Northwestern linebacker Paddy Fisher heads to the 2021 NFL Draft, having left his mark on Big Ten offenses over the last four years. Can he make a similar impact in the NFL?
Paddy Fisher NFL Draft Player Profile
- Position: Linebacker
- School: Northwestern
- Current Year: Redshirt Senior
- Height: 6’3 1/2″
- Weight: 239 pounds
Tony Pauline’s Paddy Fisher Scouting Report
Positives: Instinctive, aggressive two-down linebacker who is best defending the run. Displays a terrific head for the ball, quickly locates the action, and flows to the play. Breaks down well, uses his hands to protect himself, and plays with intensity. Chases around the field, fires through the gaps, and sells out defending the run. Consistently wraps up tackling.
Negatives: Doesn’t get much depth on pass drops. Displays a limited closing burst and average pursuit speed.
Analysis: Fisher is often highly touted outside the scouting community, but he’s a two-down defender who is effective making plays in the box or up the field. Fisher would be a good addition on the inside of a 3-4 alignment, but he comes with a one-dimensional game and limitations.
Paddy Fisher Player Profile
Although Fisher has earned a reputation as a tackling machine during his college career, the origins of his game were born in Katy, Texas. During an impressive high school career for the Katy Tigers, he racked up an unfathomable 350 tackles, 25 tackles for loss, 8 sacks, and 8 forced fumbles.
Despite his early career production, he was overlooked as a recruit. Rated as a three-star recruit by 247 Sports, Fisher was ranked as just the 44th inside linebacker in the 2016 recruiting cycle. Furthermore, he wasn’t viewed as a top-100 prospect in the state of Texas.
Fisher’s first offers came from Kansas and Baylor before an offer from Northwestern in April 2015. Having visited Evanston during the spring, Fisher committed to the Wildcats prior to his senior season. With his future secure, Fisher helped the Tigers to secure their first Class 6A Division II Texas State Championship since 2012. An All-State honoree, he led a defense that allowed just 62 points in 16 games.
Fisher’s college football career at Northwestern
Despite redshirting his first season as a linebacker for Northwestern, Fisher still made an impression on the Wildcats’ coaching staff. He earned practice player of the week honors against Illinois and showed special-teams ability as the special-teams player of the week honors against Iowa and Wisconsin.
His reign as a tackling machine at the heart of the Northwestern defense began in 2017. He led the team — and all Big Ten freshmen — with 113 tackles. Furthermore, of those tackles, 9 were tackles for loss and included an incredible 4 forced fumbles. Showcasing an ability to force turnovers in multiple ways, he secured an interception against Illinois. He would go on to have an interception in every season of his career.
Accolades and awards reigned down on the young Northwestern linebacker. Fisher was named the Big Ten Freshman Defensive Player of the Year. He earned Walter Camp National Defensive Player of the Week honors after 19 tackles and 2 forced fumbles against Michigan State. He finished his redshirt-freshman season as a second-team All-Big Ten honoree and Freshman All-American.
Production and NFL projection are two very different things for Fisher
Over the following three years, he would twice earn first-team All-Big Ten honors. Furthermore, he would be honored as a team captain in 2019 to make him both a vocal and physical leader of the Northwestern defense. Fisher’s four-year production for the Wildcats is eye-watering. He has over 400 tackles, 24.5 tackles for loss, and a school-record 11 forced fumbles.
Following the 2020 college football season, Fisher declared for the 2021 NFL Draft. His career as a linebacker for Northwestern earned him an invite to the Senior Bowl. Despite his impressive production, the annual All-Star game in Mobile illuminated some of the issues that could limit his NFL Draft stock and potential in the NFL.
Paddy Fisher’s best fits in the 2021 NFL Draft
For all of his impact as a tackler during his college football career, Fisher hasn’t received much in the way of NFL Draft hype. Although he shows football intelligence and obvious tackling ability, he lacks the athleticism of a modern-day linebacker. Despite some impressive coverage production at Northwestern, the Senior Bowl showed that he struggles to hold up in coverage on tight ends and running backs.
Fisher’s best fit in the NFL would be as an inside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme, where he would be used primarily as a run-stopping fixture. Some team fits based on that usage include the Denver Broncos, Los Angeles Rams, and New York Giants. It feels likely that he would be added as an undrafted free agent, but he could sneak into the back end of the 2021 NFL Draft.
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Oliver Hodgkinson is a staff writer for Pro Football Network. You can follow him on Twitter at @ojhodgkinson.