Jan 4, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Texas A

The Case For Luke Joeckel Number One Overall

Mel Kiper Jr. released his Mock Draft 1.0 on Wednesday and had Luke Joeckel, offensive tackle from Texas A&M, going #1 overall to the Kansas City Chiefs. This is what he had to say about the 6-6, 310 lbs junior:

“He has started every game at left tackle since he arrived on campus, protects the passer with what could almost be perceived as ease and has zero durability questions after three years against very good competition. Joeckel has been so good, a big question about him at this stage might be whether he’s truly nasty enough, a point of pride among elite O-linemen. The kid is a gifted technician at left tackle, and the Chiefs could go with the strategy of drafting their left tackle for the next 10 years here, then taking a shot on the best QB available with the first pick in Round 2. Two needs, two picks. We’ll see, but QB value at this draft slot isn’t in play right now.”

While many Chiefs fans scoff at this pick – myself included – I have a feeling this might be closer to reality than drafting a quarterback.

In new Chiefs general manager John Dorsey’s introductory press conference, he said this about his plans for the first overall selection: “pick the best player available.” He added, ““You spent all those months as a group staying true to your board, and all of a sudden you have to jump a player because of positional needs? I don’t think you do that. We [the Packers] have proven you don’t do that.”

So what he’s pretty much saying is that if there’s not a quarterback worth the first overall pick, don’t count on the Chiefs using that pick on one.

There has been much discussion about who would be the top quarterback in this year’s draft, and many are leaning towards Geno Smith from West Virginia. But being the best quarterback on the board doesn’t necessarily make you worth the first pick, at least according to the best player available (BPA) strategy. In fact, Gil “the Godfather” Brandt of NFL.com doesn’t have a single QB listed in his top 25 college prospects. So if Dorsey truly sticks to the board, and assuming his board isn’t that much different than the analysts, AND assuming the board doesn’t change that much between now and April (which it will), the Chiefs could very well be looking at Joeckel first overall.

So let’s say all those things come into effect. I’m going to play devil’s advocate here and am going to make the Case for Luke Joeckel Number One Overall.

When I wrote my piece a couple weeks back about Andy Reid, I mentioned that he sees the game through the “prism of the pass.” And one of those important elements is being able to keep the quarterback upright. That’s where the tackle position comes in. In Philly, Reid took two offensive linemen in the first round during his time there, and spent over 20 draft picks total on the offensive line. And yes, while Dorsey supposedly has the final say on the draft in April (and based off his press conference, I do believe that. The guy was straight intimidating), you have to believe Reid will have a bit to do with it.

As for the need at that position, there’s no guarantee Branden Albert will be coming back next season besides a franchise tag. In 2012, the tender for an offensive lineman was worth $9.383 million and will remain in that area as the salary cap is expected to remain flat in 2013. This is about a $6.5 million raise from last season. Sure, there’s always a chance the Chiefs and Albert could reach a long term contract before the draft, but it won’t come cheap. Albert has come into his own since being a first round pick, and some even consider him a top-10 left tackle in the league. And while Pro Football Focus went on to call Albert “superb,” that kind of recognition doesn’t come without a price tag.

In taking Joeckel, the Chiefs would be saving themselves quite a bit of money, while also getting a very good tackle prospect. How cheap you ask? Andrew Luck got a four year $22.1 million contract last year as the first pick. Albert and his agents might be wanting a contract where he makes that much in half the amount of time, in the spirit of Joe Thomas, Jake Long and Jason Peters. Is Albert worth that? Would that money be better served going towards a guy like Dwayne Bowe?

If there is no sure-thing quarterback, then why reach for one at the most crucial slot of the entire draft? And if the boards shake down like many analysts think it will, there is a strong possibility that quarterbacks such as Matt Barkley, Tyler Wilson, and Mike Glennon will be available with the second pick in the second round, which the Chiefs own. Much like how the 2011 Bengals selected A.J. Green with the fourth pick and Andy Dalton with the 35th pick, the Chiefs could sure up two very important positions on the offense with their first two picks without the fear of reaching for a quarterback that is overrated.

Worried about the Jaguars leaping on the best QB available with the first pick of the second round? Then the Chiefs could be like the Vikings last season. They drafted offensive tackle Matt Kalil out of USC number four overall, then traded their second and fourth round picks (#35 and #98 overall) to get back into the first round and take Harrison Smith at pick 29. If the Chiefs are worried about the Jags adding to their QB conundrum down in Jacksonville, this is another reasonable route worth pursuing.

It’s the Chiefs luck that they couldn’t have been this awful last year and have had their choice between Andrew Luck and RG3, but that’s just how it is. The last thing Dorsey will want to do is use his first pick with the Chiefs on a risky quarterback that might not pan out and then have to be tied with him for a few years (this is what I call the Blaine Gabbert effect). If Dorsey truly means what he says and will take the best player available, it seems Joeckel is his man. Doesn’t mean he won’t draft a QB, just means he is true to the board and true to his word.

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