New York, NY – In the end the Kansas City Chiefs chose the ceiling over the floor, taking Central Michigan left tackle Eric Fisher over the presumptive favorite to go No. 1 overall, Texas A&M's Luke Joeckel.
Joeckel, also a left tackle, was the far safer pick and ended up going No. 2 to Jacksonville. Fisher's advantage in athleticism, however, was enough to convince new Chiefs coach Andy Reid and his hand-picked general manager, John Dorsey, that the CMU star was the best option.
Neither player was exactly going to be a sexy pick, especially coming off a 2012 draft which featured Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III at the top of the board.
Of course, to those in football the guys who protect the quarterback are just a step behind the signal-callers themselves so getting a top-tier left tackle can do wonders for an offense.
When the quarterback's blind side is secured, it enables a coach to open up his playbook. There is no need to help with a double-team from a tight end or guard, and there is little reason to ask a running back or a receiver to chip an elite pass rusher. So, each player who would have been needed to assist a lesser left tackle can focus on other things whether that is getting into a route in a quicker fashion or sliding down to help the interior lineman.
Reid is hoping Fisher gives him that kind of freedom.
In the modern era only three offensive tackles have been chosen with the No. 1 overall pick led by Hall of Famer Ron Yary, who was taken by the Minnesota Vikings in 1968. Ohio State standout Orlando Pace was chosen No. 1 overall by the St. Louis Rams in 1997, and Jake Long, who was signed by the Rams as a free agent this offseason, was taken with the top spot in 2008 by the Miami Dolphins. Long was also the last non-quarterback to be selected with the top choice before Fisher.
Each of those players made at least four Pro Bowls and Pace will probably join Yary in Canton in the coming years so the bar is set pretty high for Fisher.
In the weeks leading up to the draft, Fisher edged ahead when some draft experts started treating Joeckel like a comfortable old shoe. Sure, you could count on him but he didn't have that perceived "wow factor."
Fisher and even Oklahoma's Lane Johnson, who went fourth overall to Philadelphia, became the flavors of the month, or in this case the week since the draft has become more like the stock market and only reflects how teams feel about these players on April 25.
Trust me, if the NFL waited another week, you can bet certain clubs would have made different decisions.
That said, Fisher, despite playing against lesser competition throughout his college career at CMU, has the bigger upside than Joeckel according to most scouts. Of course his floor as a prospect was regarded as lower.
That means in a worst case scenario for both, Joeckel would be the better player, hence the safe tag.
"It really wasn't a disappointment," Joeckel said of going No. 2. "Every guy here in New York was fighting for that first pick. I'm a competitor, and I wanted that first pick. It's just going to help drive me more. It's going to put a chip on my shoulder. I'm ready to go work now."
Ultimately it's about winning and turning around a 2-14 team in Kansas City. Perhaps you can't play it safe in that kind of environment and that was Kansas City's philosophy on this night.
A CLOSER LOOK AT THE PICKS:
1. - Kansas City Chiefs - Eric Fisher, LT, Central Michigan - See above.
2. - Jacksonville Jaguars - Luke Joeckel, LT, Texas A&M - Joeckel didn't have to wait long as the Jaguars decided to address the offensive line instead of their paltry pass rush. That was a bit of a surprise since new head coach Gus Bradley is a defensive-minded mentor.
3. - Miami Dolphins (from Oakland) - The NFL's resident bipolar mess sent the third overall pick to South Beach and the Dolphins, who seem to be going all in for 2013. Miami selected Oregon pass rusher Dion Jordan. The guess here is the Dolphins went up because they thought Chip Kelly was taking his old acolyte from Nike University.
"First of all, that's a huge lesson for me to be in a situation with a team that decided to trade up and come get me, but it will be good," Jordan said. "Playing alongside all those young players, guys like Cameron Wake and a lot of other great players out there. It will be good to get around those guys and be part of a team that's trying to win."
4. - Philadelphia Eagles - Lane Johnson, LT, Oklahoma - That's the three left tackles in four picks. No surprise. The Eagles went through their first OTAs under Kelly last week and one thing was abundantly clear, the former Oregon mentor is going to push the tempo and play basketball on turf in Philly. That means conditioning and athleticism are going to be paramount, and Johnson, who can run a faster 40-yard dash and leap higher than some wide receivers, is a good fit in the City of Brotherly Love. That said, Johnson lacks functional NFL strength right now and needs to get in the weight room.
