The D.J. Fluker Pick - What's the Logic?

Al Bello

Why selecting D.J. Fluker 11th overall was the wrong move.

The Offense, and what we don't know

The Chargers as an offensive unit are full of question marks. Will Ryan Mathews stay healthy and fulfill his athletic promise? Can Gates hold on and be an impact guy for another year? Can Floyd stay healthy? Can Meachem make an impact? Who and what is Vincent Brown? Is Rivers still the same guy who we compared with the Bradys and Rodgers of the world?

We just don't know.

The point is, plugging in another question mark — and all draft picks are question marks no matter how promising — isn't going to answer all of those questions.

Ok. Could an impact offensive lineman help the offense? Sure. But Fluker is a Right Tackle, widely acknowledged to be the lesser important position than a blindside protector at Left Tackle.

Furthermore, Fluker is seen as a prototypical power Right Tackle. That means he's strong and somewhat slow. It also means he can be a road grader that plows open holes in the running game, but is susceptible to speed rushers around the outside.

Does that description sound familiar? It should. It's basically the scouting report on Jeromey Clary, the man who has been the Right Tackle for the last several years. Clary is a strong run blocker who is weak against speed rushers.

What We Do Know

So among all those questions, what do we know about the Chargers? Well, we know Hardwick is a good center. We know a bunch of guys on offense are above average if they can stay healthy. And we know that in games Danario Alexander played, the offense averaged 21.75 points a game, good for 17th and trailing 16th by only one-half point per game. 16th in a league of 32, obviously in the middle of the pack.

What else do we know?

We know about the defense. We know Weddle is one of, if not the very best safety in the league. We know Derek Cox can fill in admirably at CB. We know Reyes and Luiget are both absolute studs against both the run and the pass. We know Donald Butler is ready to become a star in this league. We know Jarret Johnson can stop the run and set the edge. We know Melvin Ingram can at least get a lot of hurries (but hope he can do a lot more.)

Our defense was the 15th overall scoring D in 2012, despite being ranked 29th in opponent 3rd down percentage. We can trace that to a number of issues, but I'm going to assume the defense could be better by improving on the positional strength at its weak spots: ILB, CB and SS, in particular.

Last year Takeo Spikes, Quentin Jammer, Antoine Cason and Atari Bigby were all TERRIBLE. Jammer, per Football Outsiders, allowed 8.6 yards per pass attempt, which ranked 75th in the NFL. He also had a 39 percent Success Rate (defined here), second-worst in the league behind Minnesota's A.J. Jefferson. On the other side, Antoine Cason allowed 7.4 yards per pass (48th) and had a 42 percent Success Rate.

Without taking too much from FO, the other 2 were also awful.

It's therefore safe to say that a positional upgrade at ILB, CB or SS could significantly affect the defense. As the weakness was 3rd down conversions, you could also point blame at the front 7 and easily justify upgrading there.

Division Opponents

Denver projects to be just awesome on offense, they scored 30.4 per game (#2 in the NFL) and added Wes Welker.

KC ranked dead last on offense last year, but they're hoping the upgrade from Matt Cassel and Brandon Albert to Alex Smith and Eric Fisher will help them to capitalize on their skill position talent.

The Raiders remain the Raiders, but they got better in the draft yesterday.

Given that those opponents make up 6 of the 16 games in a given season, it makes sense to plan your team around beating them. I don't find it likely that DJ Fluker will allow us to score as many points as either Denver or KC. Could they have improved the D and hoped to keep games low scoring? Maybe, but it's admittedly conjecture.

So what happened?

Well, the Chargers went with a right tackle. Let's hope they weren't wrong. But given the players we know were available at 11, like Star Lotulelei, Kenny Vaccaro and Desmond Marcus Trufant, I can't help but think they were wrong to do so.

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