Close sources tell me DJ Fluker/T/Alabama is a real possibility for the Miami Dolphins with the 12th pick…more later..
— Tony Pauline (@TonyPauline) April 8, 2013
If you’re hoping the Seahawks draft some kind of swing tackle/guard at #56, the above tweet probably concerns you. Supply might not meet demand.
D.J. Fluker looks on tape to be a pure right tackle or guard. There’s very little evidence he’d be comfortable protecting the blind side. He isn’t great working against the speed rush and those issues will almost certainly translate to the next level. He’s a lunger who’s off-balance, pawing against a quicker defensive end who wins with the initial step. He needs to improve his stance, foot speed and kick-slide. The big positive is he’s a road grader type and if he doesn’t work out at tackle, at least you’re going to get an above average guard.
There is something to be said for that. As Tony Pauline notes, “Most of the decision makers in the Dolphins front office were taught under Bill Parcells, who loved road-grading offensive linemen.”
One thing that does work in his favour is insanely long arms. At nearly 37 inches, Fluker has a greater wingspan than any other highly touted offensive lineman in this class. And it isn’t close. Luke Joeckel’s arms measured just over 34 inches. That to me is the main reason why teams are starting to talk themselves into believing he might be able to play left tackle. That kind of reach is attractive. Perhaps some teams will just be happy to draft him early to play right tackle? I’d never draft a right tackle that early, but I’m not a NFL GM. He is a terrific run blocker and dominated Georgia’s defense in the SEC Championship.
If you can live with Fluker’s issues against speed (I couldn’t, personally… not in the top half of round one) then you can probably convince yourself that he’s worth drafting early. I think he’s a similar prospect to Andre Smith, who remains a free agent after being drafted 6th overall in 2009. Smith is only 26 and had his best year as a pro in 2012. And he can’t find a home. Despite Smith’s size and struggles against speed, he played left tackle for Alabama. Fluker didn’t. But he hasn’t run a hideous shirtless forty yard dash, either.
Smith’s inability to generate a free agent market might be down to existing interest in this years tackle class. Three players — Joeckel, Eric Fisher and Lane Johnson — could be gone by as early as the #5 pick. At the latest they’re probably all gone by #7. Considering the need at tackle stretches to San Diego and Miami at #11 and #12, Fluker could benefit as the next man up. It could be that we have to start considering his floor is Carolina at #14.
If the top four tackles go that early, there’s likely to be another rush long before Seattle picks at #56. Kyle Long, Terron Armstead and Menelik Watson could go earlier than people perhaps expect. It doesn’t leave much to get at in the late second round, unless you’re a big fan of Brennan Williams, Xavier Nixon or Jordan Mills.
Not that this is some huge need that needs to be addressed right now. Breno Giacomini starts at right tackle this year regardless. And he could still be re-signed to a modest extension. So there’s no need to panic.
By the way, speaking of Jordan Mills…
Antoine Winfield update
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) April 8, 2013
I’m intrigued to see how this situation plays out. Personally, I still wouldn’t be making any big push for Winfield until after the draft. This is a front office that has consistently managed to unearth talent in the secondary without major investment or turning to ageing veterans. Winfield was good in his day, but he’s still a free agent for a reason.
The return of Jon Gruden
It’s that time of year again. Jon Gruden’s QB camp’s are compulsive viewing during the draft process. The likes of Marcus Lattimore, Luke Joeckel and Manti Te’o are also taking part this year (which isn’t unusual, Earl Thomas met with Gruden in 2010). You can see Geno Smith’s grilling above. They’re fun to watch and Gruden is an engaging personality. Although he gets touted for coaching jobs every year, he has a certain flair for broadcasting. It’s no surprise he hasn’t rushed back to the NFL, or college. Although personally I think he would’ve been a great fit for the San Diego Chargers gig this year.