The Career Evolution of Eric Fisher
There were high expectations placed on Kansas City Chiefs left tackle Eric Fisher from the moment he was drafted, and for good reason. He was the first pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, a rarity for non-quarterbacks or non-edge defenders. This made him just the fourth offensive tackle to be selected first in NFL Draft history, a list that includes four-time Pro Bowler Jake Long in 2008 and Pro Football Hall of Famer Orlando Pace in 1997.
Fisher was also the first offensive lineman taken in a historic draft for o-linemen, which included tackles being taken second (Luke Joeckel), fourth (Lane Johnson), 11th (D. J. Fluker) and 19th (Justin Pugh). There were also multiple guards taken in the top 20, with Jonathan Cooper going seventh, Chance Warmack going 10th and Kyle Long going 20th. With all that offensive line talent, it was Fisher who rose to the top.
In his rookie season, Fisher struggled even more than many thought he would, earning a 49.5 pass-blocking grade from Pro Football Focus (PFF) thanks in part to allowing seven sacks and 47 pressures (which remains his career-high) in just 493 pass-blocking snaps (the second-fewest of his career). In his second season, Fisher allowed seven sacks and 40+ pressures once again. At this point, many questioned the Fisher selection, especially as later first-round picks, such as Johnson (fourth), edge defender Ezekiel Ansah (fifth), interior defender Sheldon Richardson (13th), wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (27th) and center Travis Frederick (31st), proved their worth at the pro level.
In his third season, we saw a promising jump in Fisher's production. He got his pressures below 40, he cut off a few from his sack total and he showed improvement as a run blocker, having his PFF run-blocking grade reach a 74.4. As a result, Fisher was the third highest-graded offensive player for PFF on the Chiefs in 2015, trailing only guard Jeff Allen and wide receiver Jeremy Maclin. Unfortunately, Fisher didn't get the attention he deserved for this, and many were still weary and even negative about what he was bringing to the table, thanks in part to the label of "number one overall pick" weighing him down.
In year four, Fisher once again proved himself. He had another improvement in pressures allowed and in PFF grade. He even outplayed Mitchell Schwartz that season, Schwartz's first as a Chief, with a higher PFF grade and fewer sacks allowed than Schwartz! Fisher finished the season third on the Chiefs offensive for PFF grade again, this time behind tight end Travis Kelce and wide receiver Tyreek Hill. However, his season was defined by one moment that is still brought up as an argument against him to this day. "Holding, number 72, offense, 10-yard penalty, re-try will be attempted from the 12-yard-line." It's unfortunate, but this moment set Fisher back with Chiefs fans for a long time, myself included. While this feeling was misguided, he made a crucial mistake in the most important moment of the season, and that will get any player an avalanche of hate, as stupid as that may be.
Thankfully, for Fisher and for quarterback Patrick Mahomes, Fisher continued to establish himself in the last two seasons, his sixth and seventh seasons as a pro, and his reputation began to improve. In 2018, Fisher had an 83.9 PFF grade from Week 11 to Super Bowl LIII, which was the best among all AFC offensive tackles. This late surge in the season helped get him into the first Pro Bowl of his career.
This past season, expectations were raised for Fisher to repeat his 2018 campaign. Unfortunately, just four snaps into a Week 2 game against the Oakland Raiders, Fisher would sustain a core muscle injury that would force him to get surgery and keep him out for the next eight games. After a poor game in Week 11 against the Los Angeles Chargers, his first game back, Fisher got his legs back under him. From Week 13 to Super Bowl LIV, Fisher had a 79.0 PFF grade, which ranked seventh among AFC offensive tackles. That was quite an improvement over his replacement, Cam Erving. In 2019, Erving had a 44.8 PFF grade, which ranked second-to-last among all offensive tackles.
I think it is time we really give Fisher the respect he has earned. It's true that Fisher had a slow start to his career, that he hasn't quite reached the expectations attached to being a No. 1 overall pick, and that he has had some costly mistakes that have stuck in the minds of Chiefs fans. With that being said, Fisher has finished each of the last two seasons with a stretch of being one of the best tackles in the AFC, and that has been a big deal for this offense. Fisher isn't a superstar like Mitchell Schwartz, Ryan Ramczyk or David Bakhtiari. That's okay, he doesn't have to be them. He just has to be Eric Fisher.