By now, you've probably read at least a dozen different reviews of the D.J. Fluker pick, with some positive and some negative. There are plenty of valid arguments on either side, but nobody truly knows for sure how this pick will work out for the Chargers. You can argue that there were better players on the board, but how do we really know that? Just because it's somebody's opinion, or even the consensus opinion? If we learn anything from sports, it should be that predicting the future and speaking in absolutes is a fool's errand. If the talking heads were always right, San Diego would have a couple championships by now.
It's all opinion and guesswork at this point.
I'm here to offer something a little different, something based more in fact than conjecture. Maybe by investigating the past we can gain a little insight on the chance this pick will be remembered for its brilliance or for its ineptitude.
Let's explore the history of offensive tackles being selected 11th overall:
Cas Banaszek, 49ers, 1967-1977
First, Cas is short for Casimir - Casimir Joseph Banaszek. A name doesn't get much better than that, ladies and gentlemen.
Now, it was hard to find much information on him, probably because The San Francisco 49ers drafted Cas out of Northwestern over 40 years ago. He ended up starting 100 games for the 49ers over his 10 seasons in the NFL.
Although he won't ever be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Cas was inducted into the Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame, which puts him in the company of Walter Payton, so that must count for something.
This pick ended up being a solid one for the 49ers. I think the Chargers would be pretty elated if Fluker was to end up as their starting right tackle for the next decade.
Morris Towns, Oilers, 1977-1983
Morris Towns is one of the most decorated offensive lineman ever to grace the halls of Mizzou Tigers Football. He was inducted into their Hall of Fame in 2006, but before that he helped transform a Houston Oilers team in the late-70s and early-80s into a championship contender.
Towns didn't need much time to adjust to the NFL-level, as he became the OIlers' starting right tackle in his second season - and there was no looking back. Towns made 66 starts over seven years in Houston. He paved the way for Earl Campbell to rack up three consecutive NFL rushing titles and 45 touchdowns between 1978 and 1980, which sparked Houston's run to two consecutive AFC Championship Games. Not bad, not bad at all.
The Chargers will, likewise, ask Fluker to make a similar quick transition and help them improve in run blocking. Now, Fluker won't transform Ryan Mathews into the second-coming of Earl Campbell, but the ground game in San Diego was abysmal at times last season - so any help will be welcomed.
Keith Van Horne, Bears, 1981-1993
Keith Van Horne played his college ball for the University of Southern Californian, where he collected first-team All-American honors after his senior season. The Bears selected Van Horne in 1981 with the plan to develop him, not to start him right away, but that all changed after starting tackles Dennis Lick and Ted Albrecht both succumbed to injury.
Van Horne would eventually find his way to the right side of the line, where he helped contribute to the Bears Super Bowl XX championship in 1985. He played all of his 13 seasons in the NFL for Chicago and started 169 games of his 186 games for them.
This is another success story, but Van Horne's story isn't a perfect parallel to Fluker. Mainly because Van Horne entered the NFL underweight for his position at 265 pounds. That's one less thing for the massive 339 pound D.J Fluker to worry about as he begins to write his NFL story.
Pat Harlow, Patriots, 1991-1995
Back-to-back Trojans on this list, as Harlow also played his college ball at the University of Southern California. I'm sure he has some interesting stories from the Todd Marinovich era. Maybe more interesting is that Harlow was recruited out of high school to be a defensive linemen and only made the switch to offense after he was buried on the Trojan depth chart.
Harlow started all 64 games of his Patriots career at right tackle before he was benched during the 1995 season and traded to the Raiders in 1996 for a second-round pick. The benching and trade wasn't really because Harlow lacked any ability, as he was regarded as an extremely reliable player, it was apparently made in response to the fallout from a tiff between him and Bill Parcells. (He sure picked the wrong coach to mess with).
Hopefully, D.J. Fluker won't follow in Harlow's footsteps in that regard, but there are similarities between the two. Like Fluker, Harlow wasn't ever regarded as the nimblest guy - but he was nasty. The Raiders, however, made the mistake of moving him to the left side, where he was never really the same guy again.
Leon Searcy, Steelers, 1992-1995
Leon Searcy is now a cautionary tale in the NFL - and not because he ended up being a bust. The Steelers drafted Searcy out of the University of Miami in 1992. Although he didn't start in his first season, Searcy became an anchor on the offensive line and helped Pittsburgh get to Super Bowl XXX, where they were defeated by the Cowboys. This is where the trouble began.
Searcy left the Steelers in free agency after the loss in the Super Bowl to sign a record-breaking contract with Jacksonville. He would prove to be well worth the money, but his body started to break down at the end of that contract and he wasn't ever able to reestablish himself.
Searcy spent his early years of retirement continuing to live like he was still the highest paid offensive lineman in the NFL. In 2002 and 2003, the bank foreclosed on two of his properties and he owed hundreds of thousands of dollars to the government. He was broke. He has since recovered and now lives a modest life in the suburbs of Miami. I hope, for his own sake, that D.J. Fluker follows in the footsteps of Leon Searcy the football player, not the money manager.
Tra Thomas, Eagles, 1998-2008
The Eagles drafted Thomas out of Florida State in 1998. He became a fixture on the offensive line at left tackle from Day 1 for the Eagles. He started 165 of 166 games in his career with Philadelphia and made the Pro Bowl in the 2001, 2002 and 2004 seasons.
In case you have forgotten, Thomas is technically a former Charger, although he never played in a single regular-season game in 2010, his only season with the team. Nevertheless, he will be remembered for his days with the Eagles, where he proved to be every bit the player the Eagles hoped for, and then some.
If the Chargers just hit anywhere close to the jackpot the Eagles hit with Tra Thomas, Tom Telesco will be well on his way to getting a statue of his likeness outside that new Chargers stadium, with a San Diego area code as the mailing address, hopefully.
Anthony Davis, 49ers, 2010-Present
We've come full circle. We started with a 49er and we're going to end with one, a pretty good one at that.
The 49ers selected Davis in the 2010 draft and he has proven to be a stalwart at right tackle for them. Although he hasn't put together a Pro Bowl caliber season yet, Davis' time is coming - and it's coming soon.
The 49ers think so highly of him that they extended him in April to a new 5-year contract worth $37.3 million, which is on par with recent contracts for elite left tackles. That, right there, speaks volumes. I know I speak for every Chargers fan when I say that I hope I read about D.J. Fluker signing an extension in about two years; that will mean that Telesco and the Chargers hit this one out of the ballpark.
And we've reached the end without me mentioning a single player who was a bust. The Chargers hope D.J. Fluker won't be the first.
History seems to be with them.