The Blind Side documented why offensive tackles can command the highest salaries behind the quarterbacks they protect, and Eric Fisher’s showing at the NFL Combine has made him a dark horse to be chosen as the No. 1 pick by Kansas City ahead of a weaker class of quarterbacks this year. His selection could be an even bigger surprise since he did not play in a BCS conference and was not even considered a candidate for the first half of the first round before his Senior Bowl and Combine showing.
Defenders stole the show in Indianapolis this past week, confirming that the defensive side of the ball possesses the stronger group of prospects this year. However, there were still plenty of standouts including these five who are seeing their stock rise the fastest among offensive draft prospects.
OT Eric Fisher, Central Michigan- An outstanding week at the Senior Bowl took Fisher from under-the-radar prospect to top half of the first round. An outstanding Combine now has the Central Michigan tackle as a dark horse candidate for No. 1 overall. His 5.05 forty outperformed Texas A&M’s Luke Joeckel, and his 27 bench press reps is solid for a 6’7″ prospect. He looked good in drills, and has an excellent physique. There is a lot of buzz about Fisher right now, and he is certainly a candidate to be taken seriously by the Chiefs as there is not a scenario where he falls outside of the top 10.
QB E. J. Manuel, Florida State- The 6’5″ quarterback who struggled with inconsistency during his time with the Seminoles entered the Combine as one of a group of 5-7 quarterbacks that trailed Geno Smith and Matt Barkley among a relatively lackluster group. Manuel’s performance in Indianapolis, including a 4.65 forty, proved he has the arm and the mobility to stand with Smith and Barkley as the three top prospects for the position. He is now a late first/early second round pick.
WR Tavon Austin, West Virginia- A small prospect, Austin proved that he has the speed and explosiveness to make up for his lack of stature. The former Mountaineer ran a blazing 4.34 forty yard dash and showed outstanding hands and explosiveness in drills. While I am still not sold on Austin as a first round pick, he certainly will be in the discussion there, and he definitely will not be available in the second round for very long.
TE Tyler Eifert, Notre Dame- Eifert entered the Combine neck-and-neck with Zach Ertz of Stanford. However, he separated himself with a 4.68 forty yard dash, 35 ½” vertical, and 22 bench press reps. The Notre Dame tight end could certainly be a factor late in the first round.
OT Lane Johnson, Oklahoma- A former quarterback, Johnson is not the most polished offensive tackle in the draft, but he is the most athletic. His 4.72 forty yard dash makes him faster than many of the draft’s linebackers, and he made great numbers in the other categories. At 6’6″ 300+lbs., Johnson will be a significant factor early in the first round. Most pegged him late in the first round going into the Combine, however, his performance in Indianapolis likely vaulted him into the early teens.