The college football world is gearing up for Saturday's rematch between Texas A&M and Alabama. During the lead up to the game, 99 percent of the focus will be placed on two people: Johnny Manziel and Nick Saban. That is unfortunate because there are several other outstanding players worthy of discussion and numerous interesting storylines surrounding this contest.
One player worthy of attention is Texas A&M offensive tackle Jake Matthews. The Aggies' athletic lineman likely would have been a top 10 pick had he elected to enter the 2013 NFL Draft. Instead, he decided to return to College Station for his senior season. The Aggies' other starting tackle, Luke Joeckel, decided against returning to school and entered the draft, where he was selected second overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars.
I posed this question to five NFL personnel executives: Who's the better player, the Aggies' former left tackle, Luke Joeckel, or the Aggies' current left tackle, Jake Matthews? Here are the results:
Executive No. 1: Matthews
"I'll give the slight edge to Matthews. He has more upside. He's got more twitch and snap and he's more aggressive. I think he'll be an excellent left tackle. Joeckel was steady, but Matthews excites me a little more."
Executive No. 2: Matthews
"Matthews. He is a better athlete and he has a higher ceiling. He is also a better bender and has quicker feet."
Executive No. 3: Joeckel
"Joeckel. He's not as nasty as Matthews, but he's more versatile and plays more under control. Joeckel made the difficult look effortless."
Executive No. 4: Joeckel
"I'd have Joeckel by a small amount. He's a slightly better athlete and pass protector. Mathews is a better run blocker and plays stronger. This is very close."
Executive No. 5: Joeckel
"Joeckel, but it's very close. Neither guy is an elite athlete, but they are both very technically sound."
Verdict: Joeckel received three votes and Matthews two.
Conclusion: Both players are well-liked by these executives. Matthews gets credit for being the nastier, more physical run blocker, while Joeckel earned praise for his consistency and sound technique. There wasn't a consensus opinion regarding which player was the superior athlete. Two executives gave the athletic nod to Matthews, one preferred Joeckel, and the other two didn't have a strong opinion favoring either player in this area.
I gave both players the same grade when I evaluated them last fall. I would currently give the slight nod to Joeckel, but I'm eager to study Matthews later this fall and I look forward to revisiting this discussion at that time.