Every year there are surprise small school prospects that show up on the radars of evaluators. Some stick on it, others don’t. One that has stuck on mine since the summer is Central Michigan left tackle Eric Fisher.
Fisher, a six-foot-seven, 305 pound lineman, is one of the best players in the draft because he possesses several traits that appeal to NFL teams. He has long arms (82″ wingspan), is exceptionally mobile and flexible, and he has quick hands and feet. The five traits, some of which are “must haves” (quick hands) while others are luxuries (feet), have combined to turn him into a potential Top 10 selection in April and a versatile blocker.
Evaluators often apply the term “versatile” to players that run in space (e.g. pass-rushers or running backs) but it can also hold true for offensive lineman who are agile and light on their feet, which is what Fisher is. His mobility allows the offensive coordinator to redesign the running game, a package that is often far too similar at the college and NFL levels, and get him out in space like a pulling guard.
Against Western Kentucky in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, the Chippewas got their stud blocker in space a few times and allowed him to do damage at the second level. In one instance, he was able to seal a linebacker to create an alley for his running back. Let’s look at it.
On this play, Fisher is lined up at his usual spot (left tackle) and is uncovered. The reason he’s uncovered is because Western Kentucky has lined up in a four man Over front. This means the defensive end has widened out with the tight end while a three technique tackle is lined up outside the guard on the strong side (based off of the tight end) and a one technique nose tackle across the weak side shoulder of the center. What this also means is that the weak side outside linebacker (in between the right guard and tackle) is uncovered and susceptible to trap blocks.
When the ball is snapped, Fisher is quick to open his hips up and change directions to the play side. He becomes the lead blocker for the running back on this trap play, and he’s eying the noted weak side linebacker. The linebacker’s job on this play is to slide outside and laterally to make sure that the Fisher isn’t able to pin him inside of the formation and create a running lane outside.
While the linebacker slides, the left tackle tightly comes across the formation and through the B-gap (between guard and tackle) to administer his deadly second-level block. As soon as he gets his hands on the linebacker, he’s able to drive him outside and create an alley for the ball carrier to run through.
This mobility is something that offensive coordinators will get excited about because it gives them more options in the running game, an area that has become perhaps more important than ever before because of its recent evolution. For comparisons sake, teams like the New England Patriots and San Francisco 49ers have been able to implement a dynamic running game because their respective left tackles — Nate Solder and Joe Staley — are also athletic and mobile.
Although this mobility is a great asset, it’s a luxury to have, just like having great feet as a pass protector is. It’s a characteristic that’s not absolutely necessary, but if a prospect has it, it boosts his value. Conversely, a left tackle has to be a good, pure pass blocker, and Fisher doesn’t disappoint.
He has quick hands (when he uses them) and impressive length that distances pass-rushers from the quarterback. He also has very good flexibility — specifically, his knee bend — and core strength. His strength is what’s most interesting to me because he’s still learning the minute details of his position, some of which usually wouldn’t allow a blocker to win the battles but he does.
In the same game discussed earlier, Fisher was faced with a five technique defensive end across his outside shoulder.
When he got out of his stance and kick slid, he did it with high pad level, a frequent issue in his game, and his hands were down to his hips. This means that he left his chest exposed for the defensive end to attack and potentially perform a bull rush. For a comparison, look at the opposite offensive tackle, who is bending his knees and has his hands prepared for battle.
Fisher’s previously lauded flexibility and core strength now became a factor, as he was forced to use both to keep the pocket clean.
He did just that, but perhaps only because he’s a superior physical talent. In the NFL, pass-rushers could pick him apart if he doesn’t get his hands up quick enough and plays with tall pad level, which is especially problematic considering he’s already quite tall.
All in all, Fisher is one of the top prospects in this draft because of his physical talent. He can mirror pass-rushers and stand them up with his strong hands and flexibility. All he needs now is coaching on technique and he’ll become an all-pro left tackle.
All use of videos to take snapshots is done by DraftBreakdown.com. Pic via Mlive.com.