Thursday, March 26, 2015

2015 NFL Draft #50 - Jake Fisher, T, Oregon

I have never been a scout or a NFL General Manager, but I am willing to watch a ton of football. By watching about 200 snaps of each prospect, we can really get a feel for a player and then know what we are talking about a bit better. It is no exact science, but the NFL hasn't quite figured out drafting either, so we are going to do the best we can.
Find all the profiles here.
Jake Fisher, T, Oregon - 6'6, 300 - Senior - 5.01 40
Oregon defensive lineman Jake Fisher talks to reporters during a news conference in Los Angeles, Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2014. Oregon is scheduled to play Florida State in the Rose Bowl NCAA college football playoff semifinal on New Year's Day. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)
Oregon defensive lineman Jake Fisher talks to reporters during a news conference in Los Angeles, Tuesday, Dec. 30, 2014. Oregon is scheduled to play Florida State in the Rose Bowl NCAA college football playoff semifinal on New Year's Day. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)
Football keeps evolving, and as it does, the profile for players at a given position evolves with it.  Sometimes, we get carried away with the type of profile we anticipate, however, and I wonder about that with offensive tackles.  For the last several years, we have continued to lower our expectations for strength and bully-demeanor, while increasing our expectations for athleticism and agility.  Now, don't get me wrong, there is nothing worse than a tackle that can't move, but the league seems intent on making sure we make our offensive tackles out of tight ends more and more each year.  They get lighter, they get faster, but do they get better?
Consider the case of Jake Fisher.  He is athletic an offensive linemen as there is in the 2015 NFL draft with a 40 at 5-flat, an amazing 20-yard shuttle, 3-cone drill, vertical jump, and everything you would want for a tackle on the move.  Conversely, he fails all of the previous benchmarks for weight, arm length, and his bench press is poor for someone with short arms.  It is highly possible he will play guard at the next level, but as a tackle, he is a real risk in the mold moving too far prior to an over-correction in the market.  Is Fisher one of the top tackles in the draft?  To find out, we looked at Florida State, Ohio State, and Arizona.
What I liked:  As his testing at the combine revealed, his best attribute is his ability to move well and that starts with the pass protection on the edge where he is generally perfectly centered with his rush-man, which means he is never giving a corner for the man to work around.  He sets very well with his kick-steps and beats his guy to the corner constantly.  That is a wonderful attribute that should not be over-looked.  He clearly can get out in space well and find his guy and in zone blocking, there are many situations where he looks comfortable and in his element.  Additionally, unlike many players of his type (finesse, smallish, tight-end bodies), he demonstrates an element of nastiness and attitude, which I consider a mandatory component of any elite offensive lineman.
What I did not like:  I just don't like the idea that he appears to be straining to physically hold off his man so often and his strength situation just does not appear to be as functional as you would like.  You often catch him almost Greco-Roman wrestling, with all upper body twisting and turning when he gets in the trenches and of course, leverage is everything in there so he loses quite a bit.  Below, in a stretch of the Rose Bowl, Mario Edwards (admittedly a rather strong defensive end) was tossing him to and fro with relative ease for an entire sequence that showed you the disadvantage Fisher plays with when it comes to brute strength.  He was the victim of several push/pull moves where he was left on all-fours.  He doesn't pack much punch in the trenches and that makes me wonder if I can run behind him in short yardage.  I assume he will be fine in most zone schemes, but when it comes time to move his guy to get that short yard, I didn't see much success.  Also, he is on the ground quite a bit after losing balances in these upper-body twisting matches.  I think he can grow into more strength, but when you are 6'6, 300, you just don't have a real stout base to work with against the bigger players you face.  The good news is that the 245-pound edge rusher is not going to scare him with the quicks.
Summary:  I get the interest from the zone-spread types who want 11 athletes, but I will always want more of a physical presence from my offensive linemen and perhaps try to find a better balance between speed and strength.  I want to know, if I am going to spend a 1st on him, that I can count on him to help get me a yard when I need to extend a drive or even a game.  Fisher is interesting for sure and he could be Anthony Castonzo - which would be a wonderful find for someone.  But, he could also be Lane Johnson - drafted by Philadelphia at #4 of the 1st round 2 seasons ago largely because of his amazing agility skills and has underwhelmed on the field at times, and been clipped for a P.E.D. suspension already.  It is interesting that Philadelphia is said to be strongly considering him (Oregon!), despite the Johnson pick.  Fisher should be very solid as a NFL player and may continue to develop, but his ultimate upside is highly debated, and for me, I see him below the top tier of prospects for many of these questions.  In the end, I just don't believe that linemen who look uncomfortable in tests of functional football strength are worthy of high investments.  I could see late 2nd or 3rd round.
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