Underrated. Professional sports athletes love to classify themselves as the underdogs. When they win they can now gloat and boast, as if theyve won a gold medal. The right to celebrate goes hand in hand in sports, but the overused term of being underrated shouldnt. Often when a game is completed, who does the sideline reporter pull to the side like theyve been under arrest? Automatically, its either going to be the quarterback, running back, wide receiver, or a player known already on defense. Its the nature of the game. Certainly there is more to a team and one position always overlooked is the fullback.
The offensive line is the building base for the offense to move, but the fullback is even more critical. Freelancing a broken play is their job. When an offensive lineman gets blown up, they need to get over as quickly as possible and block. Its as if theyre playing goalie, and just waiting for defenders to try to make a goal (sack). If theyre not making an instant reaction to a lineman being pummeled, theyre creating the full head of steam for their running back. No great running play is accomplished without seeing that highlight reel block from the fullback that springs the runner. On any given play a fullback is the virtual running back. Usually any type of swing toss that breaks loose for a big gainer, can be seen with the fullback striding down waiting for that one last decleting block. In goalline situations, they take out that leaping linebacker thats trying to take the running backs head off and cause a fumble.
For all the grunt work a fullback does, they never get the accolades they deserve. Even for the Pro Bowl a limited amount of fullbacks are selected, when it should be as filled as the running back position.
All of you fantasy owners out there, are quick to scream and yell when a fullback misses an assignment, but non-thankful when your running back has a big day. The campaign for fullbacks deserving more attention has just begun. The great fullbacks like Daryl Johnston, Keith Byars, William Henderson, and Larry Centers have been scarce, but it shouldnt have been that way.
Transformation at the fullback position has picked up so much over the last ten years. Prior to the mid 90s, all a fullback did was be a plowing bulldozer. Expectedly, they dug their noses into linebackers and didnt ask questions. They took more hits than a running back, and thats without a football. Crunching becomes even worse because theyre putting more of their body into harmful situations because they have no worries of having a football in their hand. Than once in a blue moon, theyd be used for an out of the backfield pass, or a move the chains run. To touch the ball over forty times in a year, would be a career year for a fullback.
The change over had to of occurred with Mike Alstott being drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Instantly, he made noise and became a football fan favorite thanks to his thundering ability and Chris Bermans sound effects. Alstott still continues to be a different key to success that no other team can match. In the late 90s, the Miami Dolphins thought theyd fine their answer by drafting Rob Konrad highly out of Syracuse. For some reason he didnt pan out, but other lower round fullbacks have for other teams.
Seemingly, as backs continued to bulk up and get bigger it has created a new blend of prototype fullbacks. A guy that is 230-240 that doesnt get where he wants on a teams running back depth chart, now has new life to take the numero uno spot at fullback. Gradually carries by fullbacks have started to go up, and the usage should continue. Some of these fullbacks have incredible speed and power, and it wouldnt be shocking to see a time where fullbacks get seven to ten carries a game.
When Stephen Davis was with the Washington Redskins, he was at first listed as a fullback. With poor play coming from the running back position, the Redskins switched him over and the rest is history. Reuben Droughns played fullback a few years ago for the Detroit Lions, and we all know the impression Mike Anderson made when he got the chance at running back for Denver. Its a continuing process, that usually only happens due to injury, but is quietly creating an interesting hmmm.
Looking around the league today there is still one of the earliest running slash fullbacks in Zack Crokett with the Oakland Raiders. He has had his big games touchdown wise, but you have to wonder if he could have ever been used as a running back the past few years. Oakland never even gave him a shot as the feature back, with the rest of their rotation struggling mightily. Fred Beasely of the 49ers is another guy that has shot on the touchdown charts a few times in his career.
Defining the position is going to be the next stage for fullbacks. Checkout the Colts fullback in James Mungro. Here is a guy that is less than 220 pounds, and will create all sorts of problems for opposing teams when the Colts present a Mungro-James backfield. Out in New England, Patrick Pass has also made the similar adjustment. More and more teams are starting to realize that weight doesnt necessarily mean to additional run support. Often those are the guys slow on their feet, and too big to get their hands up, catch a pass and make a substantial move with yards after the catch.
The new wave of fullbacks is quietly making an entrance. Just give it another year or two and its going to be the new sleeper position of fantasy football drafts.