Picking 1st: The Case Against Luke Joeckel

Last week, I laid out why I think it would be a mistake for the Chiefs to select DT Star Lotulelei with their first pick. This week, it’s Joeckel’s turn.

There’s probably no player more frequently mocked to the Chiefs than LT Luke Joeckel, but there are a lot of problems with that pick.

Still, let’s start with the good:


He’s a blue chip player at a blue chip position and if the Chiefs don’t re-sign Brandon Albert, it’s a need position for the Chiefs as well.

By almost all accounts he is one of the top three prospects in this draft. Left tackles with the natural ability and prototypical size that he has do not grow on trees. In a year of iffy quarterback prospects, tackles also tend to be safer picks and he’ll be cheaper than retaining Albert’s services most likely.

He has no injury concerns and held his own against some of college football’s best pass rushers in the SEC. All around, he is a low-risk pick and could be the best LT in all of football with some development.

So why not take him?

First off, while there is an overall lower bust rate for tackles in the top of the draft, they’re not a sure bet either. Of the eight tackles taken in the top ten since 2008, all but two are currently rated by Scouts Inc. as just “good starters,” which they describe as a “Solid starter who is close to being an outstanding player … Has few weaknesses and will usually win his individual matchup but does not dominate in every game, especially when matched up against the top players in the league.”

That’s not exactly an inspiring result for a 1st overall pick. If you pick in the top five, you should be landing a guy that is a star in the league for years, not a guy who is merely better than average.

Brandon Albert, on the other hand, is rated as an “outstanding player” by Scouts Inc., which they describe as, “Player has abilities to create mismatches versus most opponents in the NFL … A feature player who has an impact on the outcome of the game … Cannot be shut down by a single player and plays on a consistent level week-in and week-out.”

In other words, if the past five years of drafts are any indication, the Chiefs have essentially a one in four chance of drafting a tackle as good as Brandon Albert. In fact, Brandon Albert is probably one of the most under-rated players on the Chiefs roster. He was ranked the 7th best left tackle in pass protection by Pro Football Focus in 2012 giving up just one sack throughout the season, and Jamaal Charles ran his best when going wide left behind Albert last year. At the final tally, he averaged 8.1 yards for 459 total, gaining roughly a third of his total yards and three of his five touchdowns that way – including that miracle sprint that won us the Saints game.

John Rieger-USA TODAY Sports

But looking at Joeckel himself as a prospect, he is also far from perfect. Going back to the Scouts Inc. grades, the only thing he is rated as “exceptional” in is “awareness.” Don’t get me wrong, it’s great that he’s a smart football player, but I also get a bit antsy about prospects other than quarterbacks whose primary accolade is that they have veteran awareness, because that is ideally the area where they will improve the most once they get to the NFL. Most players do not fundamentally change their bodies and physical tools once they get to the pros, because there’s only so much more you can do when you’re built like these guys are.

In their grades on both his pass protection and run blocking, Scouts Inc. notes he lacks “power in punch” and “initial pop,” noting he doesn’t always drive defenders off the line, but is usually able to make up for his lack of strength with good reactions. While I imagine he can bulk up some, if he’s getting outmuscled in college, he’s going to get straight up beaten in the NFL. Plus, if his awareness is already topped out, he may have peaked already.

The last team to pick a left tackle 1st overall was the Miami Dolphins in 2008. They had a similar plan to the one that is very popular in the comment section – they got their franchise LT in Jake Long with their first overall pick and then snagged a falling QB prospect in the 2nd round – Chad Henne. In fact, there are lot of similarities between the 2012 Chiefs and the Dolphins going into the 2008 Draft. They too had a solid defense and a team with good veteran pieces in place. So how did it go?

What occurred was the greatest single-season turnaround in NFL history as they improved from 1-15 in 2007 to 11-5 in 2008, winning the Tom Brady-less AFC East and going to the playoffs. But, it didn’t last.

Still running with free-agent-signing Chad Pennington at quarterback, the Dolphins turned stale as their game plan of short, accurate passing with Pennington stopped working. Teams also started figuring out the wildcat formation and when Pennington got injured, the team was forced to confront the fact that Henne was something less than a starting quality QB. He finished the season with 12 TD’s, 14 INT’s and a QBR of 51.3.

Three picks after they grabbed Jake Long, the Falcons drafted QB Matt Ryan. Since the 2008 draft, the Falcons’ regular season record is 56-24. The Dolphins have gone 38-42 and haven’t been back to the playoffs since 2008. Meanwhile, Jake Long has ended up being a solid player but has had so many injury problems that the team plans to let him walk on the free market this offseason.

At this stage of the process, the chattering consensus is that it would be a reach for the Chiefs to take any quarterback at #1, however there’s also no guarantee that they will be able to take one of the top two quarterback prospects at all if they wait to try and jump into the back of the 1st round or take whatever is left in round two. Free agent options are uninspiring to say the least.

Meanwhile, the Chiefs have a left tackle that they could re-sign who is better than 75% of the tackles taken in the top 10 of the 1st round in the last five years.

The Chiefs need to decide if they want to be the Dolphins or the Falcons, whether they want to take a chance to fundamentally change this team, or whether they want to play the best card we have this offseason to fill a hole that we’d be making ourselves.

For me the choice is simple, don’t draft Joeckel if you want to take a big step forward.

Tags: 2013 Draft Brandon Albert Draft Prospects Luke Joeckel

  • http://twitter.com/DrDave545667 David Urquhart

    Geno all the way! Resign Albert and Bowe! They have the cap space!!

  • chiefridgy

    Great argument against picking joeckel. Especially when you said picking him would be filling a hole that we made ourselves.

