By Dave Te Thomas
Cream Of The Crop | Best Of The Rest | Most Underrated | Most Overrated
First Day Possibilities | Second Day Possibilities
With the college ranks using more H-back and double tight end formations, the age of the true blocking fullback seems to be coming to an end. This makes it more difficult for NFL teams to evaluate talent at this position, as they are forced to see the hulking backs carrying the ball, rather than leading the way through the holes for the tailback as their primary function will be at the next level.
Big halfbacks projected to move to fullback at the next level are Jarrod Baxter, Paris Gaines and Vernon Haynes. None excited the pros with their poor clockings at the Combines and the blocking ability of this trio is suspect. Kori Dickerson is a possible projection here, but he is more known for his receiving skills and at 6:04, is more suited to be an H-back. Joe Hall is an imposing figure, but he was constantly battling weight problems, getting up to 343 pounds at one point before this season.
Brusing blockers can be found, much like Will Bartholomew, who not only had a very impressive performance at Indianapolis (see weight room), but would much rather decapitate a defender than run past him. Kyle Johnson was granted a sixth year of eligibility and while he did not touch the ball much, he led the team in knockdown blocks as tailback James Mungro rushed for over 1200 yards. Jamar Martin has been a dynamo opening holes for Buckeye halfbacks, but his foot speed and small hands are a concern. Charles Stackhouse is another punishing blocker, but there are offensive linemen that can get into gear quicker than he can.
MAKING THE GRADE…D…Outside of Jeremy Allen and Najeh Davenport, you will find few players here that can run, catch and block as well as these two.
Cream Of The Crop
Positives: Very well-defined, muscular athlete with the rare combination of size, acceleration, speed, power and body lean…Superb blocker who is also a very effective receiver in the short area…Has a low center of gravity & excellent balance to drag defenders for extra yardage… Lowers his head & keeps his legs churning, absorbing punishment well running up the middle… Displays an explosive second gear upfield…Hard to bring down once he breaks into the open… Strikes with force as the lead blocker, consistently sustaining his position…Shows good flexibility going up for the ball and good acceleration in-&-out of his breaks…Character is outstanding (called by one coach an ideal son-in-law candidate)… Has superb body balance on his routes, showing crispness coming out of his cuts… Catches with his hands properly extended from the body's framework…Puts people away with his crunching cut blocks…Will play with injuries that would sideline most.
Negatives: Still learning the techniques of the game, having come to the school on a track scholarship…Still developing a feel for the game and is not always quick to recognize the stunts developing…Split off-season time between the football and track teams, causing him to pick up the game slower than expected…Untested as a runner, but does show the change of direction explosion to get to the second level.
The two-sport standout is regarded as one of the finest athletes in footbal at his position… Used mostly as a blocker, Jeremy has shown flashes of brilliance in limited opportunities in carring the ball…The Big Ten Conference Freshman of the Year in both indoor and outdoor track and field in 1998, he become the first weightman to earn such honors in conference history…This power-plus fullback was the main reason for the success of tailback Ladell Betts in the last two years, as Betts literally followed Allen en route to a pair of 1000-yard seasons…Finished his career with 52 carries for 242 yards (4.7 avg) and four touchdowns…Added 264 yards and four scores on 20 receptions (13.2 avg)…Made 116 knockdown blocks in his 18 games as the starting fullback.
REMINDS YOU OF… Lorenzo Neal, Cincinnati Bengals. Fitting that the best blocking back in college should be compared to the best pro blocker.
GAZING INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL… This could be the kid that brings youth back into Eddie George's tired legs, as the Titans are serious in their attempts to upgrade the fullback position. His pass catching ability will be a huge bonus for any team.
Best Of The Rest
Positives: Solidly-built athlete with a thick upper body and strong legs…Bruising inside runner with a powerful leg drive and determination to punish defenders that get in his path…Shows good weave in his run past the line of scrimmage, displaying proper hip movement upfield…Changes direction well and has an assortment of moves to cut back outside when turning the corner…Crisp route runner who shows good body adjustment going for the off-target passes…Breaks arm tackles easily and has excellent short area quickness…Runs at a low pad level and has a low center of gravity through the holes as a lead blocker…Maintains balance and does an excellent job of keeping his shoulders square upon contact…Has large, soft hands and great ball awareness as a receiver out of the backfield.
Negatives: Has limited juking moves and little wiggle when trying to get to the second level… More of a one-cut runner, but can make the initial tackler miss…Needs to show better hip snap when attacking the holes…Runs too upright and has marginal flexibility and change-of-direction agility…Lacks the sustained speed to get to the second level…May have to operate in a one-back offense due to his blocking skills (does what he's asked with devastating results, but prefers to be the backfield's focal point).
