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B/R NFL 1,000: Top 14 Fullbacks

Matt MillerNFL Draft Lead WriterFebruary 27, 2012

B/R NFL 1,000: Top 14 Fullbacks

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    Fullbacks in today's NFL are nearing extinction, but don't tell that to the running backs who enjoy running free through gaping holes in the offensive line. Fullbacks may not be in vogue, and theirs has never been a sexy position, but they are needed. And used.

    What makes up a great fullback and which players in the NFL today best represent those traits? We answer those questions as part of the B/R NFL 1,000. The series offers an in-depth look at every position in the NFL, breaking down the players' skills in a way never before seen on the Internet.

    After hours spent scouting every starter, the top 14 fullbacks have been scored in 10 criteria (here's more on how we analyzed fullbacks). In the slides that follow, we'll explain each player's strengths and weaknesses as the final ranking is revealed.

14. Owen Schmitt, Philadelphia Eagles

2 of 16

     

    Agility

    6

    Has the agility to kick out on blocks and get out in the flats for dump-off passes, but is otherwise an average athlete. 

    Ball Protection

    6.5

    Didn't fumble in 2011, but struggles to tuck the ball away. Would like to see more strength here. 

    Burst

    6

    Good burst when coming out of a three-point stance. Is a downhill runner who takes time to pick up speed.

    Hands

    6.5

    A good receiver. Extends his arms and makes catches outside his body. Underrated here.

    Pass Block

    4

    Doesn't show maximum effort as a pass-blocker, or the strength to stand up blitzers.

    Power

    7

    Runs with good power after the catch. Hasn't been used much as a short-yardage runner. Lacks strength at the point of contact in blocking situations.

    Route Running

    5

    Not asked to catch the ball in the Eagles offense. No reason he couldn't if asked. 

    Run Block

    4

    Doesn't offer much as a run-blocker. Fails to get leverage and doesn't see tacklers when coming through holes. Can seal off a wall, but that's about it.

    Speed

    5

    Average speed. Doesn't show the quickness to get to the corner and can fail to get to the second level on time. 

    Health

    10

    Healthy in 2011. 

    Overall

    60

    A player who almost didn't make our cut at fullback, Schmitt has better potential than he showed in 2011, his fourth season. His effort on blocks is what really drives his score down. 

13. Le'Ron McClain, Kansas City Chiefs

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    Agility

    8

    McClain looks like a running back. He shows great burst, good change of direction and an all-around athleticism that few at the position have.  

    Ball Protection

    8.5

    Isn't a threat to put the ball on the ground when asked to carry it. Has good strength. Dependable. 

    Burst

    6.5

    Doesn't always fire off with confidence, but when he does there is good burst and acceleration. A downhill runner.  

    Hands

    7.5

    A capable receiver, especially coming out of play-action in the middle of the field. He's a reliable safety valve in the passing game.  

    Pass Block

    2

    Needs to work on technique and placement. Doesn't show much effort here. 

    Power

    6.5

    Runs and blocks with good overall strength. He has a mean streak and runs with a chip on his shoulder.  

    Route Running

    6

    A smart route-runner who does a good job sitting down in space. Especially dangerous off of play-action. 

    Run Block

    4

    Overrated as a run-blocker. Misses too often on targets. Comes through with poor pad height and lacks vision. 

    Speed

    7

    Has running back-style speed but lacks the elite quickness to get to the edge. Dangerous for a fullback. 

    Health

    10

    Missed just one game in 2011. 

    Overall

    66

    McClain's stock has fallen since leaving Baltimore. He's a big (6'0", 260 lbs), capable runner but doesn't bring much to the table as a blocker.  

12. Jacob Hester, San Diego Chargers

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    Agility

    9

    Shows elite agility for the fullback position. Change-of-direction skills and an all-around athleticism are better than most.   

    Ball Protection

    7.5

    A dependable runner in short-yardage situations, Hester can lose the ball when fighting through tackles. 

    Burst

    6

    Good initial burst but can be slower out of a three-point stance. Would like to see him explode with better pad height.  

    Hands

    6

    Used often as a receiver. Has soft hands and a good understanding of the passing tree. He looks the ball in, extending his hands and fingers to make the catch.   

