One of the few positives of having one of the worst records in the NFL is that you get one of the top picks in the upcoming NFL Draft. It's a chance to add to your roster one of the best players from the college ranks. That is the position the Jacksonville Jaguars found themselves in this year.
Selecting number two overall put them in a great position to add an impact player, which they did with the pick of Luke Joeckel. Now immediately some people will ask the question, 'Can an offensive lineman really have that big of an impact?' and the answer is an unequivocal YES!
For a team like the Jaguars with a young quarterback and a unit that was statistically the bottom of the league in allowing pressures on the quarterback, there is arguably no more important position group than the offensive line. The addition of Luke to man the right tackle position opposite Eugene Monroe should give the Jaguars one of the best young offensive tackle tandems in the NFL and give Blaine Gabbert a chance in the pocket this year.
What made Luke Joeckel a premier left tackle during his three seasons at Texas A&M and gives him a chance to be a top right or left tackle in the NFL is a combination of great feet, athletic ability, good strength/power, smarts and a great work ethic.
Watching Luke on the field in Jacksonville has left me convinced he has a chance to be a special player. He moves very naturally, even though he is making the switch from the left side to the right, he is able to move in space with good knee bend/pad level and good body control that allows him to stay in balance as he engages defensive players.
However, it is not only the physical ability that he possesses, which by the way will really become evident once the pads are on, that has me impressed, but what is above the shoulders and between the ears. Every year there are great physical specimens with outstanding athletic abilities that never really figure it out because of not being mentally prepared and/or not having a willingness to put the work in to be a real pro.
Luke has shown me he has both traits.
Mentally he has made the transition to the right side of the line seamlessly and has handled the workload of learning a completely new offense. From day one he has been running with the starters and from my vantage point he has had very few missed assignments and hasn't look like a rookie most of the time.
Probably even more impressive than his play during practice, has been his approach away from "practice time". Most rookies come into the NFL having no idea of what it takes to be a pro and to excel in the NFL. Just like any job, doing the minimum will only get you so far. It's the extra work that separates players from just being on the team and from having the opportunity to dominate.
He arrived with the right attitude, from asking questions to working on his pass sets continually and everything in between.
The two most important things Luke can do as a rookie to give him the best chance of having success and kicking off his NFL career the proper way is one, put aside anything and everything that is not directly related to playing football. Being the second overall pick in the NFL draft brings all kinds of opportunities, and while most can be beneficial, they also take away from what a young players focus needs to be, PLAYING FOOTBALL! It is a big transition from college to the NFL and that is what a rookie should focus on year one.
Secondly, put in the time away from the field, in the weight room, the film room and your health. It goes back to what I said earlier, just doing the minimum will only get you so far, it is what you do away from practice and the facility that sometimes makes the biggest difference. Putting the time in studying film is something most young players need to learn and I recommend every young player, no matter the position, to find a veteran and learn the skill of watching film.
If Luke will remember how hard he worked to become the second player selected overall and take that approach to the next level, he will have great success in the NFL and make the Jacksonville Jaguars very happy they picked him. Luke Joeckel has everything you want and need in an offensive tackle.