The San Diego Chargers drafted D.J. Fluker with the 11th overall pick in April’s NFL Draft expecting him to immediately start at right tackle and help improve Philip Rivers’ pass protection. The word out of OTAs is that things aren’t exactly going as planned.
According to Kevin Acee of U-T San Diego, Fluker has been struggling at right tackle for the Chargers, so much to the point where people are already discussing his possible move to guard. ESPN’s Matt Williamson says that Fluker could be a Pro Bowler at right guard, but will struggle at right tackle.
This is certainly not what you want to hear about the team’s first round pick. Fluker’s possible move to guard was always an option and backup plan for the Chargers, but that’s not why the team drafted him.
Based on Fluker’s skill set, the move to guard might actually benefit him. His strengths are in run blocking and at guard, he may be more effective moving big bodies in the middle than moving laterally on the edge. In pass protection, he doesn’t have the fast feet or lateral quickness to consistently deal with speed rushers at right tackle. At guard, he’d simply need to hold the point of attack in pass blocking rather than sliding when dealing with edge rushers.
Guards are becoming more important in this league as defenses are getting more creative with their interior blitzes, but tackle is still by far the more important position. Fluker’s possible move to guard because of his struggles in pass protection is already a sign of a bad use of the team’s first round pick. A player drafted at 11th overall should be close to everything you want in a player. He shouldn’t have as glaring a weakness as Fluker does. Unless Fluker becomes a perennial Pro Bowl offensive guard, he will be viewed as yet another first round draft bust for the Bolts if he needs to change positions to be successful.
If Fluker does make the move, Max Starks and King Dunlap have the experience and versatility to play right tackle. The two are expected to compete for the starting left tackle spot and the loser could slide into the right tackle spot. Incumbent Jeromey Clary, who has been working at right guard, could also be in the mix to return to his right tackle spot.