D.J. Fluker Scouting Report: NFL Outlook for Alabama OT
First Round: 11th Pick
An incredibly long-limbed, big bodied offensive tackle, DJ Fluker figures to follow in Andre Smith and James Carpenter’s footsteps and become the third Crimson Tide offensive tackle to be selected in the first round of the draft in the Nick Saban era.
A hard-working and incredibly tenacious player who consistently resets the line of scrimmage in the run game, Fluker will greatly appeal to teams whose power running games need an immediate shot in the arm.
While he isn’t an elite athlete by any means, his incredible length and hand strength allow him to hold his own as a pass protector outside.
Fluker is what I refer to as a "high variance" offensive tackle in that the result of his play are often dominating in one way or another.
If he gets his hands on his target, he will usually win (decisively). If he's beaten off the snap with quickness, it can get ugly quick.
So as long as he's afforded some help in pass protection and his lack of foot speed is accounted for, he can be a truly dominating presence on the line of scrimmage for a team.
+ Incredible wingspan and length
+ Heavy punch and dominating hand strength
+ Powerful, wide base to anchor or drive block
+ Extremely high effort player
- Heavy feet make him susceptible against speed
- Lack of ability to mirror in space
- Lacks flexibility and bend
Mid-late first round
Tools ( + )
Fluker's Gumby arms (almost 37") and frying-pan hands (10.5") are incredibly helpful in keeping defenders at bay and resetting the line of scrimmage.
His heavy, powerful base is both his gift and curse. He generates a ton of strength from his lower body and it allows him to play under control; however, it limits his change-of-direction and mirror ability.
Fluker has much more impressive upper-body strength than former Crimson Tide tackle Andre Smith, but the Cincinnati Bengal right tackle displayed better foot quickness and short-area athleticism in college.
Intangibles/Character ( + )
Fluker was a three-year starter for Alabama and named a team captain for 2012. Alabama head coach Nick Saban has gone out of his way to praise Fluker’s development into an outspoken and energetic leader, going so far as to compare him to Flozell Adams (who played for Saban at Michigan State).
Fluker exclusively played the right-tackle position for the Crimson Tide. They run a conservative, ball-control offense that likes to slow down and dictate the tempo of the game.
Alabama utilizes zone-blocking principles, with the Inside Zone and Stretch plays being their two staple run plays. They also feature heavy play-action passing to get their big plays.
Pass Blocking ( - )
While Fluker’s wide, heavy-legged base gives him a huge advantage in terms of his anchor and drive blocking, it’s a curse for him when trying to block on the edge in space.
His deep drop set is slow and quick-twitch pass rushers with a fast first step will be able to blow by him off the snap in the NFL.
The good news is that his freakish arm-length allows him to re-direct pass rushers and force them on a wide path around the pocket.
His quick set and punch off of play action are more than adequate to play tackle in the NFL, but he will likely need consistent help if put on the edge in heavy drop-back pass system where the quarterback holds the ball for a longer amount of time.
Run Blocking ( + )
Fluker’s humongous, strong hands, ridiculous arm-length and extension, and heavy, powerful base give him the best drive blocking ability off the ball in this class. His punch jolts defenders off the ball and his arm extension resets the line of scrimmage as he drives his target off the line of scrimmage.
He also shows a nasty temperament and the desire to bury his man into the ground or drive him out of the frame on video. For a heavy-footed offensive lineman, Fluker isn’t restricted getting to the second level and either engulfing or pancaking linebackers.
Blocking in Space/Recovery ( - )
While Fluker is in good shape for his size and doesn't have a sloppy body, he isn’t an elite athlete with tight-end foot speed, either. As previously noted, fast edge rushers who can beat him with their first step will always be a kryptonite of sorts for him.
He will also struggle with over-setting against speed and giving up the inside rush, because his heavy legs restrict him from re-directing back inside quickly.
However, Fluker’s wingspan is a major advantage for him on most plays. Unless he gets beaten outright with speed, he will win his battle when he can land his hands on the defender and re-direct them.
Handfighting/Technique ( - )
A waist bender with heavy legs, Fluker relies on his heavy hands and arm extension more than technique, positioning, and flexibility. When he gets his massive, powerful hands into the defenders’ chest plate, that defender ends up on the ground more often than not.
Because he’s so reliant on his hand use and punch strength, he’ll need to shoot his hands more quickly off the snap and with better accuracy in the NFL, as he has a tendency to punch late and get his hands outside his target’s chest.
Western Kentucky’s head coach also made note that Fluker was tipping run or pass by his pre-snap stance, allowing the WKU defense to record six sacks.
Considering the dearth of quality right tackles in the league, Fluker could easily develop into a top one within a few seasons, even with his lack of foot speed.
I feel like he could also be an elite player inside at guard, where his strengths as a player will be highlighted and his weaknesses will be negated.
His length in a phone booth would be even harder for defensive tackles and interior rushers to deal than it would be for edge rushers who can outmaneuver him in space.
But because of the perceived value of the position, however, Fluker will get every opportunity to play offensive tackle first in the NFL.
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