To justify his selection as the top pick in the 2013 NFL draft, Eric Fisher needs to be as good as left tackle Joe Thomas. That's how high the bar is set when you are taken No. 1 overall.
Even if he’s that good, most teams would probably rather have wide receiver Calvin Johnson, running back Adrian Peterson, linebacker Patrick Willis, cornerback Darrelle Revis or a handful of other players who came out the same 2007 draft as Thomas.
Perhaps the 2013 NFL draft will prove to be a historically weak class, and Fisher will be the best player to come out of it. If that’s the case, Fisher still needs to be very productive, and every other player needs to be average or worse.
The odds are stacked against Fisher being able to justify being selected No. 1 overall if he’s compared to the rest of his class in three years, but that doesn’t mean Fisher was a bad pick. The Cleveland Browns are still very happy to have Thomas because he is one of the best left tackles in the NFL.
The Browns took a safe route in 2007, and it makes a lot of sense for struggling teams to select more projectable and reliable players until they have good starters at every position (with the exception of quarterback).
Of course, this is only true to a point. While whiffing on an early pick can have a lasting impact, it’s probably a bad idea to select a 3-4 defensive end, for example, in the top five. An offensive tackle holds plenty of value, just not as much as some positions.
To avoid being labeled as another average player drafted with a premium draft pick, Fisher needs to do a couple of things. The first is to slow down Denver’s pass-rusher Von Miller. Every team in the AFC West drafted a right tackle in the first two rounds; that's not just a coincidence.
Fisher will play right tackle during his rookie year and be responsible for blocking Miller without much help. Miller is a dominant player against the pass and run, so it will be up to Fisher to make sure the Chiefs can gets something working against their division rival.
Only the most athletic tackles in the league are capable of handling Miller, so Fisher would immediately be one of the NFL’s best at right tackle if he’s successful. Slowing down Miller and the other top pass-rushers in the league makes the Chiefs a better team in 2013.
While other players might end up being superior to Fisher from the 2013 NFL draft, it may take them longer to do so. With Fisher, the Chiefs get an immediate impact with far more initial oomph. This kind of immediate production shouldn't be undervalued. If you are paying a guy four years on his rookie contract, it's nice not to waste a year-and-a-half on developing that player.
Fisher will be able to play at a high level immediately at right tackle, and the Chiefs should have a good idea of what to expect from him. There are far fewer questions about Fisher playing right tackle than there are about a guy like linebacker Dion Jordan becoming an elite pass-rusher.
Will Eric Fisher ever be able to justify being selected No. 1 overall?
That said, as great as Fisher may be at right tackle, he’s not going to justify his draft position long term without sliding over to left tackle to protect Alex Smith’s blind side. Currently, Branden Albert plays left tackle after the Chiefs applied the franchise tag on him in March.
There is evidence that the lines between left tackles and right tackles are blurring, and the biggest pass-rushing threats in the division will continue coming off the right side. That leads us to believe that leaving Fisher at right tackle may actually be a good football decision.
Unfortunately, Fisher needs the recognition as a left tackle to justify his selection. It’s silly if Fisher has a bigger impact on the outcome of games at right tackle, but it's also necessary.
Until NFL teams start paying right tackles money consistent with the top left tackles, this isn’t going to change—even if Fisher becomes the league’s best right tackle and he’s routinely stonewalling Miller. Some people will always think that Fisher is disappointing if the Chiefs don’t eventually move him to the left side.
Consider that the Chiefs failed to hammer out a long-term contract with Albert, and it seems likely that Fisher will get his chance at left tackle next season. Until then, the Chiefs should try to take advantage of having Fisher on the right side blocking Miller.