    Pass Block

    4

    Doesn't show maximum effort as a pass-blocker, too often looking to chip and release to the flats as a receiver.  

    Power

    6.5

    Good drivetrain power and functional strength. Meets the requirements for the position with slightly more power than average.  

    Route Running

    7.5

    Excels at hitting the flats and getting his head around to find the quarterback. Worth watching in this area.   

    Run Block

    3

    Doesn't offer much as a run-blocker. Fails to get leverage and isn't physical enough.  

    Speed

    7

    Very good speed for the fullback position. Running back-level quickness and only lacks deep speed.  

    Health

    10

    No injury issues. 

    Overall

    66.5

    Hester wasn't used as much in 2011, his fourth season, but he has great potential and offers versatility as a receiver and runner. He's just average as a blocker, but is a good goal-line option. 

11. Anthony Sherman, Arizona Cardinals

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    Agility

    7

    Upper-level agility for the fullback spot. He shows good balance and initial quickness. A solid athlete. 

    Ball Protection

    7.5

    No fumbles, but has loose hold on the ball when fighting for extra yards and especially when running in space. 

    Burst

    6

    Good burst, but can lose his balance when coming out of a three-point stance. Works much better when up in a two-point stance or in motion.  

    Hands

    8.5

    Sherman has shown soft hands and a good feel for bringing the ball in. He shows potential to be used more as a receiver.

    Pass Block

    3.5

    Is used more as a receiver than blocker and doesn't grade out well when asked to stay in and protect. 

    Power

    6.5

    Does a good job meeting rushers and knocking them off balance. He doesn't have elite strength or the frame (5'10", 242 lbs) to score higher in this category.  

    Route Running

    7

    Comes from a Pro Style offense at UConn and quickly transitioned to the NFL as a route-runner. Impressive production and potential. 

    Run Block

    6

    Has the size and agility to be effective here, but doesn't offer much as a run-blocker. Fails to get leverage and doesn't yet show ideal technique.

    Speed

    5.5

    Good, functional speed, but just above average in this category. 

    Health

    10

    No injury issues in his rookie year. 

    Overall

    67.5

    An interesting prospect for the West Coast or spread offenses, Sherman has good ability as a receiver and some upside as a short-yardage runner. 

10. Henry Hynoski, New York Giants

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    Agility

    7.5

    Upper-level agility for the fullback spot. He shows good balance and initial quickness. A solid athlete. 

    Ball Protection

    7.5

    Isn't a threat to put the ball on the ground when asked to carry it. Has good strength. Dependable. 

    Burst

    6

    Inconsistent, but capable of good burst and acceleration. A downhill runner. 

    Hands

    7.5

    Hynoski is a capable receiver, especially on the sideline and in the flats. He's a reliable safety valve in the passing game. 

    Pass Block

    4

    Not much of a blocker at this point, Hynoski needs to work on technique and placement. Too many penalties from the rookie. 

    Power

    7

    Runs and blocks with good overall strength. He has a mean streak that comes out here. Great potential to get stronger in a full offseason. 

    Route Running

    6

    Works well getting to the flats. His score will improve once his timing on play-action routes improves. 

    Run Block

    6

    Has the ability to drop his pads and lead block, but isn't always in great position and misses too many oncoming defenders from the side of the play. 

    Speed

    6.5

    Has good speed, but nothing remarkable.  

    Health

    10

    No injury issues. 

    Overall

    68

    One of the more fun players to watch, Hynoski is like a 6'1", 266-pound bull in a china shop right now. Once he gets under control and more comfortable with the NFL system, he could be great. 

9. Bruce Miller, San Francisco 49ers

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    Agility

    7.5

    Is an impressive athlete at the position. Able to get in and out of cuts, and can be used as a runner and receiver. 

    Ball Protection

    6.5

    Fumbled once on just four carries this year. Not a good sign. 

    Burst

    5

    Has average burst when firing out of his stance. Takes him four to five yards before he is at top speed. 

    Hands

    7

    A good receiver who extends his arms and makes catches outside his body. 

    Pass Block

    5.5

    Can pick up holding penalties as he slides his hands outside the base far too often.  He has some potential here.

    Power

    7.5

    Good base power to fuel blocking, but more impressive strength is shown when moving with the football. 

