On April 25, 2013 — having had the NFL’s worst record in 2012 — the Kansas City Chiefs held the first pick in the NFL draft. Two months before, the team had acquired San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith in a controversial trade and were presumed to be eyeing offensive linemen for the first pick.
Until the day before the draft, the Chiefs were widely believed to be favoring Texas A&M’s Luke Joeckel. Instead, Joeckel was picked second by the Jacksonville Jaguars, after the Chiefs selected Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher.
It was the first time since 1970 that two offensive linemen had been chosen numbers one and two, and the first time since 1968 that three offensive linemen had been selected with the first four picks.
“That’s a lot of love for the big boys up front, which we usually don’t get,” said Fisher that night.
Chiefs head coach Andy Reid was pleased.
“What you’re getting is a very athletic player, a great kid, smart kid, engineering major. He can play any position along the line, and loves to play the game.”
In his same-day grade of the Chiefs pick, Sports Illustrated’s Chris Burke said that while Joeckel was more NFL-ready, Fisher probably had greater potential.
The Chiefs can drop Fisher in at left tackle and turn their full focus to remaking the rest of the team to fit Reid and GM John Dorsey’s vision. Fisher has all the tools to live up to his No. 1 pick.
Burke, as it turned out, was right. In 2018, Fisher is beginning his sixth year with the Chiefs. He’s in the third year of a four-year, $48 million contract. Meanwhile, Joeckel is an unsigned free agent, after a one-year “prove-it” deal with the Seattle Seahawks apparently proved little.
It hasn’t always been a smooth road for Fisher. Moved the right tackle in his first season — while left tackle Branden Albert played his final year in Kansas City — he struggled. At left tackle the following season, he didn’t immediately impress. Some Chiefs fans even allowed the word “bust” to pass their lips.
Sometimes quietly, and sometimes not.
But slowly but surely, Fisher found his way in the NFL. By the end of his third season, Chiefs fans were beginning to realize that Fisher was following the same path he had followed at Central Michigan: with each passing year, he just got better.
In November of that year, Arrowhead Pride’s MNchiefsfan put it this way:
Fisher, as recently as earlier this season, was a bust. He’d lost his LT position due to poor play and was on the verge of being benched. None of what I just wrote is true, but it was the narrative nationally and even among many Chiefs fans. If you were to browse through the comments here, or take a quick trip through Chiefs Twitter (a dangerous place for any player, to be sure), you’d come away with the conclusion that Fisher is an awful player.
That hasn’t been true for quite some time, but there’s no need to talk about the past. Instead, let’s talk about the here and now. Because in the here and now, Fisher has been playing solid football since the moment the season started.
Not for nothing, this was also the season that began with former Chief Shaun Smith tweeting a suggestion that Fisher had missed the Week 1 game against JJ Watt and the Houston Texans for a less-than-heroic reason.
Chiefs fans I love yall & I will always be a chief but when u have chumps like Eric fisher pulling this crap cause he scared of jj we lose— shaun smith (@autumnsjs90) September 13, 2015
And also the season that ended with this moment:
I bring this up because after listening to Fisher speak to the media after Monday’s training camp session in St. Joseph, it struck me that his methodical hard work and attention to detail — plus his reliance on coaching, teamwork and technique — has led to his success. These things permeated every one of his answers.
When asked about his goals for the coming season, Fisher didn’t mention a championship.
“I want to constantly improve. I want to get better,” he said. “Especially as an offensive lineman — it’s such a technical position. We watch film over and over and over again. There’s little minute things [you have to do] to take it to the next level. So keep improving on those, and come out here and work every day.”
He was asked if it was difficult to adjust to working with the large number of running backs the Chiefs have in camp.
“Yeah... the running back room is loaded with talent right now,” he replied. “They should all be on the same page, just like we should all be on the same page. We hold each other accountable. They expect us to be on our block when we’re supposed to be, and we expect them to be in their gap when they’re supposed to be.”
Another reporter wanted to know about competing in the AFC West — which is loaded with premium pass rushers — and Fisher shrugged it off.
“It has been that way ever since I came into the league... some of these guys are incredible athletes. It’s a challenge for us, but we embrace that challenge. We’ve got each other’s backs on the offensive line. We help each other out, and we just go to work.”
But Fisher did acknowledge that having good pass rushers on his own team was helpful.
“Dee Ford and Justin Houston are obviously giving us great looks, and some new guys — some younger guys — are out there battling. Especially the young guys. They’re out here to prove themselves, so you get awesome looks. So you come to work, and have fun with it.”
The legend is that offensive linemen — whose job it is to protect the quarterback and follow a plan to create space for running backs — keep their lockers neat and clean. Meanwhile, defensive players — whose job is it to disrupt these carefully planned offensive plays — are slobs whose lockers are a mess.
If that’s true, Fisher probably has the cleanest locker at Arrowhead.