  • itbesimpleman

    the case is a simple one. the first pick doesnt come around often. in fact its likely few here can claim to have seen such a thing for the chiefs
    and you want to spend it on a LT? to upgrade over albert who allowed 1 sack
    people talk value, now that is just a waste. you just spent a third on stephenson, he showed some promise, and was known as a raw physical lineman who needs time. franchise tag albert, then you can develop stephenson
    Its really quite simple

    • Don417

      Albert doesn’t have a contract, genius. That’s the “thing” you need to grasp. And he’s also not worth the money he’s demanding. That’s also a fact.

      • chiefridgy

        Hey genius…..He didn’t say he had a contract.

      • Jim Harper

        I don’t believe he has demanded anything!

      • Brody Hall

        This a hole either has a hard on for jokel or has something against Geno. Just ignore him

      • steve james

        What are you talking about? Out of those two Bowe will be making demands I’d wager.

    • KCMikeG

      Brilliant comment. So brilliant it appears to have blinded some. Tagging Albert gives us a year to see how his back is and watch Stephenson’s development and look at the draft/FA next year. Pay Bowe.

    • calciomoti

      No one has ever seen the chiefs pick first in the NFL draft, because it’s never happened…yet. They did acquire the first pick in the AFL draft in 1963 by trading Cotton Davidson to the raiders.

      But you’re right, why let Albert walk? Draft a qb and give it a shot, not like he’s gonna cost us financially and set the franchise back if he fails…I doubt he could be as bad as Todd Blackledge.

  • GDL40

    EXACTLY !!!!!! we already have that LT position taken care of, which we used a 1st round pick to fill. At best Joeckel is almost as good as Albert, we already know we have a great tackle just re-sign him, pay the man what he deserves! And use that pick to address our biggest need !!!!!

  • Joe Myers

    ok Geno smith has shown me three things . He can read a defense , he can make all the throws , and he’s clutch . The one thing im interested in is jc out of the back field on short passes and hillis on 3d and short im changing my picks . Geno , ol , CB , mlb , rb , te , wr . Or wr core over all is pretty stout and lets face it Geno can throw deep . The thing is the chiefs have sooooooo much talent on this team and now we have a coaching staff that I think is better suited for the talent meaning the type of talent we have fitts their scheme . The one thing the chiefs have all other teams that run the west coast off dont have , the ability to line up and run the football and use play action very well (with a great QB) you put 35 points on top of that with a 14 point lead middle of the 3d quarter . We have allmost every pos filled with talent bring in and develop Geno smith and it won’t be a case of pick your poison but more of resistance is futile . Go chiefs

  • Don417

    What does the top eight tackles from the past have to do with Joeckel? Absolutely nothing.
    He’s also rated as exceptional in just about every phase of the position. Actual scouts say this. Not some lame website.
    One last thing, he’s alot more of a sure bet than Geno “Bust” Smith is. That guy has disaster written all over him.

    • KCMikeG

      What it has do do with is the success of the position as a #1 pick which is one of the ways the value of a position is determined for the draft BPA. Back up your talk with the facts (quotes or links) because your opinion alone has disaster written all over it.

  • Don417

    Brandon Albert, on the other hand, is rated as an “outstanding player” by Scouts Inc
    That’s the funniest load of bs I’ve read in a long time. Tell us another fairy tale.

  • Jim Harper

    Nice work Nicholas! The waiting to see what they do with Albert and Bowe is the hard part. Now the opportunity with Canty presents itself and the plot continues to thicken.

  • Chelsii.

    What’s the bust stats on #1 QBs?

    • NicholasAlanClayton

      Well as of 2010, the bust rate for players taken in the top 16 was:

      Quarterback Bust Rate: 44.4%
      Defensive Tackle Bust Rate: 46.9%
      Offensive Tackle Bust Rate: 19.2%

      according to Walter Football: http://walterfootball.com/nfldraftoffensivetackles.php

  • Troy Utt

    Nick & Michael… Early on I was all in for drafting Jockel, but have altered my thinking as I believe (hope) Albert will return healthy??? That said, brings me to question…Whether we sign or tag Albert we are looking at approx $10m. (+/- depending on bonus) with only hope that his back problems are behind us. As I really don’t think Stephenson is a plug & play (extended) answer to fill in… Bowe on the other hand has gone out of his way to state how badly he wants out of KC! No question we need a QB… I am just not sold that Geno is the best option, as I can’t say he is even the best available in draft! Looking at our new staff IMO it would appear Wilson is best suited to come in and run with the offense… WHAT IS YOUR TAKE?

  • berttheclock

    You write about the drafting of Jake Long and Henne by Miami and how it seemed to work for about a year. May I suggest a very strong reason why it did not work longer. Jeff Ireland of whom was the worst choice to run operations Parcells could have made. Yes, he did hire Ireland before the Long draft, but, it would appear Parcells made the Long decision, then, stepped back and deferred to Ireland for evaluating talent. The draft choices following for the next few years ended up being mediocre as Jeff Ireland stumbled and bumbled in attempting to turn Miami into Dallas Cowboys Southeast. Look at the Pat White pick in the 2nd round in ’09. Then, in 2010 Ireland traded away the 12th pick in the draft in order to drop into the mid twenties. In between that 12th pick and the taking of a non descript DT, there were four future Pro Bowlers left for others to take. He did a similar thing in the second round in passing over a few potential Pro Bowlers for, yet, another poor pick. In addition, he allowed Vontae Davis, the top pick from 2009 to be traded away to the Colts, who improved their defensive backfield with him.
    No wonder Bill Parcells stepped aside in 2010 as the heat from poor drafting by Ireland was catching up with him. Either Ireland was consulting with Pioli or trying to emulate him in not being able to evaluate talent.

  • KCMikeG

    Albert passed a physical today!! His back is good to go! Draft Geno!