ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 01: Running back Eddie Lacy #42 of the Alabama Crimson Tide celebrates with teammate offensive linesman D.J. Fluker #76 after Lacy rushed for a second half touchdown against the Georgia Bulldogs during the SEC Championship Game at the Georgia Dome on December 1, 2012 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Alabama offensive tackle D.J. Fluker played on the right side for the Crimson Tide, and that’s probably where he’ll stay in the pros. The big, physical lineman is said to be an outstanding leader.
Perhaps the most important trait of Fluker’s that we’re all waiting to see is his weight. He’s listed at 6’6’’, 335 pounds, but there have been reports that he’s played as heavy as 355 pounds. There’s simply no way Fluker can be expected to keep up with edge-rushers in the NFL at that weight.
Even at 335, Fluker doesn’t display the sort of skill set in pass protection that you’d want in a potential first-round pick. He’s not overly athletic and frequently gets beat by speed. He’s going to struggle in pass protection if he stays at offensive tackle because, well, everyone in the NFL is fast. Fluker frequently gets beat across his face because, since he’s slow-footed, he often has to turn perpendicular to the line to keep up with rushers, who then dart inside. Fluker is also poor in space and won’t consistently lead the way on screens or other plays when he’s asked to move too far laterally.
So why is everyone so high on Fluker? Well, he’s extremely strong. He continually wins his one-on-one battle at the point-of-attack, so he’s quite useful in short-yardage situations. He plays with good body position and doesn’t let defenders get off of blocks easily. Fluker’s ability is designed perfectly for a man-blocking scheme; he won’t get drafted by a team that zone blocks simply because he doesn’t have the necessary agility.
Whoever drafts Fluker will likely start him at right tackle, but I actually think he’ll be a much better guard in the NFL. On the inside, his poor footwork in pass protection won’t be such a problem, he won’t need to deal with super-fast players, and teams can run behind him in short-yardage situations more easily. In my opinion, the team that selects Fluker will be getting either a mediocre right tackle or a potential Pro Bowl guard.
NFL Comparison: Carl Nicks
Comparing Fluker to Nicks might seem odd, but I really do believe Fluker’s weaknesses can be covered up and his strengths can shine on the inside. He can be a devastating run blocker and solid in pass protection when he’s not asked to play in space. The issue is whether or not Fluker would be poor value as a highly-drafted guard without experience inside.
Offensive tackles tend to rise as the draft approaches, but Fluker might not necessarily move too much since he’s not going to play left tackle. A team could certainly still take a chance on Fluker in the first round, although probably not if they anticipate moving him to guard. Ironically, the teams that envision Fluker playing inside—where he could thrive—might not get the opportunity to grab him.
Fit In Dallas
Fluker is the prototype for past Cowboys offensive linemen, although I think the team is moving in a different direction now. With Bill Callahan likely calling plays, we’ll probably see the offense shift to more zone-blocking concepts, meaning Fluker might not be as good of a fit as it initially appears.
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Jonathan Bales is the founder of The DC Times. He writes for DallasCowboys.com and the New York Times. He's also the author of Fantasy Football for Smart People: How to Dominate Your Draft.