Three of the top 15 picks in the 2013 NFL Draft are likely to be offensive tackles (Luke Joeckel, Tex A&M; Eric Fisher, Central Mich; Lane Johnson, Oklahoma). And while there may not be another offensive tackle picked in the top-32, there will be several starting quality players available at the position this April. This analysis will focus on DJ Fluker, OT, Alabama.
In 2012, Fluker lined up as the starting Right Tackle for the Crimson Tide, a role he played for Coach Saban and company 35 times over the course of his career. He finished the season as a 1st Team All-SEC selection and a 2nd Team All-American. In high school, Fluker was considered the top ranked offensive tackle prospect in the Country by Rivals.com and ESPNU. He’s been a highly-decorated, high profile lineman for a long time. He was projected to be the replacement for former Alabama left tackle Andre Smith, but he eventually settled in on the right side and quickly became one of the best in the Country.
In 2012, Fluker allowed 4 sacks in 267 passing attempts and was second on the team with 33 pancake blocks. For his career, Fluker has been part of an offensive line that has paved the way for 23 individual 100 yard rushing performances. According to Alabama’s offical site, Fluker had an average weekly coaches’ grade of 89.4.
The following is a break down of Fluker’s film:
DJ Fluker presents as a big, thickly built offensive tackle. He has a wide trunk and thick legs, both of which suggest success anchoring down and holding his position against NFL defensive linemen. Fluker measured in at the Senior Bowl at 6’4 7/8 and 355lbs. He won’t be the tallest tackle in the NFL, but he meets the minimum height requirements for the position. He’s a bit on the heavy side for what you’d like to see at either right or left tackle; his mearsureables (ht/wt) are more in line with what you’d expect from a guard.
Fluker’s not sloppy. He’s got some excess beef around the midsection, but he doesn’t look soft. The most impressive thing about Fluker’s body-type is his length. His arms measured in at an astronomical 36 7/8 inches long. When Fluker gets a quick jump off the snap and uncoils his punch, there’s not a defensive lineman in the country that will get into his body. His arm length is a major asset that will set him apart from similarly graded prospects.
Fluker is a mauler. He’s a physical player who sticks to his assignment and gives 100% effort at all times. He possesses adequate to above-average strength for the position, and will fare well on the right side of an NFL offensive line. When Fluker has his hands in the power position, he drives the bus with ease. Rarely does he display inferior strength vs. his opponent.
Fluker displayed solid technique and mechanics on a game-to-game basis. At times, Fluker’s base can get too wide (beyond shoulder width) and it leaves him vulnerable to the quicker, lighter-footed defensive end. Fluker seems to rely too much on his strength, and as a result, he gets sloppy with his footwork and falls behind the defender. He doesn’t project as a player that will mirror well on the next level; he is going to have to be quick off the snap and get his hands on his opponent early in pass protection. If not, he will get beat to the edge.
MOVEMENT SKILLS/ATHLETIC ABILITY
Fluker is a big, husky player. It’s not surprising that it takes him a while to get moving. But the most concerning part of Fluker’s tape is that on several occasions, he’s one of the last linemen to move off the snap. That’s a big red flag, as an NFL DE will be by you in the blink of an eye. Fluker is able to make up for a slower kick step with his long arms, checking the defender long enough to regain good position. However, there’s enough concern with his initial movement to suggest he will struggle vs. speed rushers in the NFL.
Fluker isn’t an elite prospect when it comes to his footwork. He seems to struggle sliding and shuffling his feet, maintaining a very wide base that appears to hinder his ability to change direction. Fluker doesn’t project as the kind of athlete that would excel in a ZBS, and looks better suited as an in-line blocker with the ability to control the action with his length and strength. Now, this isn’t to say that Fluker has no athletic ability at all. He does. And he will be effective reach blocking and sealing the edge. I do, however, question whether he will be effective making an impact block on the second level.
Nobody is going to confuse DJ Fluker for an elite pass protector. He’s competent and capable, but he’s not a left tackle prospect. His initial kick-step is too slow to project as a player that will hold the edge vs. speed rushers in the NFL. Furthermore, his 35 career starts have all been on the right side; it would be a major transition for Fluker to shift over to the left side. Fluker doesn’t project as a player that will be able to mirror the defender for extended periods of time. He will rely on his arm length and initial punch to hold off the pass rush. If that fails, he will be a liability.
Fluker is a top-tier in-line blocker in the running game. He is physical at the point of attack and uses good leverage and a powerful punch to gain the advantage vs. the defender. He is a “velcro” player in that when he gets his hands on the defender, he rarely lets him loose. On several plays that I scouted, Fluker drove his opponent to the ground. Rarely does Fluker lose his balance in the run game. He won’t be an elite player getting to the second level, but he will win most battles at the point of attack.
DJ Fluker is an experienced, top-tier right tackle prospect that will improve his team’s run game as soon as his name is called. He’s a physical, mauling player that takes pride in driving his opponent to the ground. While not the most gifted athlete, Fluker makes up for his athletic shortcomings with his arm length and power at the point of attack. Fluker is a competent pass protector, but he will struggle vs. speed on the edge. His initial kick-step is slow, and his base is so wide that it inhibits his ability to shuffle and change direction with ease. Fluker is best suited as an in-line blocker that rarely is relied upon to block in space. While able to reach and seal, Fluker is not an ideal fit for a ZBS.
GRADE: 7.6 (see grading scale)
PROJECTED ROUND: Late-1st, Early-2nd