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Selecting Fluker Would Expedite Bulaga's Move to Left Tackle

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Selecting Fluker Would Expedite Bulaga's Move to Left Tackle

When playing the Mortal Kombat street fighting video game series, if a character is close to death, the words "Finish Him" flash on the screen and the opponent can kill him in any number of creative and gruesome ways, known in the gaming world as "finishing moves."

Consider Alabama offensive lineman D.J. Fluker a fan of the game. If he were a character, his finishing move would be The Pancake.

"That's in the back of my head," said Fluker during the NFL Combine, "but at the same time I'm trying to execute my assignment, and... I try to finish it. Kind of like Mortal Kombat."

That's what you get from Fluker, the kind of player that's intense, emotional, mean, nasty. The type that's not going to quit until the whistle is blown.

Fluker has been known to be a vocal presence on the field, not afraid to talk to the defensive lineman lining up across from him. So what does he tell his opponent?

"I say, 'I'm here to come take your lunch money,'" said Fluker.

Fluker is a mountain of a man. At the Senior Bowl all-star game in January he weighed in a 355 lbs. By the time the Combine rolled around in February, he was down to 339 lbs. Like so many other players, they slim down to test better in the measured drills and show off better mobility.

After being part of the national championship teams at Alabama the past two years, Fluker has put himself in position to be a first round draft pick in next week's NFL Draft. ESPN analyst Mel Kiper called him the best run blocking right tackle to come out in years.

If Fluker were still on the board when the Packers are on the clock with the 26th pick in the first round, they could add an element to their run game they haven't had in years.

The probability is that Fluker is a right tackle and a right tackle only. By selecting him, the Packers would also––in all likelihood––be making a commitment to sliding Bryan Bulaga over to left tackle.

There's depth at the tackle position in Green Bay but also no shortage of question marks. They spent first round draft picks on offensive tackles in two out of the past three years with Bulaga in 2010 and Derek Sherrod in 2011, but both of them ended the season on injured reserve last season.

Meanwhile, Marshall Newhouse has been the starter at left tackle for the bulk of the past two years, but was responsible for allowing nine sacks in each 2011 and 2012, according to ProFootballFocus.com.

Don Barclay and Andrew Datko might have bright futures in the NFL, but neither of them is above replacement level.

That brings us back to Fluker, whom the Packers could consider as a means to upgrade their offensive line.

Admittedly, Fluker considers himself a better run blocker than pass blocker, but that could pose a problem for a team like the Packers that drop back to pass as frequently as they do.

Fluker has occasionally had trouble with speed rushers coming off the edge. And when the Packers make Aaron Rodgers the highest-paid player in NFL history, they're not going to want to see him on his backside very often.

There's hope, however, that Fluker is better than advertised as a pass blocker, at least according to one prominent draft analyst.

"He’s a much better pass blocker than people gave him credit for," said Kiper in a recent conference call with reporters. "When you looked at what he did, and I said that all year, he did a good job. Go back to the LSU game. He wasn’t dominated. All the great pass rushers were going to get the best of D.J. Fluker, and they didn’t. There was one team that thought he could be a left tackle."

Years of playing at a successful program like Alabama has rubbed off on Fluker.

It doesn't matter to the massive offensive lineman whether he plays for a team that runs or passes the ball more often. He just wants to win.

"Right now, my main thing is that any team that wants to win a championship, any team that wants to win every Sunday, that's the best type of team that I want to go to," said Fluker. "The team that has the attitude of 'I will not be denied.' The guys that want to go out there and actually work hard. That actually want to do something, do something special. Go to the Super Bowl, win a championship. That's the type of team that I want to be a part of."

Alabama offensive lineman D.J. Fluker. Photo by Brian Carriveau of CheeseheadTV.com.

Brian Carriveau is the author of "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor of Cheesehead TV's "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email carriveau@uwalumni.com.

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (40) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

packsmack25's picture

Is it fair to say that neither Datko nor Barclay are above replacement level without seeing how they develop in year two? I know in a roundabout way that's what you're saying, but you're leaving out the part where they have a ton of potential perhaps even this upcoming season.

al's picture

you have good point just pic best player i think is good for me .

al's picture

this guys is a beast ........ just watched film on him he scard me dam good football player but he proubly gone before #26 pic .

