Could Luke Joeckel Be Available At No. 4?

For months Luke Joeckel has been widely considered the top tackle in April’s draft, with Eric Fisher a beat behind.

That order is being questioned by Dan Pompei of the National Football Post, who says that according to NFL scouts and front office men that he has spoken to, Fisher is passing Joeckel on some draft boards.

What this means is NFL teams have begun to think Fisher can end up the better pro. Joeckel might already be all he can be. Fisher can be significantly better. “Because of his athleticism, he has more upside,” an NFC general manager said. “If you want upside, you take Fisher.”

Andy Reid‘s draft board is the most important at the moment. Most mocks have him selecting Joeckel with the first pick in the draft. If he opts for Fisher (or goes in a different direction altogether) the night will start with a most interesting twist.

All of this will be closely monitored by the Eagles. Tackle is a logical pick at No. 4, and they’ll be interested to see if one of these top linemen are available when they go on the clock.

Which would be a better fit?

Russ Lande did a piece comparing Joeckel and Fisher. He likened Joeckel to Browns’ left tackle Joe Thomas, and Fisher to Minnesota’s Matt Kalil. The Vikings picked Kalil with the No. 4 overall pick last year. Thomas was the third pick in ’07. He has made the Pro Bowl six times.

Lande calls Joeckel the more consistent player “but also more of a finesse, positional blocker…Fisher is a more explosive athlete who blocks with more of a nasty, aggressive temperament.”

Lande offers further analysis:

More of a positional, seal run blocker, Joeckel relies on his quickness to get into good blocking position with good leverage and is consistently able to pin man out of the play. On the other hand, Fisher gets after defender aggressively, delivers a blow and flashes the ability to get movement through a combination of strength, aggressiveness and rare competitiveness. This aggressive blocking style does lead to Fisher occasionally over-extending and missing blocks he is in position to make.

Fisher’s aggressive style would likely be appealing to Kelly, who once said he wants his offensive linemen to be like bouncers in a bar. Kelly talked about the qualities he wants in his offensive front when discussing the inside zone play at a Nike Coaching clinic in 2009.

We want to get off the ball and be a physical, downhill-running football team. This is not a finesse play. We teach our offensive linemen a play we call the bust block. The idea is to bust their sternums up against their spines on every play. We want to come off the ball, create a double-team, knock the crap out of the defender, and deposit him in the linebacker’s lap.

That sounds more like Fisher than Joeckel, though I’m sure he would find plenty to like about the stud Texas A&M tackle as well.

In terms of measurables, Fisher is 6-8, 305 and Joeckel is listed at 6-6, 306.  Fisher’s arms are 34 ½ inches compared to 34 ¼ for Joeckel.

There is a wild card in the tackle picture as well. Oklahoma’s Lane Johnson seems to be more in the conversation as a top-tier pick the closer we get to the draft. Several mock drafts have Johnson going to the Chargers at No. 11, other see him being snatched by Arizona at No. 7.  Senior Bowl executive director Phil Savage called the 6-6 Johnson “the guy with the most potential at the position in the draft.”

If the Eagles see Johnson as a high-end tackle option, they could conceivably trade out of the No. 4 spot and still snare the kind of player they are looking for.

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