Playing an inglorious position at a mid-major school, Central Michigan left tackle Eric Fisher had escaped national attention prior to the 2013 Senior Bowl.
Fisher took advantage of his prime opportunity to impress the scouts in Mobile, Ala., and proved himself to be the best player at the game.
What many had yet to realize has now become exceedingly clear: Fisher is not only a sure-fire first-round pick, but one of the best prospects in the entire 2013 NFL draft class.
Before the Senior Bowl, the vibe on the class of offensive tackles in this year’s draft was down, following the announcements that the consensus No. 2 and No. 3 draft prospects at the position, Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews and Michigan’s Taylor Lewan, would both return to school.
Fisher not only cemented his status as the No. 2 offensive tackle in the draft class with a great week in Mobile. His stock has risen to the point that some draft media have questioned whether Fisher should be the first offensive tackle drafted (Texas A&M’s Luke Joeckel is considered the No. 1 overall prospect in the draft by many draft media, including myself and Bleacher Report lead draft writer Matt Miller).
Why is Fisher one of the draft’s most quickly-rising prospects and projected to be a top-10 pick? We’ll get to that, but first, let’s take a look at how Fisher has developed from two-star recruit to projected first-round pick.
Under The Radar
Being in the national spotlight is newfound fame for Fisher. Since high school, Fisher’s talents have too often been overlooked.
Coming out of Stoney Creek High School in Rochester Hills, Mich., the 6’7” Fisher already had his signature height and length, but as he told the Detroit News, he only weighed 242 pounds at the time. Likely in part due to his thin frame, Fisher was only rated as a two-star recruit by Rivals.com, and received his only scholarship offers from Central Michigan and Eastern Michigan.
Nonetheless, by signing with the Chippewas, Fisher became Stoney Creek’s first-ever Division I football signee (Oakland Press).
Choosing CMU turned out to be a great career move for Fisher. While he did not get much national attention playing on a MAC team that only won 13 games and made one bowl appearance in the past three seasons, he quietly developed in one of the nation’s best left tackles.
Thanks in part to an outstanding week at the Senior Bowl that made scouts go back and look at his impressive game tape from CMU, he won’t be overlooked again by NFL scouts.
Why NFL Scouts Are Taking Notice
Few positions are valued higher in the NFL than pass-protecting left tackles. Fisher is an excellent pass blocker who is ready to step in from the beginning of his rookie season at left tackle and protect the quarterback effectively.
Fisher was very rarely beaten in pass protection during his career at CMU, leading the way for a Chippewas offensive line that allowed just 15 sacks in 13 games in 2012.
Against some of the 2013 NFL Draft’s best pass-rush prospects at the Senior Bowl, he continued to dominate. He won nearly all of his battles during one-on-one drills in “The Pit” during practices, including against early-round draft picks in Texas’ Alex Okafor and UCLA’s Datone Jones.
Fisher has all the physical traits that scouts look for in a pass protector.
Fisher has prototypical length at 6’7” with 34-inch arms and an 82-inch wingspan. Unlike coming out of high school, he now complements that frame with a well-built, 305-pound body.
Fisher has very quick feet for an offensive tackle. He gets off of the line very quickly, and is terrific at kick-sliding to mirror an edge rusher. Athleticism is one of Fisher’s best traits and he uses it to take speed rushers out of their game.
Some linemen with Fisher’s height and length struggle to keep up with their bodies, but Fisher moves naturally. He has a very good stance and bends naturally. He is certainly able to use his length to his advantage.
The main concern with watching Fisher on tape is that he did not go up against many top-notch pass-rushers at CMU. On tape, however, he looks like an elite pass-protector, and he quelled many concerns about his level of competition with his Senior Bowl showing.
Fisher is not quite as polished as a run blocker as he is a pass blocker, but he has big, strong hands that he uses very well. He is comfortable picking up blocks both to his inside and to his outside, and uses his movement skills to pick up blocks quickly.
Fisher has adequate but not great strength. He does not overpower defenders going upfield as a run blocker, and is driven back at times by bull rushers. But when he locks onto a defender he has more than enough strength to sustain a block, and when he does get driven back by a bull rush he does a great job of re-anchoring to avoid giving up a sack.
Where Fisher Should Be Drafted
Aside from the quarterback, there may be no other position more important to the success of an offense than their left tackle. Fisher has the potential to be among the league’s best blindside pass-protectors, and with 34 collegiate starts under his belt, he is ready to step in immediately and help an NFL offensive line.
A more polished run blocker who consistently controlled some of the nation’s best pass-rushers, Joeckel should be the first offensive tackle off the board. Fisher, however, isn’t far behind him, and could very well go as high as the No. 4 overall pick to the Philadelphia Eagles.
Before Lewan and Matthews announced their decisions to return, Fisher’s status as a first-round pick was not even certain. Now, it seems very likely he will be a top-10 pick, with the No. 11 overall selection (San Diego Chargers) looking like a worst-case scenario for his draft stock.
That isn’t just because of Fisher’s performance in Mobile, however. His tape shows that he was consistently dominant over the past couple years, and the team that drafts him should see immediate dividends, especially in their ability to protect the quarterback.
Depending on whether the Kansas City Chiefs or Oakland Raiders pounce on drafting Joeckel in the top three picks, the most likely landing spots for Fisher are the Eagles, Arizona Cardinals (No. 7) and Chargers.
Dan Hope is an NFL Draft Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report.