN insiders – lists Joeckel as one of his players to look out for in their second seasons.
Joeckel is a slight stretch for this list in the sense that he started all five of the games in which he played as a rookie, prior to fracturing his ankle against the Rams in Week 5 and missing the rest of the year. But we’ll justify it because medical redshirts are very common in college football, and because Joeckel could play a pivotal role on a rebuilding Jacksonville team this season.
This is for two reasons. First, Joeckel is a high-level talent who was the No. 1 prospect in our 2013 rankings. He has quick feet, good balance and lateral agility as a pass protector, and he has excellent first-step quickness and great range as a run-blocker. Second, the Jaguars need some serious help on the offensive line, having given up 50 sacks last season (31st in the NFL) and averaged just 3.3 yards per carry (also 31st).
Jacksonville used its first four picks of the 2014 draft on offense, including No. 3 overall pick QB Blake Bortles, and a pair of mid-round picks on Ace Sanders and Denard Robinson in 2013 (after taking Joeckel at No. 2 overall), so this is a group that could have a bright future together. But that success will depend heavily on Joeckel’s ability to develop into the player he projected to be coming out of Texas A&M, starting with his progress in Year 2. I noted when he came out that he needed to improve his core strength to generate more surge as a run-blocker and that he gave up ground against speed-to-power rushers on occasion, and those are two areas to watch in his sophomore campaign.
The Jaguars have been receiving tons of positive press this offseason, and McShay is listing yet another reason why the Jaguars are a team to look out for. Joeckel has all the makings of a franchise left tackle, and he could provide a significant upgrade along the offensive line if he plays up to his potential at left tackle. Joeckel, Bortles, Lee, Robinson, and Shorts make up the core of a very promising young offense. Joeckel could cement himself as the anchor of the offensive line for the next decade if he comes back strong from his injury.
– Daniel Lago