In this series we take a look at 12 players for the San Diego Chargers who are 25 or younger and who could be considered foundational or impact players.
Player: OT D.J. Fluker
The skinny: Selected No. 11 overall in the 2013 draft by the Chargers, Fluker was the first draft pick of the Tom Telesco era. And in his rookie season, the University of Alabama product proved his worth. Fluker started 15 games, ably filling in at left tackle for three games in place of an injured King Dunlap. Known as a physical run-blocker, Fluker helped pave the way for Ryan Mathews’ second career 1,000-yard season. And Fluker’s pass protection on the edge led to a resurgent 2013 for quarterback Philip Rivers. Fluker also showed toughness, playing through a nagging knee injury at the end of the season.
Reason for optimism: Fluker should experience a jump in development in his second season with an offseason to refine his technique, along with working with trainers to improve his flexibility, strength and endurance in order to perform at a high level during the NFL’s marathon season. The Chargers have all five projected starters returning up front, so maintaining chemistry and cohesion with that group will be important.
Reason for concern: Fluker and the rest of the offensive line must stay healthy. Fluker missed one game in 2013 due to a concussion, with Mike Harris replacing him in the lineup in a Week 3 contest at Tennessee at right tackle. The Chargers played six different starting offensive line combinations last season. And while San Diego’s offensive line still played at a relatively high level with some of the team’s frontline starters out, guys are named starters for a reason. The Chargers, including Fluker, need to stay healthy for this team to make another deep playoff run.