    Route Running

    7

    Excels at hitting the flats and getting his head around to find the quarterback. Worth watching in this area.  

    Run Block

    6.5

    Does a good job getting to the edge on stretch plays, but isn't as dominant as a lead blocker on isolation plays and up the middle. 

    Speed

    6.5

    Good, functional speed, but just above average in this category. 

    Health

    10

    No injury issues. 

    Overall

    69

    Miller is a good overall athlete and dual threat in the San Francisco offense, but I'd like to see fewer penalties in his second season before giving him a higher grade. 

8. John Conner, New York Jets

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    Agility

    6.5

    Has the agility to slide in protection and get out in the flats for dump-off passes. 

    Ball Protection

    6.5

    No fumbles on 13 carries, but he carries the ball too low and too far away from his body. 

    Burst

    6.5

    Above average, but Conner isn't a quick-twitch-style athlete who you ask to fly off the ball.  

    Hands

    4

    Not much of a receiver, Conner had two catches on four targets in 2011. 

    Pass Block

    8.5

    A much better blocker than many would realize, Conner has good strength and vision. He can be dominating at the point of impact with good lower-body strength and excellent drive. 

    Power

    7

    Good drivetrain power and functional strength. Conner meets the requirements for the position with slightly more power than average. 

    Route Running

    5

    Average, and not asked to catch the ball in the New York offense.

    Run Block

    8

    Conner runs through defenders, but he puts them on the ground when they step into the hole. He has great strength and good balance to cut through traffic and make blocks. 

    Speed

    7

    Has enough speed to get out in front and lead block, but he's also capable in short-yardage run situations.  

    Health

    10

    No injury issues. 

    Overall

    69

    An up-and-comer at the position, after two seasons, Conner has the look of a future Pro Bowler with his blend of blocking and running ability. 

7. John Kuhn, Green Bay Packers

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    Agility

    6.5

    Above-average agility but isn't a great overall athlete. Good at what he does.  

    Ball Protection

    6.5

    Didn't fumble in 2011, but struggles to tuck the ball away. Would like to see more strength here. 

    Burst

    6.5

    Good in short areas, but Kuhn doesn't have the explosive acceleration of other top backs. 

    Hands

    4

    Dropped three passes on 18 targets during the regular season. 

    Pass Block

    6.5

    A smart pass-blocker who does a good job stepping up to meet defenders. Kuhn is underutilized here. 

    Power

    9

    Good strength off the blocks and in breaking tackles. His ability as a goal-line back is due to his exceptional lower-body strength.

    Route Running

    7.5

    A smart route-runner who does a good job sitting down in space. Especially dangerous off play-action. 

    Run Block

    6.5

    Overrated as a run-blocker. Kuhn is a short-yardage runner and receiver first and foremost. 

    Speed

    6

    Not much to write about here. Kuhn isn't very fast, but gets the job done in five-yard increments. 

    Health

    10

    No issues in 2011. 

    Overall

    69

    A good role player in the Green Bay offense, Kuhn doesn't have the elite blocking skills or athleticism of those ranked ahead of him. 

6. David Johnson, Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Agility

    7

    A good athlete, but can be a little stiff coming out of a three-point stance. 

    Ball Protection

    6

    Takes a lot of hits and will put the ball on the ground soon after a catch. Needs to get stronger and do a better job tucking the ball away. 

    Burst

    6

    Doesn't have elite quickness or ability to get off the line quickly.

    Hands

    9

    A good receiver with dependable hands and top-notch technique. More of an H-back than a fullback. 

    Pass Block

    7.5

    Does a good job when asked to stay in. Can identify threats and has the technique and agility to slide and protect. 

    Power

    7

    Runs with good power after the catch. Hasn't been used much as a short-yardage runner. 

    Route Running

    7.5

    Has some ability here and is used as a receiver out of the backfield and in motion.  

    Run Block

    6.5

    Is just above average as a run-blocker. Misses too often on targets.  

    Speed

    6

    Following his trend—good, not great. 

    Health

    10

    Healthy in 2011. 

    Overall

    72.5

    Johnson doesn't fit the mold of other fullbacks ranked ahead of him, as he's more of an H-back who is used as a receiver and sometimes blocker. He's talented, and could see his role increase as he begins his fifth season. 

