In this year’s NFL draft, the San Diego Chargers selected right tackle D.J. Fluker from the University of Alabama with the 11th pick overall. The 22 year old from Louisiana was selected to help with the miserable offensive line the Bolts had last season. The Chargers gave up the 4th most sacks of any team in the NFL and were tied for the 2nd worst yards per carry average. Fluker was brought in to become an immediate starter for this offensive line and will be expected to start from Week 1. Here is a brief breakdown of what Fluker will bring to the Charger organization this season and throughout his career.
The 6’5”, 339 lbs. Fluker is a run-blocking machine. His size and strength make him pretty much immovable and he can create running lanes by collapsing edges. He also has the ability to get to linebackers and hold blocks because of his individual strength. He should come into San Diego and make an immediate impact in the rushing game. Ryan Matthews should readily look to run along the right side, as Fluker will become an excellent blocker to give him room to run. It may take Fluker a few weeks to get adjusted to the speed of the NFL, but there is no doubt he will become the best run blocker for the Bolts this year (although that’s not saying much).
Fluker will definitely help the Charger line in the protection of Philip Rivers, but mainly due to the fact the Jeromey Clary is a terrible RT. Clary has always been a liability in the tackle position, so the fact that Fluker isn’t Clary is an immediate plus. Fluker also is strong and will be able to win many one on one battles with pass rushers. Another bonus is that he can get low and cut block, which will help for quick passes (Philip Rivers’ favorite type of pass). However, Fluker does have some problems with his pass blocking. First, quicker players can sometimes avoid him altogether if they read his block. Fast outside linebackers will be able to burn Fluker and put pressure on Rivers quickly in blitz schemes. He also doesn’t hold his blocks as long as an elite lineman does, so if Rivers is struggling to find an open receiver, a pass rusher may be able to break away from him and get to the quarterback. Fluker will not be a pass blocking stud to start off his career, and may not be much improved by the end of the season, but he should eventually become a solid pass blocker and dominant tackle.
This category doesn’t have to do with skill exactly but it is still important in terms of predicting a player’s outcome in the NFL. For example, many Charger fans remember Ryan Leaf and his disastrous career. A bad attitude on a player can cause them to become a bust, even if the talent is there. Luckily for the Bolts, Fluker is no Ryan Leaf. Early reports from the Chargers have described Fluker as hard working, ready to play, and even a leader. Fullback Le’Ron McClain stated to the press that Fluker gets “everybody riled up for practice.” A player with this type of attitude is a great first round pick to not only set an example for the rookies, but also for the whole team.
Fluker will become an important piece on the Chargers line for years to come. In the next few seasons, the Bolts will look to add more young players to this unit, and Fluker will be the leader. He will be productive from the first time he steps onto the field, and is the official signal of the Chargers’ changing of the guard (or tackle).