At the start of the year, when college football season came to an end, Texas A&M offensive tackle Luke Joeckel was considered to be the No. 1 overall player on many draft boards. While there was a lot of disagreement over the first overall pick because of the uncertainty surrounding the Kansas City Chiefs, Joeckel seemed to be viewed as the 2013 NFL Draft's top player. At the very least, he was the consensus No. 1 offensive tackle.
In the months since then, thanks to the Senior Bowl, NFL Combine and a closer look at his skills, Central Michigan offensive tackle Eric Fisher has climbed up draft boards. Back in January, he was ranked behind Joeckel, Michigan's Taylor Lewan (before he decided to stay in school) and even Oklahoma's Lane Johnson at offensive tackle. Now he's considered to be a top-five pick, and many people are starting to view him as the top offensive tackle in this year's draft.
Fisher's rise has been interesting to watch, and it's getting to the point where analysts are beginning to put him ahead of Joeckel in rankings and mock drafts. He could very well be the first overall pick in this year's draft, and as National Football Post's Dan Pompei wrote this week, a lot of people in NFL circles are warming up to the idea that Fisher should be selected ahead of Joeckel.
What this means is NFL teams have begun to think Fisher can end up the better pro. Joeckel might already be all he can be. Fisher can be significantly better. "Because of his athleticism, he has more upside," an NFC general manager said. "If you want upside, you take Fisher."
Pompei wrote that the "early thinking" had Joeckel ranked above Fisher because Joeckel played against better competition and was considered to be a more NFL-ready player as a result. However, Fisher may have been a bit overlooked because he played in the MAC, and that changed with his performance at the Senior Bowl. Since then, as Fisher's game has gotten a closer look, some have concluded that he has a higher ceiling than Joeckel, especially as a pass-blocking left tackle.
None of this means that Joeckel suddenly isn't an excellent prospect, of course. Joeckel will likely be a top-five pick even if Fisher goes ahead of him. Pompei wrote that Joeckel "should be able to step into an NFL starting lineup immediately and remain there for ten years." Like Fisher, he's considered to be a can't-miss player. It's just that the Fisher hype may result in Joeckel being pushed down some draft boards.
What does all of this mean for the Detroit Lions? It's a real possibility that Fisher won't be there at No. 5 overall. He could potentially be drafted first overall, and even if he isn't, some other team in the top four could pick him. It's even possible a team could trade up to land Fisher before the Lions get a shot at him.
If Fisher isn't available because the Chiefs decide to take him, it's entirely possible that the Lions will have a chance to take Joeckel fifth overall. Fisher is already becoming a bit of a fan favorite here in Detroit, but Joeckel would be a solid pick as well. He, like Fisher, could take over the vacant left tackle job, allowing Riley Reiff to start somewhere on the right side of the line.
For the Lions, the hope is that at least one of Joeckel and Fisher will make it to No. 5 overall. Based on how much Fisher's stock has risen, the Lions very well may prefer him over Joeckel. However, I don't think the Lions will complain if Fisher is gone and Joeckel is there for them. You could do a lot worse when it comes to options at the No. 5 overall pick, even if Fisher is their top choice at this point.
At this time of the year, it's tough to judge what information is true and what is simply a smokescreen. In the case of Fisher vs. Joeckel, for example, this information could simply be part of an effort to drive down Joeckel's perceived value so he isn't taken first overall. Then again, it could in fact be true that Fisher is passing Joeckel on some draft boards. We won't get this type of information cleared up until April, but for now, it's interesting to think about the possibility of a Central Michigan offensive tackle being the top pick in this year's draft.