In their respective latest mock drafts, Todd McShay of ESPN.com (Insider access required), Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com and Pete Prisco of CBSSports.com all have Big Blue drafting Fluker with the 19th pick. Since the experts seem to think that the Alabama offensive lineman, who is forgoing his senior season to enter the NFL, is a solid fit for New York, it’s a good time to determine whether this assessment is correct.
Does drafting Fluker in the first round make sense for the Giants?
There are many reasons to answer this question with a resounding yes, but in the end, Fluker isn’t an ideal fit on the Giants offensive line for two key reasons.
From a need standpoint, Fluker is a perfect fit. His ideal position is right tackle, which happens to be the biggest weakness on Big Blue’s offensive line. As of now, the de facto starter is David Diehl, but this is not the desirable scenario of most Giants fans or the organization.
Diehl is coming off a bad 2012 season. He missed three games due to injury and struggled in the 13 games he did play, especially from a pass-blocking perspective. In only 487 total snaps, the 11-year veteran allowed 19 quarterback hurries, seven hits and four sacks. His performance is unlikely to improve in 2013 since he will turn 33 shortly after the start of the season.
The only other realistic option to start at right tackle is third-year player James Brewer. The 2010 fourth-round pick possesses limited in-game experience and hasn’t shown much when he has played. Entrusting him with the starting right tackle position on a team with Super Bowl aspirations is a huge risk.
Therefore, picking someone who is widely considered the best right tackle prospect in the draft when a right tackle is desperately needed seems like a no-brainer.
Also, selecting Fluker wouldn’t deter the Giants from addressing their other glaring weakness in the draft—the linebacker position. If you’re being objective, New York doesn’t have a definite, reliable starter on this entire unit. There are question marks due to injury concerns (Keith Rivers and Jacquian Williams), potential position changes (Mathias Kiwanuka) or lack of talent and experience (Dan Connor, Mark Herzlich and Spencer Paysinger).
Luckily for Big Blue, linebacker has nice depth in this draft. Even if the Giants take Fluker in the first round, they can still get a quality linebacker, like Kansas State’s Arthur Brown, LSU’s Kevin Minter or, gasp, Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o in the second round. They could even address another position of weakness, like cornerback, in the second round and still get Oregon’s Kiko Alonso or Rutgers’ Khaseem Greene in Round 3. Both of these players should be quality NFL linebackers.
So far Fluker is passing the “should the Giants draft him in the first-round test” with flying colors. However, when you break him down as a player, you see the reasons why New York should look elsewhere.
For starters, despite being an excellent run-blocker—one of the best Mel Kiper Jr. has ever scouted at right tackle—he will likely only excel in the NFL in a power-based man-blocking scheme. The Giants, however, run a zone-blocking scheme.
The former relies more on a lineman being strong and physical, which the 6’6”, 339-Ib Fluker possesses in spades. Zone blocking, though, values quick, agile linemen over powerful ones. This is Fluker’s biggest weakness. He does not have overly quick feet and is not agile. He would struggle to execute in zone blocking because of the amount of lateral movement required to be successful, especially if he doesn’t have a defensive lineman or linebacker over him on a particular play.
If D.J. Fluker is available at the 19th pick, should the Giants draft him?
The other problem is that Fluker is not a great pass-blocker, mainly due to poor technique and his agility/quickness problems. He did have a few bright moments in this area in 2012, including shutting down LSU defensive end Barkevious Mingo, another likely first-round pick. But he also allowed sacks against Western Kentucky, Missouri and Mississippi State and needed help to contain Georgia’s Jarvis Jones in the SEC Championship Game.
When a team's offensive success is predicated on a top-notch passing attack, it doesn’t make much sense to draft a right tackle with suspect pass-blocking skills. This is especially true when the biggest issue with the current starting right tackle is his inability to pass block.
The Giants have only drafted one offensive lineman in the first round since 1989—offensive tackle Luke Petitgout in 1999 with, you guessed it, the 19th overall pick. Be my guest if you want to look at this as a sign that the Giants should draft Fluker.
The reality is that the massive right tackle is not a great fit from a run or pass-blocking standpoint for Big Blue. There isn’t any other way an offensive lineman can help a team, outside of doing one or both of those things well, so the Giants should politely decline if Fluker is available when they are on the clock in Round 1.