Bearmeat's picture

If TT goes OT, I'm going to freak out. WE DON'T NEED ONE. Let the 4 GOOD players we ALREADY have duke it out.

BubbaOne's picture

Correct, we don't need one and I add Datko to make it 5 OT's to duke it out BUT it's not about need it's about difference makers. TT has been avg'ing a pro bowler a year so if he thinks for example Jonathan Cooper is a pro bowler, maybe the next Steve Hutchinson I couldn't turn in his name fast enough to Goodell.

Here's my wants for the first 2 picks:
I.M. Playmaker and his cousin I.B. Playmaker. I wouldn't take his other cousin I.R. Playmaker...don't need a playmaker who sits on I.R.

Stroh's picture

Fluker isn't a difference maker IMO. Maybe for a running team, but we need pass blockers and Fluker isn't a good pass blocker. He might be the worst thing that could happen to Rodgers. If you think Newhouse is a bad LT, Fluker is clearly worse. Now if Cooper falls to the Packers and we could plug him in at Center, I would be all for that. I just think Fluker is a fit for the Packers.

Evan's picture

As Brian said, Fluker would be a RT only. Drafting him would mean moving Bulaga to LT.

Stroh's picture

He's just a poor scheme fit. No matter if he plays Rt or Lt. He needs to play in a power blocking scheme to be successful and the Packers are pass 1st and need mobile
OL. Cross him out completely and hope another AFC team drafts him.

Evan's picture

Yeah, that very well may be true. I was just saying you seemed to be arguing against a scenario (Fluker at LT) that no one was suggesting.

Mike's picture

Agree, but highly doubt Cooper makes it past 18.

FITZCORE 1252'S EVO's picture

Preach it, Meat.

cow42's picture

"If TT goes OT, I’m going to freak out. WE DON’T NEED ONE. Let the 4 GOOD players we ALREADY have duke it out."

so now the Packers have 4 good tackles.

hmm.

by my count they have 1 slightly above average RT.
every other tackle on the roster is a "JAG" at best.

but i do agree that they shouldn't go OL in the first round.
none of the available OL players will be worth that high of a pick.

Morgan Mundane's picture

Is that a picture of one person or two?
I've kind of settled into the Pack picking and O lineman as the top pick. I know many won't agree but I have two reasons: Sherrod and Beluga. Both had big time injuries so their availability may be in question. Second, and just as imporant, our team star, as he goes so goes the team, was sacked 51 times. Luckily none of those took him out of the game for the season. The pack won't press their luck. They know he needs O line help first, running second, defense third.

Shawn's picture

As you said Sherrod and Bulaga are comming off injury. They are both young and promising. Why draft another young promising player to fill in for a short time? Why not bring in a free agent that only has a few years left to fill in until they are healthy?

packsmack25's picture

85 QB hits allowed last season, or 7th most in the league. Only 3 playoff teams in the top 10, and one of those was a rookie(Indy). Matt Ryan was the only other guy to take as many hits and make the playoffs. The two previous years, however, they gave up the 18th and 23rd most hits. The difference, to me, was Wells, and his line calls. They need to fix their situation at Center more than they need another Tackle.

MarkinMadison's picture

I think you're a lot football smarter than I am Packsmack, so I'll have to have you explain why the problem is "line calls." Saturday's body was on the fritz, but I doubt that his brain was. And if the problem was line calls, then I'm not sure how bringing in a rookie center will help.

packsmack25's picture

No one can learn an offense and get in sync with a new QB in 4 months. It was more about him seeing and protections in a manner that Aaron and the rest of the line were comfortable with. Also, actually blocking the other team.

packsmack25's picture

Seeing and calling protections*

Tarynfor12's picture

What is this 'expeditite' Bulaga to LT stuff?

So now we are to draft another RT to move a RT(Bulaga) to LT who more likely will not do a solid job at LT..otherwise he would have been moved over by now.

If Bulaga was or is a better LT than Newhouse or Sherrod(still in question)why did MM keep him at RT and not LT over both already.Surely if Bulaga was able to just cut the sacks and hits in half it would be a monumental benefit for the team and Rodgers play...but it seems that the confidence in Bulaga to accomplish such is not high in the thinking of MM.

I think Bulaga and Barclay could hold the RT spots 1-1b,the question is can Sherrod and Newhouse be the 1-1b combo to hold the LT spot to a above average level.

