Luke Joeckel, Nine First-Round Offensive Linemen Were ‘Safe’ Picks, But Won’t Be Franchise Changers

Luke JoeckelThe first round of the 2013 NFL Draft wasn’t a typical one, but for the most part it went as planned.

There was only one quarterback taken and nine offensive linemen. The offensive skill position players were largely ignored and the top three pass rushers went off the board in the first six picks.

It’s the teams that took the “safe” route that may suffer after Thursday. The Chiefs, Jaguars, Eagles, Cardinals, Titans, Chargers, Giants, Bears and Cowboys all took offensive linemen in the first round. All nine of those teams did not make the playoffs in 2012, and none of those first-round linemen will push them into playoff status in 2013.

A great offensive lineman will add to the greater good of a team, but he won’t be a franchise changer. Quick, who’s the best offensive tackle in the NFL? Probably Joe Thomas in Cleveland, right? Well, he hasn’t exactly been a franchise changer for the Browns, has he? Jake Long was the No. 1 overall pick in 2008 for the Dolphins, and Miami let him walk after having one winning season since he came aboard. And Long worked out! Long was as good as advertised.

Kansas City, Jacksonville, Philadelphia, Arizona, Tennessee, San Diego, Chicago and Dallas needed to make big moves to get into playoff contention next season, and taking right tackles and guards isn’t going to get it done. The Giants should be expected to make the playoffs next season, and their decision to take Justin Pugh No. 19 overall was probably a good one. They are a team without a ton of bigger needs.

If Branden Albert stays on board with the Chiefs, No. 1 overall pick Eric Fisher will be playing on the right side. Luke Joeckel will be playing on the right side in Jacksonville, Lane Johnson will be playing on the right side in Philadelphia, Jonathan Cooper and Chance Warmack are guards, D.J. Fluker is a right tackle only for San Diego, Pugh and Kyle Long are not left tackles for New York and Chicago respectively and Travis Frederick is a center in Dallas.

There should be a question whether a right tackle, guard or center is even worthy of a first-round pick, and they made up more than a quarter of the draft. Now, granted, right tackles are becoming more valuable since pass rushers will rarely stay on one side of the field anymore. Therefore, right tackles are becoming more valuable, but how big of an impact can one offensive lineman have on a game, a season or a team?

The first round saw possible high-impact players like Star Lotulelei, Sharrif Floyd, Xavier Rhodes and Tyler Eifert fall to the 14th pick and beyond. It saw guys like Jamar Taylor, Justin Hunter, Jonathan Cyprien, Geno Smith and Tank Carradine fall out of the first round altogether.

Great offensive line prospects still remain, too. Are Pugh, Long and Frederick really that much better players than the Menelik Watsons, Terron Armsteads, Larry Warfords and Brennan Williams‘ that can be had with the 33rd pick and beyond? Doubtful.

Offensive linemen should certainly be considered for the first round, but it seemed like teams wised up in 2012 when only one went before the No. 23 pick and only four went in the first round. It seemed as though teams consciously decided that guards like David DeCastro weren’t worth Top 10 or 20 picks. But this year, teams that fail year after year decided to play it “safe” by not doing much at all.

So as Fluker struggles to kick out against quick pass rushers next season in San Diego, and Cooper plays his butt off in Arizona — but the tackles playing next to him still can’t block worth a lick — don’t be surprised when those teams continue to fail.

Certain positions are just worth more. Cooper could wind up being the best guard in the NFL for the next ten years, but Will Shields was a damn good player too. However, he didn’t have the same impact on his team as a Tom Brady or even Darrelle Revis can.

Teams like the Rams, Jets and Raiders were smart to think outside the box during that string of first-round linemen when they took Tavon AustinDee Milliner and D.J. Hayden, respectively. Sure, they’re bigger risks, but if they pan out, they’ll also be better prizes.

Yardbarker

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