+Legs resemble tree trunks
+Only player at the combine who’s arms are longer than my legs
+Creates the widest base you’ll ever see
+Plays with good on field intensity
+Good run blocker
+Good athlete for his size
+Might be better in the NFL than in college, since he’ll get to play against more 3-4 defense
-No feel for the game whatsoever
-Solid lateral range, but quickness is lacking
-Poor balance, simply clumsy
-Awkward in every phase of the game
-On field awareness is mediocre
-Doesn’t know how to make use of his length
Telling Alabama offensive tackle D.J. Fluker to play football is like telling a strong, athletic 7 footer to play basketball. In theory, each should be amazing. A combination of physical tools and love for the game should translate into amazing results. But some players are simply awkward, and are considered underachievers because they are only moderately successful in spite of their ridiculous tools. They’re not bad by any stretch of the imagination. But greatness is to be expected of them, as opposed to simply being an average starter. In basketball, the names DeAndre Jordan and JaVale McGee come to mind. In football, it’s D.J. Fluker.
Fluker has ridiculous measurables. I have never seen a guy with his build before. His arms are insanely long (just over a yard), his chest is insanely wide (the kind of wingspan that would make an eagle jealous), he has the thickest legs I have ever seen (hardly seems like a real photo), he moves well for a guy 339lbs with a 5.31 40 yard dash, and the best part is, he’s 6’5. 6’5 is average height for an NFL tackle. That’s fantastic, since height, by itself, is a disadvantage for NFL linemen. The low man wins in football, and, if your tall, you need lots of flexibility to have any chance of getting good leverage on run plays. The reason why height is perceived as a good thing is that there is a correlation between height and arm length, and the advantage of long arms usually offsets the disadvantage from height, in fact, being a net positive. But Fluker is a freak. His height is average, yet he had the longest arms of anyone at the combine since 2010 (36 3/4 in). I have never seen that combination, but it’s incredibly valuable.
Fluker is a solid run blocker. Let’s start off with the good. His strength is terrific, it’s impossible to hit his pads because, with his length, he’ll reach you before you reach him, he plays with terrific on field intensity, he almost can’t help but be moderately productive entering the second level because he’s just so long and wide that he can get a finger on just about anyone, he gets a solid initial punch, and he can really take defenders out of the play. Not too mention, I’ve said before that drafting O-linemen is difficult because it is almost impossible to find a guy athletic enough to block 4-3 ends yet strong enough to block 3-4 ends. Fluker’s size and strength strongly suggest that he will play better in the NFL than he did in college, since he’ll be facing more 3-4′s (about a third of the NFL’s teams run a 3-4, compared to no more than a tenth in the NCAA), and he’s really well suited to block 3-4 ends. Fluker is better suited to block the Calais Campbell’s and Justin Smith’s of the world than any other player in this draft class without question. Guys like Campbell won’t have their normal strength advantage against Fluker, but also won’t be athletic enough to take advantage of his lack of quickness. On the downside, Fluker lacks quickness. He moves pretty well sprinting for a guy his size but is pretty tight and doesn’t react quickly. Also, he tends to lean on his hands a bit as a run blocker. Leaning on your hands means trying to drive guys off the ball by pushing them as opposed to plowing them off the ball with your legs. The problem with leaning on your hands is that it shifts you weight too far forward, and a good swim or rip move will result in you falling on the ground. He tends to do this when his man has a bit of a quickness advantage on him, in which case, he desperately tries to engage in the block as quickly as possible even if it means lunging forward and losing balance. The really maddening part of this tendency is that when he doesn’t lean on his hands, the marble columns he calls legs do more than a sufficient job of driving a defender practically off the field. Again, he’s just so awkward. The other frustrating thing is that his lack of height means he doesn’t really have any problems getting good leverage, but he still sometimes plays high and always plays off balance. Another baffling issue; in spite of his freakishly long arms, he can be beaten badly by swim moves and rip moves. That happens to any player that leans on his hands, but it happens to much to Fluker. His arms are so long that it’s pretty much inexcusable for him to allow any opponent to touch his chest, because he should reach there chest first. If I had to guess why, it is because he isn’t coordinated enough to hit the sweet spot of his opponents shoulder pads, which limit the arm movement of any defender. Still, his terrific strength combined with his solid on field intensity make him a net positive. He’s pretty inconsistent and gets the football equivalent of home runs (driving defenders out of the stadium) and strikeouts (not laying a hand on a guy) with no in between on every play, but his potential is through the roof here, and he has been getting better as the years have progressed. You have to love a guy making progress.
Fluker is a mediocre pass blocker. I can’t emphasize this enough; he has the body and skill set of a guy likely to succeed against 3-4 ends. He’ll be a better pass blocker in the NFL than the NCAA since he’ll be facing more Abry Jones’s and fewer Barkevious Mingo’s (though Mingo’s will still make up a majority). Most of his strength is in the lower body, which helps more against the run than the pass, and he doesn’t get a great initial punch, especially for a guy with his kind of size. Come to think of it, he rarely tries to get any kind of initial punch as a pass blocker. He also lacks quickness and is hopeless against a weak side end in a 4-3, who can easily get him off balance with deceptive stutter steps and speed. Still, though, he can have moderate success at the NFL level because his wide body makes up for many of his lateral deficiencies. His long arms can be used to control the chest of opposing linemen, though you would like to see a bit more fluidity and a better ability to react to inside moves. He really struggles to pick up defensive line stunts and hates slant blitzes, and he doesn’t always keep his head on a swivel, but he plays with good on field intensity and has a better feel for using his length against the pass than versus the run.
Fluker has potential, but he has some holes in his game that he’ll need to work on to succeed in the NFL. His balance is bad in all facets of the game and he lacks quickness, but his strength and length are tremendous and his body is unbelievable.
NFL Comparison: Tough one here. A raw, physically freaky version of Kelechi Osemele.
Grade: 93 (worthy of a late first round pick)
Projection: 92 (will be a late first, maybe early second round pick)