KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City Chiefs had offensive tackle Eric Fisher rated No. 1 on their draft board. The Jacksonville Jaguars had fellow offensive tackle Luke Joeckel rated first on their board.
Both of the teams got what they wanted in April.
Now, the Chiefs and Jaguars will get a good idea who fared best when Fisher and Joeckel make their NFL debuts. Kansas City visits Jacksonville on Sunday with both players set to start at right tackle for teams coming off 2-14 seasons.
“It’s a great comparison, being 1 and 2 and being the same position,” Jaguars coach Gus Bradley said. “They’re talented on the ends, the tackle spot. Any time you get a guy like that, that talented at right tackle, you just don’t see them that often.”
Nor does it happen very often that the top two picks in the draft make their first NFL starts on the same field, at the same position. Fisher and Joeckel both played on the left side during their college careers, but they moved to the right side early on this offseason.
The parallels don’t end there, either. Both have been dealing with nagging injuries that caused them to miss practice time, and both are getting healthy just in time for their season opener.
“I thought both of them were good football players,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said, “and both of them are going to have long careers in the National Football League, and very successful careers.”
The question that Reid refused to answer Wednesday was what separated Fisher from Joeckel on the Chiefs’ draft board. Joeckel was considered the more polished option after protecting Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel at Texas A&M — playing in the SEC helped with that — while Fisher’s raw ability left many scouts with the belief that the Central Michigan star harbored greater upside.
Rumors early in the draft process swirled around Joeckel going first overall, but in the last few days before the draft, it became clear that Fisher was going to be the Chiefs’ pick.
Not that Bradley and the Jaguars were upset with that turn of events.
They had Joeckel at No. 1 all along.
“We really liked them both,” Bradley said. “If Fisher would have fell to us, we would have been excited, too, but we felt like Luke in talking to him, his play on tape, conversations we had with him, we had him rated higher, but it wasn’t a significant difference.”
In other words, Bradley didn’t seem to care a whole lot who fell to the Jaguars — they were getting a solid offensive tackle either way. But it sure meant something to Fisher and Joeckel.
The two grew accustomed to seeing each other on the workout circuit leading up to the draft, and Fisher admitted that there was competition to see which of them would go No. 1 overall.
That’s also a reason they never became chummy.
“We don’t really have any relationship other than the fact that we’re the first and second pick. There’s not really that much there,” Fisher said. “It’s always been competition between me and him. We’re competitive people and just trying to do our best at this thing.”
Fisher admitted that it felt good to go No. 1, though, just as Joeckel acknowledged that it was a bitter disappointment to fall to No. 2.
“Every guy was competing for that first pick. There’s a little bit of a chip,” he said. “But I’m ready to go. I’m glad I’m here and I’m playing for the Jags. Now, we’ve got to go get a win.”
Fisher and Joeckel will both have their hands full on Sunday.
The Jaguars will send a pair of veterans in defensive end Jason Babin and outside linebacker Geno Hayes right at Fisher, while Joeckel will have to contend with a pair of Pro Bowl linebackers in the Chiefs’ Tamba Hali and Justin Houston.
“Yeah, that’s going to be a great matchup,” Joeckel said. “This is the NFL and I’m going to see great pass rushers every single week. This will be a great start to it all. I definitely have to earn my stripes in this league. I have to play my game and get better every single week.”