Before the start of the 2016 season, the New England Patriots added the 6th and 7th overall selections of the 2013 NFL Draft in LB Barkevious Mingo and OG Jonathan Cooper. Neither player really panned out, but that won’t stop the Patriots from going back to the same well.
ESPN’s Jordan Raanan reports that the Patriots have interest in the 11th overall pick and former San Diego (Los Angeles?) Chargers OL D.J. Fluker.
OL D.J. Fluker has visit scheduled with Giants, per source. The Patriots also have strong interest in the former Chargers first-round pick.— Jordan Raanan (@JordanRaanan) March 10, 2017
The Chargers have one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL and still opted to decline Fluker’s 5th year option. Fluker has started every game of his career at offensive tackle, and then at right guard over the past two seasons.
Fluker is 6’5, 340 pounds and his 36.75 inch arms are the second-longest in NFL combine history. He turns 26 on March 13th. He was much better at offensive than he was at guard, according to Pro Football Focus, and his run blocking suffered while on the interior.
Guard D.J. Fluker has allowed at least one QB pressure in 57 of his 61 career NFL games. Reportedly being released by Chargers. pic.twitter.com/sbuUXn3VWH— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) March 7, 2017
Fluker spent his 2016 season under assistant offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo, whom Patriots fans will recognize as New England’s offensive line coach from 2014-15 when the line was the worst in recent memory. The Patriots brought back former offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia for the 2016 season and every player that struggled in 2015 rebounded for an incredible 2016 performance.
The Patriots could be interested in Fluker’s versatility and presents a similar size to RT Marcus Cannon. Fluker has always played on the right side of the offensive line and is known for his ability to overpower defenders in the run game.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is always interested in bringing in young players with a lot of starting experience and Fluker certainly qualifies. LT Nate Solder is a free agent after the 2017 season and Cannon has shown an ability to be a swing tackle, so Fluker could be a potential bridge player if Scarnecchia can help him achieve his potential.
The Patriots would rather be a year early than a year late and so Fluker could provide insurance at tackle for the 2017 season in case Solder leaves, just like how Shea McClellin provided insurance at linebacker in the case that either Jamie Collins or Dont’a Hightower wouldn’t return in 2017- a decision that was prescient.
There’s also a chance the Patriots could use Fluker at right guard, although I find that unlikely. The Patriots could flip RG Shaq Mason to left guard, and allow LG Joe Thuney and C David Andrews to battle for the center position.
The Chargers added OT Russell Okung and have Orlando Franklin, Joe Barksdale, and King Dunlap all under contract, making Fluker and his $8.821 million 5th year option expendable.
Fluker might be looking for a team with greater opportunity to play and the New York Giants offer a less established offensive line. Still, the Patriots reported interest is a worthwhile note.