"Coach (Kelly) actually talked to me this morning, looked a few things over," Johnson said. "Had a great vibe with him. We've been keeping in touch. Had a really good vibe coming into the draft. When Miami was on the clock, I was kind of nervous. I didn't know when I was going there. When Philly came on the phone, I knew I was going there."
5. - Detroit Lions - Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU - Barry Sanders was on hand to announce he will be the Madden 25 cover boy and tell us that the Lions went with Ziggy Ansah, the raw Jason Pierre-Paul-like pass-rusher from BYU. Detroit really would have liked one of those left tackles since veteran Jeff Backus called it quits after a solid 12-year career but since Cliff Avril moved on to Seattle and Kyle Vandenbosh was let go, Ansah made a lot of sense once things started breaking.
6. - Cleveland Browns - Barkevious Mingo, OLB/DE, LSU - Need is an awful talent evaluator and the Browns reached here for Mingo. They wanted a pass- rusher and the top two were off the board so instead of moving down, they took the next best one. No word on whether Joe Banner or his bobo Mike Lombardi strained their backs making the pick.
7. - Arizona Cardinals - Jonathan Cooper, OG, North Carolina - Arizona's draft prospects changed markedly when the team acquired Carson Palmer from the Raiders. Rebuilding perhaps the worst offensive line in football was the priority, and the Cards has their choice of the two best guards and went with Cooper and his athleticism over Alabama's Chance Warmack.
8. - St. Louis Rams (from Buffalo) - Tavon Austin, WR, West Virginia - It was pretty evident the Rams really wanted Austin, who is probably the most dynamic playmaker in the draft. He's a nice fit because St. Louis lost slot stalwart Danny Amendola to New England in free agency. Taking Austin in the top 10, however, is a big risk because at the end of the day, he is a specialist, a slot receiver who doesn't project outside the numbers.
"It means a lot.It means they wanted me," Austin said when asked about the Rams trading up. "It paid off for me going all the way to them and doing my visit and put me on the board and meet all the staff. And they came back to watch me work. So I kind of had a feeling they really had a lot of interest in me."
9, - New York Jets - Dee Milliner, CB - Alabama - The locals approved of Darrelle Revis' presumptive replacement. Milliner was the best cornerback in the draft but may lack the ball skills to be the kind of playmaker some project him as. This isn't going to be Troy Williamson replacing Randy Moss but Milliner is going to have a tough time in Revis' rather large shadow.
"Revis did what he did," Milliner said. "I'm going to come in here and do what I do, go out there and compete for a job, first off. Go out there and make plays and do the best that I can do and be the best player I can be."
10. - Tennessee Titans - Chance Warmack, OG - Alabama - Make it back-to-back players from 'Bama as the Titans sure up the interior of their offensive line with what might be the best pure football player in this draft.
"I think (offensive line coach Bruce) Matthews will bring a lot to the table when it comes to my developing as an offensive lineman," Warmack said. "I feel like they're going to make me a lot of -- a better guard or a better offensive lineman as a whole and just dominate the NFL through their learning."
11. - San Diego Chargers - D.J. Fluker, RT, Alabama - Make it three in a row for Nick Saban. The Chargers' offensive line is abysmal and D.J. Fluker was the best offensive line prospect left on the board. Probably a little too early to take him but Philip Rivers is certainly happy.
12. - Oakland Raiders (From Miami) - D.J. Hayden, CB, Houston - At least the Raiders traded down but picking this kid at No. 12 shows a fundamental lack of understanding of this process. The Raiders remain the Raiders and that's not a good thing.
13. - New York Jets (from Tampa Bay) - Sheldon Richardson, DT, Missouri - Some Geno Smith whispers started here but the Jets continued rebuilding Rex Ryan's defense. It was a big surprise that Richardson went before both Shariff Floyd and Star Lotulelei.
14. - Carolina Panthers - Star Lotulelei, DT, Utah - Ted Nugent's "Cat Scratch Fever" greeted the Panthers pick and the people of Charlotte had to be ecstatic Lotulelei fell to them. Doctors are convinced Lotulelei's heart scare is behind him (his left ventricle was pumping at below normal levels at the combine), and he's got the physical skill of a top-five selection.
15. - New Orleans Saints - Kenny Vaccaro, S, Texas - The Saints had to do something about their historically pathetic defense and most thought the front seven would be first in line. Instead, Sean Payton and Co. tabbed the best safety on the market and he has to be an upgrade.
