The newly assembled coaching staff of the Chicago Bears went to the NFL Scouting Combine two weeks ago to get a first look at the incoming draft class.
"That's why we're here," head coach Marc Trestman said in Indianapolis. "We're just getting started with that. And we're getting started with getting to know the players. So this is where it gets started. Certainly it's been ongoing relative to the personnel departments and scouting departments and things like that, but this is a first look from a coach's standpoint."
One of the players Trestman and the Bears organization sat down with was Alabama offensive tackle D.J. Fluker. For the Crimson Tide, Fluker has been the starting right tackle the past three seasons. His 36 collegiate starts give him the necessary experience to start right away at the next level.
Currently, he's considered a mid-first-round prospect and could be available when the Bears pick at 20th overall. Let's go to the film room to see if Fluker is the right fit for Trestman's new offense.
Arm Length: 36 ¾ inches
Hands: 10 ½ inches
40-Yard Dash: 5.31 seconds
Bench Press: 21 reps
Fluker is a big, thick lineman whose body type compares to that of Minnesota's Phil Loadholt. He also has very long arms and big hands. As a run blocker, Fluker can flat out maul. He uses a low pad level low and keeps a constant leg drive. He uses a powerful punch and arm extension to knock defenders off balance, and flashes nastiness in driving his opponent to the ground.
Fluker understands angles in the run game and does an outstanding job of positioning his body between the defender and the ball carrier. Once he gets his big mitts on a defensive lineman or linebacker, it's curtains. At the second level, he shows decent awareness and takes good angles. When he gets a head of steam, he can flatten defenders.
In pass protection, his hands are his biggest asset. When he keeps his balance and locks on, the puss rushers have no chance of getting around him. Fluker sinks his hips well and shows good blitz recognition, likely a product of his three years as a starter.
Despite his perfect size, Fluker isn't naturally smooth in his movement and can be slow out of his stance. He's not very effective as a pull blocker and can be ponderous getting down the line. Additionally, he doesn't explode off the ball and often uses more of a "catch" technique as a run blocker. His 21 bench-press reps at the combine also indicate a lack of ideal strength.
Yet his biggest weaknesses are in pass protection. Despite good form, Fluker struggles with quick pass rushers. Double moves and inside spins tend to eat him up, as he too easily lunges and loses balance moving backward. His lack of ideal agility doesn't allow him to mirror defenders effectively.
His kick step is slow at the snap and he struggles getting quickly to the back part of the pocket, often giving up the edge in the process. Overall, he just doesn't possess the ability to keep pace with athletic edge rushers.
If the Bears were to select Fluker in the first round, that would likely mean that Gabe Carimi would be moved inside to right guard, where he played well during his brief stint as an interior starter last season. By putting Carimi and Fluker side by side, the Bears would possess arguably the strongest right side, in terms of run blocking, in the entire league. Matt Forte and Michael Bush would churn out yards running behind those two.
Yet Fluker has the same problem as Carimi: he can't pass protect. Fluker has slow feet and isn't overly athletic. Quick defensive ends and outside linebackers, those like Green Bay's Clay Matthews, are going to eat up Fluker in the pros. He just doesn't have the balance and athleticism to mirror the best pass rushers in the NFL.
In essence, Fluker is a clone – in production, not body type – of Carimi. Both guys can road grade as run blockers yet neither can pass protect a lick. Since the Bears already possess a one-dimensional tackle, why draft another?
Fluker is an NFL-ready right tackle who will likely have a long career in the NFL. In the run game, he'll be very valuable. Yet for the Bears' needs in pass protection, he's not a good fit. Chicago wants to upgrade the offensive line so as to keep Jay Cutler upright but Fluker is too much of a Carimi clone to provide any significant boost in production. Trestman and GM Phil Emery would be better off passing if Fluker is available when it's their turn to pick in the first round.
To view film of Fluker and the rest of the incoming 2013 draft class, visit our BearReport.com forum "War Room" and get caught up.
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.