An outstanding triple-threat at fullback, Najeh provided Miami with one of college foot-ball's finest "big backs"…Possesses a startling combination of size and speed…Has been a consistent threat as a receiver throughout his career…Developed into a devastating blocker in his senior season… One of the team's most respected leaders, he earned the team's Unsung Hero Award this season in recognition of his sacrifices and willingness to put team success ahead of individual goals… Finished his career with 830 yards and 13 touchdowns on 156 carries (5.3 avg) and 381 yards with three scores on 35 receptions (10.9 avg).
REMINDS YOU OF… Fred Beasley, San Francisco 49ers. Like Beasley, he has sure hands coming out of the backfield.
GAZING INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL… His combination of size, strength, running ability and pass catching skills will make him an inviting potential for third round consideration.
Positives: Bruising inside runner who good weave and hip movement upfield…Changes direction well and has an assortment of moves to cut back outside when turning the corner…Breaks arm tackles easily and has excellent short area quickness…Has large, soft hands and great ball awareness as a receiver out of the backfield…Has tremendous leg drive, squaring his shoulders and running low through the holes up the middle…Slides laterally without losing speed…Very aggressive striker picking up the blitz…Loves the physical contact and challenge of punching the ball into the end zone near the goal line.
Negatives: Frame has little room to add much needed bulk…Shorter than ideal, but does possess impressive power…Needs to be more instinctive in his charge through the holes and do a better job of recognizing the position of defenders…More of a straight-line runner, lacking the change-of-direction skills to bounce to the outside when the interior rush lanes are clogged… Shows good ball awareness as a receiver, but tends to drift and float through his routes.
Well-conditioned athlete who garnered Iron Hokie Award honors for his work in the team's off-season conditioning program…Complete player who excels as a runner, receiver and a blocker… One of best pass catchers in the country at his position, he hauled in 40 passes for 443 yards (11.1 avg) and four touchdowns, adding 738 yards and 15 scores on 143 carries (5.2 avg) in 44 games with the Hokies.
REMINDS YOU OF… Larry Centers, Buffalo Bills. Little bit smaller, but just as effective as a third-down receiver.
GAZING INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL… Mysteriously not invited to the Combines, he will have to add more bulk in order to play at the next level, but his power and receiving ability will entice someone early on the draft's second day.
Positives: Has good initial quickness coming out of his stance…North-South runner who has good leg drive and plays at a low pad level, which allows him to move the pile…Runs with a forward lean…Has a valid short burst (not evident by his 40-yard time, however)… Effective pass catcher on flats, swings and screens…Makes proper lane decisions as a runner, finding the seam in zone play…Rugged blocker who can isolate and dominate linebackers and is very quick to pick up the blitz…Turns and adjusts to the ball while keeping stride in the short passing areas…Keeps his feet moving on contact and shows good acceleration turning upfield…Can sit and anchor down in pass blocking situations.
Negatives: Tends to narrow his base and lose balance when running in the open…His tight base also affects his balance when blocking…Needs to correct a problem with his inline blocking, as he will sometimes make contact and then suddenly stop his leg drive… 1999 knee surgery cost him some quickness, as he stood away from lower leg and body conditioning in recent years…Has matured, but had discipline issues earlier in his career.
Powerhouse blocker who is regarded as one of the best at his position…Was given a chance to show what he could do as a ball carrier after earning two starts at tailback in his final season… Finished his career with 125 carries for 549 yards (4.4 avg) and six touchdowns…Added 334 yards and three scores on 35 receptions (9.5 avg).
REMINDS YOU OF… Tony Carter, Denver Broncos. He's a fine blocker, but his lack of foot speed is worrisome.
GAZING INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL… His lack of quickness is evident as Rebel runners had a tough time creating room, as Stackhouse was too slow clearing rush lanes for the team's speedy backs to maintain their effectiveness.
First Day Possibilities
Second Day Possibilities
Positives: Has compact shoulders, good body structure, thick frame and a broad chest… Punishing runner inside the tackles who shows strength in his leg drive to drag defenders for extra yardage…Runs good short area routes, adjusting to pull the ball down in traffic… Has the vision to move and hit the rush lanes with force…Stays low through the holes and secures the ball properly before heading upfield…Has the quickness to force pass coverages…Will cut and position when blocking upfield.