If TT is to go LT this draft,then he needs to trade away our picks this year or do what he hasn't done and sacrifice a next year rd 1 to get a Lane Johnson.

That isn't going to happen so we forget about the OL in rd 1 and get the guy on the DL where the need is much higher and go LT next year if the Sherrod/Newhouse combo fails.

The Center position is a must get and hopefully we can get Swenke..after the DL is picked.

If the DL can command the line,the outside containment of a Kaep,Wlison,RG is made easier since getting our OLBs and DBs to bite on false or true inside run help is greatly reduced...and the hoped for Perry/Matthews dynamic duo can do what is highly expected.

Once the OLBs get caught out of position,they can't catch these guys around the edge as we regretfuuly experienced too many times last season.

Evan's picture

Bulaga was drafted as a LT and was the LT of the future until Tauscher got hurt and forced Bulaga into the lineup. I don't think it's fair to say he wouldn't be able to do a solid job at LT just because he hasn't been moved back over yet. Personally, I still like the idea of moving him to LT and letting Sherrod, Newhouse and Barclay battle it out at RT.

Stroh's picture

But most scouts always thought Bulaga was a better RT prospect than LT. He WAS our LT of the future when he was drafted, only cuz he was the closest thing we had to a LT. I don't think Bulaga would fair any better at LT than Newhouse in pass pro. He is a better run blocker than Newhouse, but we need LT that are pass blockers 1st and 2nd and run blocker a distant 3rd, as long as we have Rodgers as our QB.

Tarynfor12's picture

The Tauscher injury aside then...if Bulaga was the LT of the future,why did we draft Sherrod to be the LT of the future and why didn't we move Bulaga to LT last season and Newhouse over to RT when we all knew Sherrod wasn't going to be around.Why wasn't Bulaga moved to LT when Clifton went down and put Newhouse at RT.

I find it hard to believe that MM was willing to waste a whole season of Bulaga and Newhouse playing on the wrong sides of the line and having Rodgers get pummeled with sacks and hits.

Before you tell me about Bulaga getting or playing hurt early,it still won't erase the fact that their positions of play was decided at the beginning,where if Bulaga was a better option for the LT spot,he would have been moved there during camp and at the start of game one.

The point for me at least is there were many opportunities for Bulaga being moved to LT and they were by-passed for reasons that we can only surmise.My assumption is Bulaga will not fair any better as a LT than what we have now and would make no sense to weaken the right side in doing so.

Evan's picture

Yeah, I don't know why he hasn't been moved. It's been a topic of discussion every off season. Might just be a matter of not messing with something that's working.

Stroh's picture

A topic of conversation mostly for fans. One I happen to disagree with btw. Bulaga wouldn't be any better at LT, than Newhouse IMO. I think Packers know it too.

Turophile's picture

Tarynfor12 understands the situation.

If Bulaga was an obvious answer to LT problems, he would be there already.

You will not see an OT in the first round for the Pack. The Packers are too smart to waste a first round pick, before they know what Sherrod can do at LT (his natural position). He was a first round pick too, remember.

The only circumstance where an OT gets drafted early by the Pack, is if they have ALREADY DECIDED Sherrod is a bust. I cannot see any chance of that happening. They have almost no information to judge Sherrod's eventual ability at LT and you do not give up on a first round pick quickly, unless you are certain, absolutely certain, that he is a bust.

Ted will go with the existing OTs for 2013. Then, once he knows what he has in Sherrod, he can make a rational decision on what to do.

If the OT position still presents a problem after the 2013 season, then TT has the information he needs to decide whether he should pull the trigger on another OT.

markinmadison's picture

McCarthy hinted at a possible switch for Bulaga, so this is not just fan speculation. My take is that last year the Pack a) thought Newhouse would grow into LT b) knew Newhouse was more of a finese player, who fits better on the left side, if he will succeed at all and c) wanted some stability by leaving Bulaga at RT in a year where they were starting a new center a raw LG.

Stroh's picture

Hinting at it might also be a way to motivate Newhouse and Sherrod to step up their games. McCarthy hinting at it is a long way from it actually happening or even being tried.

