Alabama Crimson Tide junior right tackle D.J. Fluker has decided to skip his senior season of eligibility and enter the 2013 NFL Draft in April according to Tidesports.com.
The 6-foot-6 335 pound Fluker was a three year starter at right tackle for the Crimson Tide, and was selected as an All-SEC first team member this year along with being a second team AP All American. It has been the general thought for a while now that Fluker would not return to Tuscaloosa for his senior season.
Fluker received a lot of criticism this year because of his struggles in pass protection early on in the season, but seemed to greatly improve as the year wore on. Fluker has always been a dominant run blocker, but the questions of his ability to block speed rushers on the edge will likely keep him out of the first round of the NFL Draft.
CBSSports lists Fluker as the 40th overall prospect on their big board, and the 7th best eligible player at his position. A strong combine and good workouts could propel Fluker into the first round, but he’ll more than likely be chosen somewhere in the second round. Some experts believe that he may have to change positions to guard because he won’t be able to block defensive ends/rush linebackers in the NFL.
Fluker was one of Alabama’s emotional and vocal leaders this season, and that was evident in the SEC Championship Game. With Alabama down 21-10, Fluker started stomping his feet and yelling as the game seemed to start slipping away from the Crimson Tide. That was followed by a huge run by T.J. Yeldon, and ultimately the drive was capped by a Yeldon touchdown run to get Alabama back in the game as the Tide ultimately prevailed 32-28 in Atlanta.
A big reason for Alabama’s success this year was thanks to boasting the best offensive line in college football. With Fluker’s decision to go pro early, and Barrett Jones and Chance Warmack being seniors, Alabama will have to replace three starters on their offensive line. Only left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio and right guard Anthony Steen will return as starters in 2013.
Juniors AJ McCarron and C.J. Mosley already announced their intentions to return to Tuscaloosa for their respective senior seasons, but Alabama still has two other juniors who have yet to make a decision about their futures. Cornerback Dee Milliner and running back Eddie Lacy are still on the fence on whether or not to turn pro.
Milliner is widely thought to be the first cornerback off the board in April if he decides to come out, and Lacy’s draft stock has seen a steady rise after his MVP performance in Alabama’s 42-14 win over Notre Dame on Monday, along with his impressive display in the SEC Championship Game against Georgia.
A news conference is expected to be held as early as Thursday for the announcements. I’m fully expecting both Lacy and Milliner to join Fluker and forego their final year of eligibility.
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