16 - Buffalo Bills (from St. Louis) - E.J., Manuel, QB, Florida State - Forget all the Ryan Nassib talk obviously, Doug Marrone had someone in mind and it was E.J. Manuel, a very, very raw prospect. Nassib or not, you can start the clock on Marrone's long-term employment prospects in Western New York, The Bills already have a raw quarterback with a big arm who never developed -- Tarvaris Jackson.
17. - Pittsburgh Steelers - Jarvis Jones, OLB, Georgia - Jones said he would never get past the Steelers and sure enough he didn't. It's like the whole league conspires to give Pittsburgh impact 3-4 players. Poor 40 times sent Jones crashing out of the top 10, but the Steelers got a Terrell Suggs- like steal.
18. - San Francisco 49ers (from Dallas) - Eric Reid, S, LSU - The Niners moved up 13 spots to get Dashon Goldson's replacement and they didn't have to give up all that much to do it.
19, - New York Giants - Justin Pugh, OT, Syracuse - The Giants stayed in-state and reached for Pugh, a versatile player who they will want to play tackle, something his frame isn't cut out for. Bad pick with players like Manti Te'o. Bjoern Werner and Tank Carradine still on the board.
20, - Chicago Bears - Kyle Long, OG/OT, Oregon - Two reaches in a row by a team with needs on the offensive line. Long, though, has the pedigree and athleticism to eventually pan out in the Windy City. He was still rated as a second-round pick to most.
21. - Cincinnati Bengals - Tyler Eifert, TE, Notre Dame - The Bengals get another nice toy for Andy Dalton in Eifert, a player who figures to be a matchup nightmare pretty early in his career.
22. - Atlanta Falcons (from St. Louis Rams through Washington) - Desmond Trufant, CB, Washington - The Falcons had to think Minnesota, which needed a corner, was going to jump on Trufant so they moved ahead and got the presumptive replacement for Brent Grimes.
23. - Minnesota Vikings - Shariff Floyd, DT, Florida - Floyd fell a long way and the Vikings got their heir apparent for Kevin Williams at the three- technique. Getting a guy who a lot of people had going at No.3 overall here is almost too good to be true and has to raise some red flags among the conspiracy fans.
24. - Indianapolis Colts - Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State - Consecutive good value picks. Werner was once thought of as a top-10 guy until questions about his closing speed off the edge sent him tumbling. The Colts, though, got a high-energy player who could be a key cog moving forward.
25. - Minnesota Vikings (from Seattle) - Xavier Rhodes, CB, Florida State - And the Vikings get their replacement for Antoine Winfield with another prospect who was supposed to go much higher in Rhodes. It was a good day on paper for Rick Spielman at this point but stay tuned.
26. - Green Bay Packers - Datone Jones, DE, UCLA - Jones is a good fit for Green Bay, a solid 3-4 end prospect.
27, - Houston Texans - DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Clemson - Even before they released veteran Kevin Walter, the Texans badly needed a complement to Andre Johnson and Hopkins could be that guy.
28. - Denver Broncos - Sylvester Williams, DT, North Carolina - The Elvis Dumervil fax fiasco put defensive end in play for the Broncos but they probably never thought Williams would fall this far and went with the top player on their board. Smart teams do smart things.
29. - Minnesota Vikings (from New England Patriots) - Cordarrelle Patterson, WR, Tennessee - Spoke too soon on Spielman. He gave up a boatload to go up and get Patterson, a very raw player who doesn't run routes all that well. He is the best YAC (yards after catch) receiver in the draft and a vertical threat in theory, something Minnesota needs but giving up your entire second day and a large part of your third for this guy is ridiculous.
30. - St. Louis Rams (from Atlanta) - Alec Ogletree, LB, Georgia - Ogletree is a big time athlete with baggage. If he keeps his nose clean, he's the one linebacker in this draft who is unquestionably a very good three-down player.
31. - Dallas Cowboys (from San Francisco) - Travis Frederick, C, Wisconsin - Frederick is a nice player but the Cowboys were clearly honing in on Sylvester Williams and got a little too smart for their own good by trading down. Typical Jerry Jones.
32. - Baltimore Ravens - Matt Elam, S, Florida - The Ravens draft Ed Reed's potential replacement, a good value pick at No. 32.