D.J. Fluker to Chargers: How Does Offensive Tackle Fit with San Diego?

Nick Kostora@@nickkostoraContributor IIIApril 25, 2013

Apr 25, 2013; New York, NY, USA; Offensive tackle D.J. Fluker (Alabama) is introduced as the eleventh overall pick of the 2013 NFL Draft by the San Diego Chargers at Radio City Music Hall. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The San Diego Chargers made their imprint on the 2013 NFL draft quickly with the selection of offensive tackle D.J. Fluker out of Alabama.

Fluker was likely not the top player on the Chargers board, but he fills a clear need along the offensive line and will have the potential to start immediately. OK, "potential" is a bit misleading because with the state of the Chargers offensive line, he might just play three different positions right away.

San Diego allowed 49 sacks of quarterback Philip Rivers last season. In reality the team has struggled to find a replacement for Marcus McNeill since he retired at the end of the 2011 season. Jared Gaither took over the role in 2012, but was unproductive and found himself on the chopping block.

This is a pick that I gave a "B" grade in my draft tracker here at Bleacher Report. Let's breakdown how Fluker fits with the Chargers moving forward.

With the team having added left tackle King Dunlap into the fold during the offseason, it is likely that Fluker will stay at his natural right tackle position heading into the 2013 season. This is not to say Dunlap is a solid solution at left tackle, as the fact of the matter is that he is little more than a glorified pylon on most possessions, but this is a process that has to be taken one step at a time.

Fluker can step in right away on the right side of the offensive line and be a sound option to protect Rivers. However, where his impact will really be felt is in the ground game. Fluker may very well have been the best run-blocking tackle in the draft class (although Eric Fisher is pretty darned good as well) and is going to create alley after alley for Ryan Mathews and anyone else that lines up in the backfield.

Simply look at the way he manhandles this Mississippi State defensive end while clearing the lane for T.J. Yeldon. Fluker renders the rusher ineffective and completely takes him out of the play almost solely with his arm strength:

As the No. 11 pick in the draft, assuming everything goes well, he goes ahead of the incumbent right tackle Jeromey Clary on the depth chart. Fluker is someone who started every game this past season with the Crimson Tide and has the right skill set to translate immediately to the NFL game. 

He is huge at 6'5", 339 pounds and will be counted on to live up to the billing of a first-round pick. However, with the current state of the Chargers offensive line, being serviceable would likely be enough right now, especially in his rookie campaign.

There will be definite growing pains as Fluker needs work at handling speed rushers consistently, but he is a strong prospect nonetheless.

San Diego may have been hoping for someone like Lane Johnson, Chance Warmack or Jonathan Cooper to fall, but they didn't. And some people may have thought that defensive tackle Star Lotulelei was the "best player available." Still, Fluker is a clear first-round talent that fills the biggest need on the depth chart.

Fluker could be the foundation of the Chargers offensive line for the next decade and beyond.