NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, left, stands next to Central Michigan offensive tackle Eric Fisher after he was taken No. 1 overall by the Kansas City Chiefs in Thursday’s NFL Draft. Fisher is the first OT taken as the top pick since Jake Long was selected by Miami in 2008.
NEW YORK — Somebody had to be picked first in the NFL’s unfairly-tagged “No Name Draft” for 2013, so the Kansas City Chiefs made Central Michigan offensive tackle Eric Fisher that No. 1 selection to open the annual lottery Thursday evening.
“The offensive line is close to my heart, I really like those guys,” Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said on NFL Network even before that first draft pick for Kansas City gave him two viable candidates for the important left tackle position, for a while, anyway.
Reid’s appreciation for linemen does not reflect the lack of hyperbole that surrounded this lineman-laden draft.
Fisher’s selection is a telling departure in an annual event that celebrated a quarterback taken first in 10 of the previous 12 drafts. Fisher, although a big name in his own right, especially at 6-feet-7 1/4, 306 pounds, becomes the poster boy for a draft that offers more talent, or value, on the offensive and defensive lines than the more high profile skill positions of quarterback, running back or wide receiver.
That was evident in the fact the Chiefs’ final decision for the No. 1 pick was between Fisher and Texas A&M offensive tackle Luke Joeckel, who was drafted by Jacksonville with the No. 2 pick.
Joeckel, a junior from Texas A&M, solidifies the Jaguars’ offensive line, even if first-year coach Gus Bradley still isn’t certain of the identity of his starting quarterback.
“I can’t even process what’s happening right now,” Fisher told ESPN as he came off the stage following his introduction by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell as the No. 1 pick. “It’s a dream come true. I can’t understand what’s going on right now, but what an honor. What an honor, and a great opportunity. I’m pumped to be a Chief.”
Fisher’s selection was also notable because he is only the second first round pick out of Central Michigan, which sent Joe Staley to San Francisco 49ers as the 28th pick in the 2007 draft.
“He has been a help to me,” Fisher said of Staley. “He explained the process, what to expect and there really has been a lot to take in.”
Since the first combined, NFL-AFL, draft in 1967, Fisher is only the fourth offensive tackle to be taken with the first overall pick. The others were Southern Cal’s Ron Yary (Vikings, 1968), Ohio State’s Orlando Pace (Rams, 1997), and Michigan’s Jake Long (Dolphins, 2008). Yary was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2001.
He is the first player ever selected No. 1 overall by the Chiefs in the modern draft era, and the first senior selected with the top pick since Long.
The Chiefs’ newly-acquired quarterback Alex Smith, who had the luxury of playing behind the league’s best offensive line in San Francisco, surely must appreciate Fisher’s selection. Fisher projects as a left tackle, where he could protect Smith’s blind side.
Interestingly, the Chiefs went into the draft with veteran Branden Albert as a starting left tackle and the team used its franchise tag to keep him. However, there have been ongoing trade talks about Albert with the Miami Dolphins, and the Arizona Cardinals reportedly showed some interest as well. Hours before the draft, Reid said there was no progress on those trade talks.
“Really not closer to a trade,” Reid confirmed on NFL Network. “Same time, we know Branden is a starting left tackle in the NFL.”
Fisher started all 13 games for CMU last season as the key blocker in an offense that averaged 6.2 yards per play, produced almost 400 yards per game and scored 30 or more points in each of the last six games. A three-year starter, Fisher won the team’s Upfront Player of the Year Award twice.
Since the end of the season, he was rated by most teams among the many top offensive tackles in this draft. But it wasn’t until he was a standout in both the Senior Bowl practices and the Scouting Combine workouts in Indianapolis that his name was pushed to the top on some lists.
In February, Dane Brugler of NFLDraftScout.com was among the first, if not the first, to push Fisher to the top of his mock draft.
“Fisher showed off his athleticism and natural body control during positional drills, also impressing with a 5.05 40-yard dash, 4.44 20-yard shuttle and 27 reps on the bench press,” Brugler wrote in late February. “He isn’t head and shoulders above Joeckel as a prospect, but he has shown that he’s on a similar level.”
Fisher is accustomed to battling for respect.
He had a great athletic career at Stoney Creek High in Rochester playing both football and basketball, but he could not get a scholarship offer from a major program.
“The only Big Ten schools I talked to was Michigan State and Purdue,” Fisher recalled. “So hey, it doesn’t matter where you start, it’s where you end up. That’s the thing I take to heart.”
And to the bank. As the first pick, Fisher is in line for more than $23 million on four-year-plus-option contract.