Thursday, April 18, 2013

Draft Profile: DJ Fluker - Tackle - Alabama

The following is the 6th in a series of draft profiles for the 1st round pick for the Dallas Cowboys. These profiles are put together with the specific needs of the Cowboys in mind, and is an attempt to examine their resumes and game tape to get an idea of who might fit in best with Dallas come draft day.  Surely, circumstances will dictate what actually happens on that day, but we will profile the 8-10 most likely candidates and try to kick the tires on each and every scenario an how it relates to the Cowboys in 2013 and beyond.

DJ Fluker
Right Tackle
6'24, 339
40 time: 5.31     Bench Press: 21 Reps

Born: March 13, 1991 (Age 22)

Some players are late bloomers and their road to the NFL Draft has developed late in the game.  Ezekial Ansah, Margus Hunt, and even a guy like Lane Johnson surely thought nothing of this coming week being a life changing event 5 years ago.  But, there are quite a few others that people figured would be in the NFL very early in life.

DJ Fluker is that type of prospect.  In fact, in some regards, the fact that he will be taken in the 1st Round next week will be seen as a bit of a disappointment, as he is not likely to go in the 1st half of that round.  Think about those expectation levels - where going in the 1st Round is below your expectations.

Fluker is a physical marvel in the sense that he was said to have palmed a basketball for the 1st time as a 10-year old.  He weighed 400 in 8th grade.  And it wasn't always good weight.  But the football weight room has transformed him into a mountain of a human - so much so that he reportedly lost around 20 pounds between his final college game against Notre Dame in January and the NFL Combine in February and still weighed 339.  But, it is not bad weight.  With a 46-inch waist, he is no Andre Smith.  In fact, he appears to be reasonably fit, but certainly no Tyron Smith, either.

Fluker is not on the top tier of potential left tackles, like Luke Joeckel, Eric Fisher, or Lane Johnson.  They are all exceptionally quick sliders who leave no concerns about sealing the edge on a "wide 9 speed rusher".  Fluker, on the other hand, looks to be that type of tackle who you might put on the right and ask him to fire forward in a traditional run game with strong-side help in the pass game.  I don't wish to sound the alarms about his pass protection, though, as I think that has been harshly judged this spring.  With his massive wing-span and decent mobility, he may not be an ideal left tackle, but I think he is fine at right.  His balance is is big weakness as there are times where he does end up on the ground.  And as any running back will tell you, there is nothing that kills running plays like OL on the ground.

The other concerns for Fluker seem to be that his 21 reps on the bench did not impress (Knile Davis, the RB from Arkansas benched 31 reps), but not out of line for someone who has arms that are 36 3/4.  Long arm players seldom do well on the bench, but they do very well on the field.  And when you look at him on tape, you will see that raw power is not a real issue for him.  He has plenty and pushed 350 lb prospect John Jenkins around the field quite well at the SEC Championship Game.

That Georgia game in particular showed off his ability against Jenkins a giant DT and Jarvis Jones, an edge rusher who is almost built like a safety.  You won't find a better combination test of huge and quick, and for the most part, Fluker did a pretty strong job against them.  His arms are so long that most times, Jones just was swallowed up.  Jones did get a sack, but it was after blitz pickup confusion between Fluker and Eddie Lacy, the RB.

I like Fluker's compete level, which can sometimes be a dicey issue with huge men in this position.  But, Fluker looks like he has a mean streak and a pulse that serves him well.  He has quite a back story of adversity in his life that has many speaking about his resolve and his character.

It is tough to know exactly what he will be at the next level, but when you play Alabama's schedule, there is plenty of tape to look at against premier NFL prospects at LSU, Georgia, Florida, and so on.

There has also been talk that he could move inside to guard if things went poorly (Leonard Davis), but I like Fluker to stay outside and handle things at RT at a reasonable level.  I am not sure he has elite upside, but he can be solid for a longtime.  Some have compared him to Phil Loadholt, but I actually like him quite a bit more than Loadholt who does have a soft corner on pass protection.

He has limitations for sure, but I like the tools and the pedigree.

Here are some youtube cut-ups for your own personal eye-ball test.  Find the RT who wears #76 and watch:

Vs Georgia

Vs Notre Dame

Vs Michigan

The Case For Dallas Taking DJ Fluker at #18:  The Cowboys don't have much on the offensive line that cannot be upgraded.  They receive strong play at left tackle, satisfactory play at left guard with Nate Livings, and every other spot on the line could use a better player.  With that in mind, targeting offensive line makes plenty of sense.  Even if Fluker is the consensus #4 tackle in this draft, he is still a guy who would be an exceptional upgrade and make you feel very good about your tackle position for quite a while.  I would have no problem with the team deciding to fix this spot that they thought Doug Free would handle just 12 months ago.

The Case Against Dallas Taking DJ Fluker at #18:  The case against is based on speculating what is left on the board.  There is an equal lack of depth and talent on the defensive line so if the Cowboys are playing the numbers game and assuming the top 3 tackles and both top guards are gone, too, then there should be some quality on the defensive line.  If we were to guess that a top DT like Sylvester Williams is there versus a guy like Fluker, I might opt for the defensive tackle who might be special and then circle back and look for a tackle/guard in Round 2.  It might come down completely to the question of what you have to choose from.  Otherwise, I like this player.

Overall, Fluker would really help the Cowboys and step right in and start.  He would have moments of domination and moments where you wonder if he is too big and not agile enough.  Solid, not spectacular.  If they take him, you would have to think that their list was rather picked over.  I would rate him the 6th best out of the 6 players we looked at, but still an addition they could use.

So far, of our 6 profiles, I would list them in this order:

1. Chance Warmack - Report Here
2. Jonathan Cooper - Report Here
3. Sheldon Richardson - Report Here
4. Sylvester Williams - Report Here
5. Sharrif Floyd - Report Here
6. DJ Fluker

1 comment:

Matt Van Winkle said...

While he does have Trouble versus the nine wide I really like how he responds. He's the opposite of Free. While Free tries to keep up Fluker says "Ok use your speed. I'll reposition myself and STILL keep you away from my quarterback." Maybe not the fastest, but that seems to show some football IQ.