CMU's Fisher could go first in NFL Draft
Recruiting analysts can't always project player development during a four-year college career. Sometimes, neither can the best coaches.
There are some late bloomers, usually because they're undersized as high school seniors, who sneak under the radar and end up proving the experts all wrong.
Eric Fisher, a 6-foot-7, 306-pound offensive tackle from Central Michigan, made them look like fools.
Fisher was considered a two-star recruit by both Scout.com and Rivals.com when he came out of Rochester Hills (Mich.) Stoney Creek High School in 2009. Scout ranked him as the 132nd-best offensive guard in his class. Rivals listed Fisher as a tackle and didn't even bother to rank him at the position.
Just two schools, Central Michigan and Eastern Michigan, offered Fisher a scholarship. The only Big Ten teams to even talk to him, Michigan State and Purdue, weren't interested in the end.
Four years later, Fisher has emerged as a candidate to be the No. 1 pick overall in the NFL Draft that begins on April 25.
"It doesn't matter where you start," Fisher told reporters at the NFL Combine. "It's where you end up. That's a big thing I take to heart."
Both Daniel Jeremiah, a former NFL scout now working for the NFL Network, and ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay are projecting Fisher to go No. 5 to the Detroit Lions.
Most mock drafts have Texas A&M offensive tackle Luke Joeckel as the top pick overall to Kansas City, but the general consensus as the draft approaches is that there's not much difference between Fisher and Joeckel.
Mike Mayock, a former NFL player, recently moved Fisher past Joeckel to the No. 1 offensive tackle in his player rankings for the draft posted on NFL.com.
"If Joeckel is a No. 1 pick, he (Fisher) could be, too," Mayock said.
The turning point for Fisher came during his standout performance at the Senior Bowl in January.
Fisher said he wanted to "cancel all the doubt in people's minds," which included whether he could compete regularly against a higher level of competition after playing in the Mid-American Conference.
"Eric Fisher closed the gap at the Senior Bowl," Mayock said. "I thought he answered every question. He showed a little more upper body strength than I thought he had. He had great feet. He's long. He's that prototype left tackle."
McShay calls Fisher the "best natural pass-blocker in the class."
The Lions' need for a left tackle to protect quarterback Matthew Stafford's blind side accelerated when Jeff Backus announced his retirement a month ago.
Riley Reiff, an offensive tackle from Iowa, was drafted in the first round last year, but Fisher is widely considered a much better prospect.
It's not overstating his potential to say that Fisher, 22, could fill the void at a crucial position for the next decade and even develop into an All-Pro candidate.
He's come a long way since being a quarterback on his freshman team in high school, and a hybrid defensive end/linebacker on the varsity as a sophomore.
The perception was that he didn't have the speed to be a linebacker in college nor the hands for a tight end, even though that's where his body type suggested he should play at that level.
Perhaps it's understandable how he could have been overlooked considering he was a 230-pound tackle in high school who realistically didn't project to any other more athletic or skillful position.
Fisher started to consume 5,000-6,000 calories a day and committed himself to the weight room. He eventually grew into his position and just kept getting bigger, stronger and better.
In 10 more days, he'll join San Francisco 49ers offensive tackle Joe Staley (28th overall in 2007) as the only first-round draft picks in Central Michigan football history.
"It's amazing watching my dream become a reality," Fisher said. "Just a surreal experience."