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.”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.