FITZCORE 1252'S EVO's picture

"if Bulaga was the LT of the future,why did we draft Sherrod to be the LT of the future and why didn’t we move Bulaga to LT last season and Newhouse over to RT when we all knew Sherrod wasn’t going to be around.if Bulaga was the LT of the future,why did we draft Sherrod to be the LT of the future and why didn’t we move Bulaga to LT last season and Newhouse over to RT when we all knew Sherrod wasn’t going to be around."

Because, the coaching staff either knew all along, or decided rather quickly after watching him in person, the Bulaga was their RT. They don't want to move him, and I don't think they will... He's a RT.

Tarynfor12's picture

thats right...

Long,long ago..
in a time during one of the draft years...
A LT was thought to be seen..
His name was Bulaga..
After seeing what he can do...
his hope for future LT was dismissed..
and placed where his true strength..
would be of service ...
on the right..
where all too many...
feel yet,is the wrong side...yikes!

next episode please!!!

al's picture

as long as he is the best player avaib.....

al's picture

HOW ABOUT GUARD LANE TAYOR OKLAHOMA ST RANKED 31 APP 850 SNAPS NO QB SACKS ALOUADED ???

mani2packers's picture

Dline. Center. Safety.

cow42's picture

Pick.Best.Player.

Drealyn Williams's picture

I wish you all quit acting like the Packers don't draft/sign OL that aren't interchangeable. Saying Bulaga can't play LT or do any better than Newhouse is asinine. I'm guessing the reason The coaches left Bulaga on the right is to solidify at least one side of the line. Bulaga + Lang isn't better than Sitton + Bulaga. With that being said,replacing Bulaga with a stronger run blocker is better than having Newhouse at RT. Where were those nice runs James Starks and Harris developing? Middle-Right? I hope this is making some type of sense. I tend to go off track when typing a lot.

Stroh's picture

What evidence do you have to say that he would do better than Newhouse? I haven't seen Bulaga play at all at LT. And there were times early last year where Bulaga got schooled at RT, in particular at Sea. Seemed he especially had trouble w/ speed rushers, something he would a lot if he played LT. Maybe he would be better, but that still creates another issue on the right side and then you have both side lacking chemistry. I'm just not sure Bulaga would be better at LT than Newhouse or possibly Sherrod.

Drealyn Williams's picture

Which OL from the Packers didn't look bad against the Seahawks that game??? Lol,you can't ask for evidence and then follow up by saying,"well maybe he would be better." Do I really need evidence to decide who's better between Bulaga and Newhouse? Chemistry (running) looked damn good with Barclay in at RT. His pass pro was inconsistent,but he's still learning. If the Pack can coach him up forget about drafting an OT. Bulaga < Lang < EDS < Sitton < Barclay. Pretty solid? Help/chips on the right side from time-to-time?

Stroh's picture

Bulaga was particularly bad tho! And he got schooled by Irvin and Clemons. Guys that he would see a lot more of at LT than RT. If you move Bulaga it upsets the chemsistry of the entire OL and its hardly a given that he would be better than Newhouse in pass pro.

Sherrod's forte was his pass blocking ability. And he was excellent in the SEC against the best in college football. Clifton was never a good run blocker either, but at LT you need a pass blocker way before a run blocker. Bulaga is a good mix and exactly what we need at RT. IMO it would be a mistake to move Bulaga.

Barclay isn't nearly a good enough OT and should be an OG this year. As long as we are a pass 1st team we need pass blocking OT before run blocking. Bulaga is far from being a proven LT and the majority of scouts think he needs to play RT to be successful.

Adding a guy like Fluker who is all about run blocking would get Rodgers killed. Newhouse is still progressing and was much better last year in pass pro than the previous year and the competition at LT between he and Sherrod should make training camp intense. Bulaga at LT makes the OL weaker not better IMO.

Drealyn Williams's picture

I did forget about Sherrod. (Hopefully) If he can be a consistent pass blocker and lock down the leftside then forget about moving Bulaga. Even if Sherrod can't do much for you in the running game.

cow42's picture

i just searched for some old scouting reports for sherrod from the year he got drafted.

if the Packers plan on becoming a more physical football team... let's just say they might have to go in a direction other than sherrod.

Drealyn Williams's picture

Of course they're looking to become more physical. Sherrod must be MUCH better than Newhouse/Bulaga at pass pro in order to win that LT job.

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