Rookies in Focus: D.J. Fluker
Steve Palazzolo breaks down the rookie-season performances of offensive tackles selected in the 2013 NFL draft.
Rookies in Focus: D.J. Fluker
Our offseason rookie breakdown started with the first round edge rushers and now it’s time to take a look at the other side of the line. Offensive tackles came off the board at a furious rate, with the 2013 draft perhaps as unique as any in recent history.
Here’s a look at the first round offensive tackles, with a couple other mid-round starters and even an undrafted free agent mixed in. This is by no means a definitive draft grade on any of these players, just a one-year look at their role and production, and perhaps a look forward to how they might improve.
Round 1, No. 11: D.J. Fluker, San Diego Chargers
Role: 11 starts at RT, four starts at LT
While the first three tackles taken in the draft were faced with converting from the left to the right side, Fluker found himself in familiar territory as he moved from starting right tackle at Alabama to manning the same position for the Chargers. Ironically, he was forced to make the complete opposite move when starting left tackle King Dunlap went down to injury.
Fluker was on his way to a strong overall season before making the move and the splits between both positions are quite distinct as he graded at +12.0 in his 11 starts at right tackle and only -11.4 on his four games with the majority of his snaps taken at left tackle. Given Fluker’s future on the right side, it was an encouraging rookie campaign for the No. 11 overall pick.
Pass Block Snaps: 598
Total Pressures: 47
Pass Blocking Efficiency: 93.5
The left and right tackle splits were most evident in pass protection. Fluker surrendered 24 pressures on 403 pass blocks on the right side, but he gave up an almost identical 23 pressures on only 161 pass blocks when lined up on the left side. While many analysts worried about his ability to handle speed around the edge, only 22 of his 47 pressures came to the outside. Despite his perception as a mauler, nine of his pressures came against bull rushes, second most among the rookie offensive tackles.
Fluker bull rushed by Ryan Kerrigan:
Run Block Snaps: 477
Fluker came in with a reputation as a prototypical, mauling right tackle, but he finished right around average as a run blocker. He actually performed better when lined up on the left side, where he notched positive run grades in three of his four games. He was quite smooth when climbing to the second level, particularly when working off the Chargers’ staple “power” play. Fluker was beaten at times at the line of scrimmage, but overall, not a bad first year effort in the running game.
Fluker works off the double team and gets to the second level:
While the overall grade is a bit deceiving, it was a successful first season for Fluker. Assuming he won’t have to shift from side to side in the future, he appears to be a viable option for the Chargers at right tackle.
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