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Oregon Tackle Jake Fisher Has the Athleticism NFL Teams Covet

Ian Wharton@NFLFilmStudyContributor IApril 13, 2015

Oregon offensive lineman Jake Fisher warms up before facing Colorado in the first quarter of an NCAA college football game in Boulder, Colo., on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
David Zalubowski/Associated Press

Finding top-tier players amongst the thousands of quality athletes who play competitive football is an extremely difficult task. One method NFL front offices and talent evaluators use to filter through the clutter to find standouts is athletic testing. Oregon offensive tackle Jake Fisher firmly established himself as an athletic freak after he turned in an extremely impressive NFL combine performance.

Offensive tackle is one of the four premier positions in football. On offense, it’s not a stretch to say it is the second-most crucial investment a team could make behind the quarterback. Creating offensive production is much easier in the NFL with a solid pair of tackles.

Finding elite athletes at tackle is something teams put an emphasis on because recovery speed and agility are critical. According to Mockdraftable, here are the average combine weigh-ins by offensive tackles since 1999. Notice the size and short-area burst numbers.

Average Offensive Tackle Combine Performance
HeightWeightArm Length40-yard dashBench PressVertical JumpBroad Jump3-Cone20-yard shuttle
6'5"31634"5.272428"101"7.784.75
Mockdraftable

Now that you’ve seen that, let’s look at what offensive tackles must face every down. Below are the average numbers by defensive ends since 1999. This time, the speed and lower-body explosion numbers should pop out.

Defensive End Combine Performance
HeightWeightArm Length40-yard dashBench PressVertical JumpBroad Jump3-Cone20-yard shuttle
6'3"26733"4.832333"114"7.224.42
Mockdraftable

Just by going off the numbers, tackles are at a great athletic disadvantage to start. Even the best athletes must possess strong technique or else the speedier edge defenders in the NFL will school them. But the top athletes have that extra leeway to help overcome mistakes.

There have been a handful of truly great athletes at tackle to be drafted highly since 2004. Although not all have turned out to be elite players, most have worked their way into a starting position. More importantly, their athleticism is far from the reason they’ve failed. With the exception of New Orleans Saints tackle Terron Armstead, all of the players listed below were taken in the first round of their respective drafts.

Top Performing Tackles At Combine Since 2004
PlayerYearPick SelectedHeightWeightArm Length40-yard dashBench PressVertical JumpBroad Jump3-Cone20-yard Shuttle
Khalif Barnes200552nd6'6"305-4.922635"106"-4.56
Trent Williams20104th6'5"31534.25"4.812334.5"113"-4.63
Donald Stephenson201274th6'5"31234.825"4.941935"114"7.524.78
Eric Fisher20131st6'7"30634.5"5.052728.5"116"7.594.44
Luke Joeckel20132nd6'6"30634.255.302728.5"106"7.404.68
Lane Johnson20134th6'6"30335.25"4.722834"118"7.314.52
Justin Pugh201319th6'4"30732"5.14-28.5"103"7.454.63
Terron Armstead201375th6'5"30634"4.713134.5"112"7.624.72
Jake Matthews20146th6'5"30833.375"5.072430.5"105"7.344.47
Taylor Lewan201411th6'7"30933.825"4.872930.5"117"7.394.49
Mockdraftable

The importance of the NFL combine can be debated to an extent, but teams clearly have shown that better athletes have high value because of their ability to “win” in multiple ways. Technique can be learned, but size, speed and bend cannot be significantly improved without major alterations to the body.

Fisher’s case to be a day one starter in the NFL is very strong. He is a former tight end who has terrific movement skills. He started 35 games in college, including 13 at left tackle in 2014.

Yet he was omitted from CBS Sports' Dane Brugler’s latest mock draft. Now, a mock is simply what someone is hearing and is in no way an iron-clad statement on what will happen. But Fisher is very comparable to former first-rounders, and if he doesn’t go in the first, he could be a huge steal.

Jake Fisher's NFL Combine Performance
MeasurementPercentile Rank
Height6'6"47
Weight30621
Arm Length33.75"28
40-yard dash5.0193
Bench Press2553
Vertical Jump32.5"90
3-Cone7.2599
20-yard shuttle4.33100
Mockdraftable

Fisher’s combine was terrific. Take a look at his raw numbers, as well as where he ranked in percentiles. His short-area and explosion numbers were off the charts.

Youtube

Fisher’s athleticism easily translates to the field, as well. He’s not just some workout warrior who blew up. Armstead was that guy, but Fisher was an accomplished three-year starter at Oregon, so they’re not as similar as Fisher and the rest of the examples used earlier.

Above is a great example of how Fisher can use his athleticism to protect his quarterback. It is just one play, but this was routine throughout his film, so I feel comfortable showing this as a snapshot of who Fisher is. Notice how smoothly Fisher gets back, stays engaged and neutralizes the inside move by the rusher.

Being able to handle countermoves inside and out is more important than ever for left and right tackles. Passing rates are at an incredible high right now, and things may not start trending downward for a few years, if ever. Quality tackles are absolutely a must.

A smart team will select Jake Fisher at the end of the first round or early second. Considering the premium cost of his comparisons, Fisher will be a bargain. He’s more of a technician than Armstead, Eric Fisher, Luke Joeckel and Taylor Lewan. Combining his athletic prowess and NFL-ready skill set, he should be getting more buzz.

Fisher isn’t the perfect tackle prospect, though. He could use more functional strength on his body, and he has some injury concerns. His ability to play either tackle spot or guard shouldn’t be questioned, though. A year from now, he will very likely be “that guy” teams wish they didn’t pass up.

Ian Wharton is an NFL Draft Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. 

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