The hot topic: A right time for left tackles?
The Chargers have the 11th pick and a need at left tackle in a draft that has three elite players at that particular position.
No problem, right? Well, not exactly. The Chargers actually might have to trade up to get one of them in the draft's first round on April 25.
Texas A&M’s Luke Joeckel is expected to go No. 1 overall to Kansas City. If the Lions use the fifth pick on Central Michigan’s Eric Fisher rather than Alabama cornerback Dee Milliner, the Cardinals most likely would complete the run on available franchise left tackles by taking Oklahoma’s Lane Johnson at No. 7.
That’s not to say the rest of the first round won’t produce its share of future offensive line starters. Strength at right tackle and guard could stretch the total number of first-round offensive linemen to seven or eight.
National champion Alabama will have two offensive linemen taken in the first round. D.J. Fluker, a 6-5, 339-pound right tackle, could go No. 12 to Miami, which will move right tackle Jonathan Martin to left tackle to replace the departed Jake Long. Meanwhile, Alabama’s Chance Warmack, a dominant run-blocking guard, might go earlier than No. 12. Tennessee, which still is looking to beef up the interior of its line, could take Warmack at No. 10. North Carolina’s Jonathan Cooper also is an option if he’s still available.
Luke Joeckel, Texas A&M
Joeckel is similar in size (6-6, 306), agility, foot speed and character to Matt Kalil, the fourth overall pick of the Vikings a year ago. But in a draft that’s virtually devoid of quarterbacks, Joeckel rockets to the top of the pile. Like Kalil coming out of Southern California, Joeckel isn’t known for his run blocking. Then again, which left tackle ever is? Joeckel is a willing run blocker and will get better as he improves his strength to the NFL level.
Eric Fisher, Central Michigan
ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. said Joeckel, Fisher and Oklahoma’s Lane Johnson are so tightly bunched that it’s “splitting hairs” to pick the best one. Fisher (6-7, 306) should end up protecting either Detroit’s Matthew Stafford or Arizona’s Carson Palmer.
D.J. Fluker, Alabama
His full name is Danny Lee Jesus Fluker. And he’s without a doubt a right tackle. At 6-5, 339 pounds — 61 fewer than he tipped the scales at as an eighth-grader — he’s a run-blocking mauler.
Jonathan Cooper, North Carolina
Power, athleticism and foot speed supposedly make up for Cooper being on the shorter side (6-2). A four-year starter at left guard, Cooper could go No. 8 to Buffalo, which lost Andy Levitre via free agency.
Luke Marquardt, Azusa Pacific
Nobody has been drafted from this NAIA school since the Chiefs took running back Christian Okoye in the second round in 1987. But the 6-8, 315-pound Marquardt, a promising left tackle prospect, has drawn a lot of attention from NFL scouts. He projects as a possible Day 3 selection. It helps that he has been coached by Pro Football Hall of Fame lineman Jackie Slater.