The Alabama Crimson Tide had arguably the best offensive line unit of the 2012 college football season, and, perhaps unsurprisingly, junior tackle D.J. Fluker continues to draw praise and greater interest from teams in the mid-to late-portion of the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft.
DraftInsider.net's Tony Pauline tweeted Tuesday evening that certain teams are "falling in love" with the massive six-foot-five, 355-pound prospect who ranks as the fourth-best offensive tackle in SB Nation's positional rankings and their 30th overall player on the top 100 prospect big board. Those teams include, according to Pauline, the Cincinnati Bengals, who possess the 21st overall pick in the draft and the New York Giants, who are two spots higher at No. 19.
Here's part of what Pauline had to say on Fluker, while assessing prospects before the NFL Combine, which begins on Wednesday, Feb. 20, in an updated post on Tuesday:
Since declaring for the draft we've graded Alabama offensive tackle D.J. Fluker as a second round choice. It seems a number of teams have a higher opinion of the big tackle and feel Fluker won't make it out of round one.
The Giants and Bengals varied quite differently in terms of pass protection in 2012, as New York was the league's best, allowing only 20 sacks during the regular season. Cincinnati, on the other hand, surrendered 46, good for 26th in the NFL.
In his post-Super Bowl mock draft on Monday, however, SB Nation's Matthew Fairburn sees Fluker falling right in-between the Bengals and Giants to the Chicago Bears with the 20th overall selection. While he could help in protecting quarterback Jay Cutler -- the Bears allowed the eighth-most sacks in the league last season with 44 -- Fairburn believes Fluker will prove most valuable to Chicago's running game:
D.J. Fluker probably doesn't have the quick feet or athleticism to protect Jay Cutler's blindside, but he's an absolute mauler in the running game. The Alabama tackle should be a huge upgrade on the right side of Chicago's offensive line from day one. He's going to find a home in the first round by the time it's all said and done.