Last week Texas A&M offensive tackle Luke Joeckel declared that he will be eligible for the NFL draft. The news was largely overlooked amidst the more immediate playoff news items and story lines, but his eligibility will have a large impact at the top end of the draft order in April.
While the draft is always of great interest to me, I'm no expert of prospects, especially at this early stage of draft season, and that's why I reached out to Eric Galko of OptimumScouting.com. Here's some of what Eric had to say about Joeckel's ability going into the draft.
"A franchise left tackle in the mold of Cleveland Browns left tackle Joe Thomas, Joeckel is as polished and NFL-ready as he can possibly be at this point… More important and impressive than his frame, however, is how light-footed and agile Joeckel is for a 6’6 tackle."
"Joeckel will certainly be in contention for a top five selection now that he has declared himself eligible."
In other words, Joeckel will be in high demand, and it's possible, if not likely, that he'll be off the board very early.
Joeckel's eligibility could even push Geno Smith out of the top spot in this year's draft. The Chiefs are a quarterback needy team, but the possibility of adding a top tackle to protect their quarterback of the future could be too enticing to pass up. If that's the case, Geno Smith could be bumped down to someone else.
The other possibility is the Chiefs go ahead and take Smith, leaving Joeckel for the Jaguars at second overall. If the Jaguars picked up Joeckel, they would have one of the best offensive tackle tandems in the NFL.
It's still too early to make any clear assumptions about the draft, but Luke Joeckel will play a major role by late April in the way the draft unfolds.