5. Marcel Reece, Oakland Raiders

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    Agility

    9

    Shows elite agility for the fullback position. Has great burst, good change-of-direction skills and an all-around athleticism that few at the position have.  

    Ball Protection

    7

    Can lose his hold on the ball when fighting for extra yards and especially when running in space.

    Burst

    7.5

    Reece does a good job accelerating in the open field. Can be a dangerous runner when given space. 

    Hands

    7

    A productive receiver, Reece makes the most out of easy dump passes. Doesn't demonstrate great technique, letting the ball get into his chest too often. 

    Pass Block

    4

    Lacks maximum effort as a pass-blocker, too often looking to chip and release to the flats as a receiver. 

    Power

    9

    Very good power at the point of attack as a runner. Will look to lower his shoulder and run over tacklers.  

    Route Running

    8

    Agile and athletic, Reece has good change-of-direction skills and does a nice job separating when in the flats or running out on play-action. 

    Run Block

    5.5

    Has the size (6'3", 240 lbs) and speed to be very effective here, but doesn't offer much as a run-blocker. Fails to get leverage and doesn't block with physical nature. 

    Speed

    8

    Has running back-style speed. Reece can make defenses pay if he gets to the edge. 

    Health

    10

    No injury issues. 

    Overall

    75

    Used more like an oversized running back, Reece is very dangerous as a short-yardage runner and receiver out of the backfield. 

4. Jim Kleinsasser, Minnesota Vikings

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    Agility

    7

    Has good quickness and burst, especially in short areas. Kleinsasser isn't a great athlete, but is more than good enough to get the job done. 

    Ball Protection

    8

    While he's rarely trusted with the ball anymore, Kleinsasser doesn't fumble when given the chance to carry the ball. 

    Burst

    6.5

    Good burst, but can lose his balance when coming out of a three-point stance. Works much better when up in a two-point stance or in motion. 

    Hands

    6

    A former pass-catcher at tight end, Kleinsasser shows soft hands and a good ability to look the ball in. Will body-catch too often. 

    Pass Block

    9

    Kleinsasser, a former tight end, is a punishing blocker with great vision and patience. He rarely takes himself out of position to pick up the blitz and can be used in multiple positions to stop the pass rush. 

    Power

    8

    Great power and overall strength. Kleinsasser is well-built (6'3", 272 lbs) and has the lower-body strength to drive through defenders to move the pile. 

    Route Running

    6.5

    Has good knowledge of routes and separation, but lacks the speed to get away from linebackers and safeties like he used to. 

    Run Block

    9

    Is a hard-nosed, vintage fullback who will pancake defenders stepping into the hole. Kleinsasser lacks the speed to get to the second level as effectively, but he's dominating when making contact. 

    Speed

    5.5

    Age and injury have slowed Kleinsasser down after 13 seasons, but he's still quick enough to get out in front of the play. 

    Health

    10

    No injury issues. 

    Overall

    75.5

    A throwback to the days when a fullback actually blocked people. He's a hard-nosed blocker with a team-first attitude and great work ethic.  

3. Greg Jones, Jacksonville Jaguars

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    Agility

    7.5

    A running back at Florida State, Jones has elite agility for a fullback. An all-around athlete with great burst who can change directions smoothly. 

    Ball Protection

    7

    Can lose his hold on the ball when fighting for extra yards.  

    Burst

    9

    Has great burst out of his stance. Big, thick legs power Jones out of a three-point stance at a low center of gravity and with rare quick-twitch acceleration. 

    Hands

    5.5

    A good, not great, receiver who can be utilized on swing passes and play-action tosses over the middle. Would benefit from looking the ball in more. 

    Pass Block

    7

    Is a patient and worthy pass-protector. Jones does a good job sitting and waiting to identify threats. He can get caught launching himself at rushers with his head down.  

    Power

    9.5

    A violent runner with exceptional power at the point of attack. He's much more physical as a runner than a blocker, but in both areas he's not afraid to level a massive hit. A tough, strong player with great base strength. 

    Route Running

    5.5

    Is effective coming through the offensive line on play-action and can hit the weak zones in the flats. Otherwise, Jones isn't much of a route-runner. 

