The Kansas City Chiefs selected offensive tackle Eric Fisher with the first overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. It was general manager John Dorsey and head coach Andy Reid’s first draft with the Chiefs, so expectations were high.
Almost immediately it was clear that the 2013 draft class wasn’t very good and that Fisher wasn’t living up to the lofty expectations that fans naturally have of a No. 1 overall pick. On Monday, the Chiefs announced Fisher was moving back to right tackle, where he spent his rookie season, and Donald Stephenson would start at left tackle.
The move reflects poorly on Fisher’s progress headed into his pivotal third season, but also the 2013 draft class. Although there are players from the 2013 class that have done well, there is a shockingly high number of disappointing players like Fisher.
For the Chiefs, it’s not necessarily a bad thing because Stephenson has been impressive this preseason after riding the bench in 2014. In 2013, Stephenson started four games at left tackle for an injured Branden Albert and three games for an injured Fisher including the Chiefs’ playoff collapse against the Indianapolis Colts.
“I put Fish back on the right side and he’s played it and didn’t have any problems,” Reid said, via KCChiefs.com. “I think we have the five best guys.”
While the Chiefs may have the five best guys now, there is ample evidence that Fisher has struggled at both right tackle as a rookie and left tackle last year. According to Pro Football Focus, Fisher was the third worst right tackle in the league behind Derek Newton and Jordan Mills. He didn’t fare much better in 2014, finishing as their fourth worst left tackle.
To suggest Fisher didn’t struggle at right tackle his rookie year is disingenuous of Reid, who knows as well as anyone that he’s struggled. It doesn’t take a genius offensive line coach or analytics to figure that one out. Reid may need Fisher and not want to say anything negative, but he doesn’t need to go as far as he has to praise Fisher either.
“[Fisher] gives me a whole lot of flexibility,” Reid said. “I think he can play really any position on the offensive line and play at a Pro Bowl-caliber level.”
Unless Fisher has made huge improvements since last year and Stephenson has somehow made even more of them, Reid’s statement is wishful thinking of the highest order. His lack of strength at the point of attack would also make him a terrible fit inside. The Chiefs will be lucky if Fisher is even an average right tackle in 2015.
Fisher isn’t about to get a reprieve just because he’s flipping sides. The Chiefs face the Houston Texans Week 1, which means Fisher will be asked to block the best defensive player on the planet in J.J. Watt. It wasn’t unusual for Fisher to get hammered or for Watt to hammer opposing right tackles, which is exactly what happened when they faced back in 2013.
Will things be different this time around? All the evidence is to the contrary. You can understand Reid not being down on Fisher, but he also shouldn’t set the expectations for Fisher at a level that may never be attainable for him. That’s not doing Fisher any favors, who by all accounts hasn’t been a disappointment for lack of effort or intelligence.