Chargers take Alabama's D.J. Fluker with 11th pick
The San Diego Chargers began rebuilding their woeful offensive line when they took right tackle D.J. Fluker of Alabama with the 11th pick in the NFL draft Thursday night.
Rookie general manager Tom Telesco said he likes Fluker's energy, and the big right tackle said he's looking forward to showing what he's got.
''Me personally, I want to be the Ray Lewis of my offensive line. I'm a guy that's going to lead my team to victory. Just basically, be the high-energy guy. Being on the field is my playground. I enjoy it.''
Many people thought the Chargers would take a left tackle after they released Jared Gaither earlier this offseason, cutting ties with a player nicknamed ''The Big Lazy.''
The Chargers picked Fluker after watching the top three tackles in the draft - Eric Fisher, Luke Joeckel and Lane Johnson - go in the top four picks. The top two guards, Jonathan Cooper and Chance Warmack, were gone by the 10th pick.
Fluker, a three-year starter at right tackle for the Crimson Tide who played on the last two national championship teams, was one of the best run blockers in college. With the Chargers, he'll also have to help keep Philip Rivers upright. The $93 million quarterback was under siege much of last season, getting sacked 49 times and committing 22 turnovers as the Chargers missed the playoffs for the third straight season.
The Chargers said Fluker will play right tackle. Jeromey Clary is currently the starter there.
''I would never limit my abilities. I could play anywhere, right tackle, right guard, left guard, left tackle. I never stop working. Me playing? I can play. I can play right tackle,'' Fluker said.
''He comes from a winning program and he's going to bring a mentality that we can add here to our offensive line, a physicality, a toughness,'' Telesco said. ''We think he can help both the run and pass game. He's a guy we think can be a cornerstone on our offensive line for a long time.''
Fluker is 6-foot-5, 339 pounds.
''For an offensive lineman he plays with a lot of energy and passion. You don't see that very often, especially with big guys. That's one of the things you see in the tape right away is the energy he plays with. That will come out in his personality and it comes out on the field as well.''
Telesco said it was hard to compare Fluker with anyone else.
''He's such a big man and plays powerful. He's nasty on the field. But he's an underrated athlete for how good his feet are. He blocks linebackers in space and does it extremely well. And he's blocked a lot of really good pass rushers in the SEC for three years, so these guys are hard to come by.''
Telesco said trading down was not an option.
''There's a premium on tackles, there really is, left and right,'' the GM said.
''The run on tackles early on with three going in the first four picks, really helped D.J.,'' Alabama coach Nick Saban said in a statement. ''It is great place for him to have that opportunity. San Diego is a good organization and a great place to live. I think he will do a really good job as well.''
New coach Mike McCoy said free agent acquisition King Dunlap is the No. 1 left tackle for the time being. McCoy said line coach Joe D'Alessandris is doing a good job moving players around in offseason workouts.
''We're not worrying about it,'' McCoy said. ''There's still rounds in the draft left and there's still some things than could happen down the road. We're going to keep on moving the line around. Until we find the best combination of five guys, Joe's going to have some flexibility of what we want to do and really find the best five guys to play together.''