Texas A&M’s Luke Joeckel declares for NFL Draft, puts Aggies 2013 title hopes in limbo

It’s not often that we report on early declarations for the NFL Draft here at Crystal Ball Run (we leave that up to the NFL guys) but in terms of Texas A&M left tackle Luke Joeckel, we’ll make an exception. The 6’6 310 lb. Outland Trophy winner announced he would enter the NFL Draft Tuesday afternoon, and may have shaken up the 2013 BCS title race because of it.

But before we get to the ramifications, first the news, which Joeckel announced at Tuesday’s Outland awards ceremony:

“This was a very difficult decision for me,” Joeckel said.

“I have thought long and hard and visited with my family and coaches. I feel it is in my best interest to come out. I appreciate all that Texas A&M has done for me and my family. It is tough to leave a great group of coaches and players, including my twin brother Matt. I know they will have a great season in 2013 and I will remain their biggest fan.”

And with that, the 2013 title chase may have been flipped on top of its head.

It’s no secret that regardless of what Joeckel’s decision ended up being, A&M was going to start out the 2013 college football season somewhere in the Top 10. That tends to happen when you have a Heisman Trophy winner returning at quarterback (you’ve probably heard of Johnny Manziel) and a slew of talented skill position players along with him. Ben Molena, Mike Evans and Trey Williams give A&M the most dynamic group of playmakers of anyone in the SEC with the exception of Alabama and possibly Georgia.

At the same time, their true title hopes rested on the decisions of Joeckel and fellow offensive tackle Jake Matthews, who had each been projected as Top 10 NFL Draft picks in recent weeks had they chosen to declare. Well on Monday Matthews announced he’d return to school, bringing back one half of the most talented tackle combination in college football.

Still it doesn’t replace Joeckel, who will leave A&M a year early as college football’s best lineman and someone projected by some as quite possibly the top overall pick in this April’s draft. It also doesn’t help A&M that they will also lose defensive end Damontre Moore a year early to the NFL, in addition to fellow defensive stars like Jonathan Stewart and Sean Porter at linebacker.

Joeckel’s departure is a crippling- albeit, understandable blow- to one of college football’s best and most exciting teams entering 2013.

The Aggies will remain in the Top 10 in preseason polls, but their road to the title just got a lot tougher.

For all his insight, analysis and opinion, be sure to follow Aaron on Twitter @Aaron_Torres.  

About Aaron Torres

Aaron Torres works for Fox Sports, and was previously a best-selling author of the book 'The Unlikeliest Champion.' He currently uses Aaron Torres Sports to occasionally weigh-in on the biggest stories from around sports. He has previously done work for such outlets as Sports Illustrated, SB Nation and Slam Magazine.