Posted: 1:00 p.m. Wednesday, April 24, 2013
When you first catch a glimpse a Fluker, the thing you notice, after you wonder where the sun went, is his size. He is every bit of the 6'5" 339 that he was measured during the combine. Though sometimes the larger tackles can look like Dom DeLuise, Fluker actually carries the weight fairly well.
His strengths start with that size. He used it extremely well at Alabama in anchoring that Right Tackle position for the past 3 seasons. He is an absolute monster in the run game, often demanding opposing defenses to commit extra personnel to prevent the Tide from running behind him every play. Despite his mammoth size, he moves very well, displays good footwork, and uses his hands well to deter bull rushes, swim moves, and other more direct pass rushes. Having said that, he is still a giant among giants, so even though he shows exceptional footwork for his size, he has trouble with speed rushes around the edge. Though he has improved over the three years, smaller, speedy ends or linebackers often gave him much more trouble than larger ends. This proved to be the case multiple times during his career, when he struggled with teams such as Western Kentucky and Kent State, who didn't possess players with the size that you'd typically see in the SEC.
Fluker was rated as the top OT in high school according to Rivals, and was thought to be the heir to Andre Smith at LT, after his decorated career at Bama ended with him leaving early for the '09 draft. That did not materialize, as it took Fluker some time to adapt to the system. He redshirted his freshman year, and then settled in at right tackle. Even though he would never live up to the expectations placed on his shoulders out of high school, being that dominant left tackle everyone thought he would be, he became a cornerstone on the right side. And after two more seasons, by the end of 2012, DJ had finally hit his stride and became a leader of the offense.
This leadership role became most apparent in the SEC championship game against Georgia this past December. Down two scores in the third quarter, Bama needed an emotional spark, not to mention a need for someone to step up physically. Fluker provided both, as he was very visibly encouraging his team in the huddle, almost yelling at the coaching staff to saddle up and ride him to the end zone. Eddie Lacy and TJ Yeldon both finished that game with over 150 yards in a come from behind Alabama victory.
Fluker clearly showed that he has a passion for the game against Georgia, something that came as a surprise to many people who have watched him over the years. He was to that point a quiet, do your job type player, who rarely showed emotion. I believe that game was a turning point in NFL scouts' minds about DJ, and a major reason why he is being projected in the first round now.
Fluker has been called a day one starter at Right Tackle in the NFL. I think this is true, but I still see his pass blocking limitations as a stumbling block for some teams. He will likely end up going to a tackle needy team in the mid to late first. There have even been rumors that he could go as early as 10 to Tennessee or 11 to San Diego. The latest I see him lasting is 21 to Cincinnati, but at this point it even seems like a stretch to see him dropping that far.
As far as a current NFL player comparison, it seems lazy of me to choose Andre Smith, also from Alabama. But I do think there are many on the field similarities. They both excel in run blocking, and have their struggles with pass protection. They are both huge, but again, Fluker carries his weight better than Smith. I would give Smith the edge concerning footwork, even though Fluker moves well. If you remember though, Smith coming out was an elite prospect who moved like a player 50 lbs lighter, the reason he went at no. 6, and was even considered higher than that before character concerns shied teams away. The major difference in the two can be found there, specifically motivation. Smith was a LT throughout high school and college, asked to change positions and take a pay cut because of that position change. I believe he still sees himself as a Left Tackle, and that is the main reason he is even now holding out as I write this a day before the draft. Fluker knows he is a Right Tackle, so his motivation will be there. He knows the position, so there should not be a 2 year learning curve as long as teams leave him there. Given the amount of time it took for him to become comfortable with his position at Alabama, any position change (the rumors are saying some teams see him as a guard) would take some time.
I would say that ignoring team needs and draft order, Fluker should be a late first-early second round pick. That said, I expect for him to go in the teens in the first given the weakness of this draft and several teams desperate need for O Line help.
Fluker Highlight Reel (It gets good about the 1:15 mark)