    Run Block

    7.5

    Is very physical and very violent, which can work against him. Jones is just as likely to blow open a huge hole as he is to swing big and miss. When he makes contact, it's going to be a massive hit. 

    Speed

    8

    Very good speed for the fullback position. Jones has running back-level quickness and deep speed. 

    Health

    10

    No injury issues. 

    Overall

    76.5

    A hybrid fullback who can be used as a short-yardage running back, Jones is more athlete than brute blocker. He's a great fit in Jacksonville and fits the model of the new fullback. 

2. Jed Collins, New Orleans Saints

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    Agility

    6.5

    Collins has above-average agility for the position. He's able to make quick changes of direction and has good body control. An asset in motion due to good athletic ability. 

    Ball Protection

    8

    A dependable runner in short-yardage situations, Collins won't put the ball on the ground. 

    Burst

    6

    Good initial burst but can be slower out of a three-point stance. Would like to see him explode with better pad height. 

    Hands

    6.5

    Used often as a receiver, Collins has soft hands and a good understanding of the passing tree. Superb catching technique.  

    Pass Block

    10

    Collins excels at looking for the blitz and stepping up to meet defenders. He steps into the rush with strength and authority. Makes the right decisions on which player to block in a jailbreak situation. Is very good at getting upfield to help on screens. 

    Power

    7

    Runs with good power between the tackles. Can bounce off tacklers and keep going. Does a good job meeting rushers and knocking them off balance. He doesn't have elite strength or the frame (6'1", 255 lbs) to score higher in this category. 

    Route Running

    6.5

    Can be effective running to the flats and finding openings. Rounds off his cuts and will struggle to find first-down markers on third down. 

    Run Block

    10

    Is a good inside-outside run-blocker who can be used no matter the play call. Has great strength and balance in creating holes. Will lower his pads and run through defenders. Great at keeping his balance to continue blocks downfield.

    Speed

    6.5 

    Collins has above-average speed, but will not be a player teams want to use as a primary runner. 

    Health

    10

    No injury issues. 

    Overall

    77

    A versatile fullback who can be used on every down. Collins is very good in pass protection and in clearing lanes for the run game. He's strong enough for the position and is a great fit in a pass-first offense. 

1. Vonta Leach, Baltimore Ravens

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    Agility

    6

    Leach has the agility to make quick changes of direction, showing light feet and good balance. Most important for his position, he has flexible hips and is able to roll through blocks.  

    Ball Protection

    10

    When asked to run the ball he doesn't fumble. Leach has strong arms and big hands, keeping the ball tucked away nicely. 

    Burst

    7.5

    Explodes off the line and has great initial quickness. Very explosive in short situations. Comes off the ball with good pad height and excellent explosion. 

    Hands

    7

    Leach has shown soft hands and a good feel for bringing the ball in. He's used infrequently as a receiver, but does a good job securing the football when thrown his way. 

    Pass Block

    10

    Doesn't miss blocks. He's strong, with the ability to step up and take on blitzers. Leach has great vision and a good feel for where the rush is coming from. 

    Power

    8

    Runs with good power. At 6'0", 260 lbs, he's able to get low to move the pile. As a blocker, Leach is among the strongest in the game. He will bulldoze defenders creeping into the hole. 

    Route Running

    5

    Isn't used much as a receiver, but does a good job selling fakes and getting through traffic. Is effective in space. 

    Run Block

    10

    A dominating, punishing run-blocker. Leach is the NFL's best at clearing a lane for his running back. Shows good vision. Does a great job setting up blocks for his back to cut off of.

    Speed

    6

    Has above-average speed and is much better in short situations. Won't accelerate away from defenders once he sees daylight. 

    Health

    10

    No injury issues. 

    Overall

    79.5

    The NFL's best fullback, Leach is a throwback to the days when fullbacks were asked to block first, catch second and run third. He's very effective in all three phases. 

What's the Future for Fullbacks?

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    Will the fullback's role continue to diminish around the league, or is a renaissance in the cards? Are fans and coaches too dismissive of the position?

    The topic is up for discussion in a Bleacher Report Great Debate. Click over and join the conversation.

    Previous positions in the B/R NFL 1,000 have also been the subject of Great Debates. Check in on our big questions for Quarterback and for Left Tackle.

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