Negatives: Not a pile mover and can be brought down by arm tackles…Does not create moves needed to elude past the line of scrimmage…More of an inside dive-&-bell ball carrier…Limited to the short area as a receiver, as he needs to gather himself before gaining speed to turn upfield… While a good cut blocker, he struggles to pick up the blitz and hesitates when needed to face up…Tapers down upon contact as he dives and ducks his head when called upon to provide pass protection…His stiff hips prevent him from making sharp cuts, limiting his running to the inside rather than the perimeter…Does not have the sudden burst one would want to bounce outside…Drifts in and out of his pass routes upfield…Seems to throw a block too early and does not block with authority when leading for the tailback through the holes…Shows no change of direction or pick and slide agility.
Four-year starter who was used at both tailback and fullback in his senior year…The former walk-on served as team captain the last two years…More suited for the one-back formation, he has also excelled in the weight room…Broke Brian Urlacher's school record with a 391-pound power clean…Finished his career with 462 carries for 2090 yards (4.5 avg) and 19 touchdowns…His 462 attempts and 2090 yards rank seventh on the school's career-record list while his 19 touchdowns rank sixth…Added 114 yards on 15 catches (7.6 avg).
REMINDS YOU OF… Jameel Cook, Tampa Bay Bucanneers. Seems to be a frustrated tailback and a reluctant fullback.
GAZING INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL… He would love to run with the ball, but even Ray Charles can see he can't be a featured back. He just played against inferior competition.
Positives: Has a thick, compact frame, with solid arms, hips and thighs…Has the short area explosiveness to gain advantage on the defender as a lead blocker…Shows the strong forearms needed to sustain his blocks in pass protection and delivers a crunching hand punch to jolt his man back…Very light on his feet, displaying good acceleration to the perimeter…quick to get out front and cut block the linebackers on the move.
Negatives: More of a straight-line runner, showing poor hip snap and wiggle…Lacks the ability to find the rush lanes, as he tends to run with his head down, which results in balance problems… Does not have the leg drive needed to consistently break tackles… Shows no explosion when getting to the second level (loses steam past the line of scrimmage)…Will sometimes get careless running with the ball and needs to do a better job of shifting the pigskin away from the defender…Shows overall body stiffness trying to adjust to the ball in passing situations, as he rarely opens his hips…More of a body catcher who fights for the ball too much due to poor hands…Works well as a lead blocker, but does not pick up the blitz properly, appearing helpless as he stands around due to poor play recognition…Loses his balance quite a bit running to the outside…May be too top-heavy to maintain a proper leg base.
Co-captain who is big, strong, tough, talented and packs a wallop when he hits you, whether carrying the ball or clearing the way for one of the tailbacks…A complete football player and one of the most underrated players on the team…Has been used chiefly as a blocker throughout his career, but he is also regarded as a fine receiver…Built is in the mold of some of the great Ohio State fullbacks of the past…Finished his career with 61 carries for 226 yards (4.0 avg) and four touchdowns in 47 games (29 starts)…Caught 22 passes for 211 yards (9.6 avg) and a pair of scores.
REMINDS YOU OF… Sam Gash, ex-Raven. No question this guy can block, but he appears a little too top-heavy to suit my tastes.
GAZING INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL… If it is a pure blocker you are looking for, one that should never touch the ball, then Martin is your man. If he gets rushing attempts, something has to be wrong with that team's offense.
Positives: Displays sudden moves coming out of his stance, running at the proper low pad level…Shows good rush lane anticipation skills, keeping his shoulders squared and using his fine upper body strength to bounce off the initial tackles…Keeps his feet moving going through the holes and is very patient waiting for his blocks to develop…Secures the ball before heading upfield and has explosive leg drive past the line of scrimmage…Moves with tremendous power and has the frame that is ideal for a short-yardage back or lead blocker…Gives a consistent effort picking up the blitz, showing the foot agility to easily adjust to the pass rusher's moves…Has good route-running ability, swinging out of the backfield quickly to excel as an alternate pass target…Has the body flexibility to adjust to the ball in flight…Sacrifices his body to make the timely block when leading through the holes…High energy type who would make an ideal gunner on the special teams coverage units…Has an outstanding work ethic and is well-respected by teammates and coaches.
Negatives: While he shows good explosion coming off the snap, he lacks the wiggle needed to bounce outside when the rush lanes are jammed…Lacks the stride and the long legs needed to elude turning the corner…Little tight in his movements in the open, appearing more comfortable in the short area game…Despite his solid blocking form, he will fall off blocks at times, but still does a solid job maintaining contact.
Former walk-on who began his career at Western Kentucky before transferring to Georgia…A punishing lead blocker, he sacrificed personal success for that of the team during his two years with the Bulldogs…Finally given an opportunity to show his running skills late in his senior year when injuries depleted the Bulldogs' ground game, he finished that campaign as the team's leading rusher, gaining over 100 yards in each of his last four appearances…In 21 regular season contests, he picked up 737 yards on 136 carries (5.4 avg) and eight touchdowns…His 5.15-yards per carry average is bettered only by Herschel Walker's school career record of 5.29 yards (1980-82).
REMINDS YOU OF… Sammy Morris, Buffalo Bills. Wants to carry the ball more than he wants to block.
GAZING INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL… Good inside runner, but needs to develop better hands, as he is rarely called upon to catch, a requirement of fullbacks at the pro level.
Positives: Well-built with a thick chest and arms…North-South runner who bangs the holes with authority…Protects the ball well, showing that quick twitch to change direction instantly… Excellent receiver coming out of the backfield…Has natural hands, making the tough grabs outside the framework and shows good leg drive to gain yardage after the catch…Very adept at picking up the blitz, consistently delivering the low cut blocks…Patient waiting for blocks to develop…Lowers his head and keeps his legs churning to drag defenders for extra yardage (much like Buffalo's Shawn Bryson)…Runs hard up the hole and has developed better vision than in the past in spotting the rush lanes.
Negatives: Despite his lateral agility, he is inconsistent turning the corner (appears to lose his feet)…Needs to show more toughness, as he will take himself out of the game with minor injuries…Has had academic issues in the past that need to be reviewed (could be lazy, rather than a lack of intelligence)…Makes poor cuts at times, running directly into the defender rather than trying to elude…Will not face up as a blocker, preferring to cut instead…Ducks his head running through the holes and needs to show more explosion when making contact.
A strong north-south runner with good breakaway speed, Paris is a threat to come out of the backfield and catch passes…The key factor in the Bulldogs' running game, he had a banner senior campaign as the team's featured back…Finished his career with 514 carries for 2369 yards (4.6 avg) and fourteen touchdowns…Only Lorenzo Neal (2405, 1990-92), Dean Philpot (2533, 1954-57), Michael Pittman (3017, 1993-97) and Ron Rivers (3473, 1991-93) ran for more yards in a career for the Bulldogs…Added 81 receptions for 892 yards (11.0 avg) and nine scores…His 3405 all-purpose yards rank eighth in school annals.
Positives: North-South power runner who has strong hands to deliver punishing jolts in pass protection…Has explosive leg drive off the snap and the quickness needed to break free from the pile…Holds on to the ball securely running through traffic…Has the arm extension needed to adjust to the ball in flight…Shows great body lean forcing his way through the middle…Hits low with driving force while leading the blocking through the holes.
Negatives: Lacks awareness as a blocker, showing improper body positioning, especially in blitzing situations…Does not display elusive moves to make the initial tackler miss… Over-extends at times trying to run over defenders and looks out of control when trying to run to daylight…Uses his body too much to secure the ball in passing situations…Shows little lateral agility when trying to elude defenders…Appears clumsy running in the open, bending his waist too much to take him off stride.
The unquestioned leader of the Orangemen, Kyle saw his 20000 season come to an abrupt end due to a broken ankle suffered in the season opener, but returned to action with a vengeance in 2001…The team captain has garnered honors both on and off the field…Nine-time member of the Athletic Director's Honor Roll, Kyle has a great sense of pride in the community, serving as coordinator of SU's annual Jam Session the last two years (features a basketball game between members of the media and the school's football team, with monies raised going to local charities)…He finished his career with 101 carries for 466 yards (4.6 avg) and eight touchdowns, adding 116 yards and a pair of scores on 13 receptions (8.9 avg).
Positives: Quick coming out of his stance, showing good power and leg drive through the holes…Effective route runner who makes crisp moves in and out of his cuts…Makes proper body adjustments getting to the ball thrown behind him…Good hands catcher with the burst to quickly turn upfield…Has a solid work ethic in the weight room and is very quick to digest the plays.
Negatives: Strictly a North-South runner with no hip swerve or shake to elude…Has a hard time keeping his feet running through traffic…Very light in the lower body, as his lack of leg drive prevents him from maintaining position as a blocker…Buckles and falls off blocks at the second level…Very hesitant attacking the holes and lacks vision to see the field and pick up the blitz.
Used primarliy as a blocking fullback during his Tennessee career, he garnered numerous academic honors, in addition to gaining respect from teammates, who voted him captain… Helped pave the way for a pair of 1000-yard rushers (Travis Stephens in 2001 and Travis Henry in 2000) during his two years as a starter…Finished his career with 20 carries for 55 yards (2.8 avg) and caught 25 passes for 196 yards (7.8 avg) with a touchdown while posting 84 knockdown blocks.