Why Vonta Leach Is the NFL's Best Fullback Heading into 2012
The Baltimore Raven is testament to just how effective a fullback can be, even amongst this flourishing market of tailbacks.
Despite the diminishing amount of competition amongst his position, Leach still has opponents in the NFL who ply their trade as a fullback, but let’s consider just why it’s he who rules the roost.
Long gone are the days of Jim Brown, when the use of a fullback was as popular as ever, and the players in that position had as much of a hand in the offense as any other.
Nowadays, it’s far more common that the fullback be around for blocking capabilities, more than the less frequent running and reception duties.
In these realms, Leach is undoubtedly the best in the league, capable of creating vacuums of space for his quarterback or fellow running back.
Whether we’re talking about blocking as part of a rushing or passing game, the 30-year-old’s 6’0”, 260-pound frame makes him one of the bulkier fullbacks of the league’s elite and a considerable obstacle to get by.
Injuries can often blight the career of any athlete, no matter how prodigiously talented that professional sportsperson may appear.
The case of free agent Leonard Weaver springs to mind, but Ravens fans will be pleased that Vonta Leach has managed to stave off any long-term absences in his career thus far.
It may seem like an obvious point, but being fit and healthy is most certainly a factor in where a player ranks amongst his peers.
The Baltimore Ravens need Leach around as much as any of their other stars, because if he wasn’t there to block, they’d surely see a lot less of the ball themselves.
Once Vonta Leach gets his arms wrapped around the football, it’s difficult to pick out anyone who’s likely to strip him of that possession.
The former Houston Texan will occasionally be called upon to run the ball, and as much as great rushing ability is valued in the NFL, it’s also a commodity to be able to bet that a certain player just won’t fumble.
Leach is more regularly used as a receiving option, and the veteran is more than capable of bringing down a catch or two should the situation call for it.
Quick off the Mark
For any blocking asset, an explosive turn of pace is vital to get that edge over your opposite number, and Vonta Leach would appear to have that edge.
Even at 260 pounds, the veteran has an excellent start game and can even match some of the league’s slighter fullbacks whom you would expect to dominate such a competition.
Don’t expect to see Leach leave any wide receivers eating his dust in the near future, but in those initial, vital 15 yards or so, he’s hard to combat.
Solid as a Rock
As has already been touched upon, Leach is strong—really strong.
The two-time Pro Bowler is built to last, and whether it’s on or off the ball, Leach is able to beat his opponents in any given contact competition.
As a blocker, Leach makes things a lot easier for those running the ball, and when it comes to rushing himself, he’s difficult to slow down, to say the least.
Any defenders trying to creep into the hole will find a challenge from Vonta Leach isn’t bound to be too far away, depending on the Ravens’ tactics.
A good example of the “other kind” of fullback, Jones is perhaps the quickest option you’ll find in the league at his position.
In today’s game, it’s become far more popular to use a more burly, muscular frame in the position, and the Jaguar doesn’t quite stack up.
Last season saw Reece improve his blocking game a lot, a factor that would have kept him from ranking so highly in the past.
Almost as tenacious in the block as Leach himself, Jed Collins is another fullback who builds his reputation on helping teammates more than running the ball himself.
The New Orleans Saint is pretty well covered across the board, but just doesn’t shine out in quite enough areas to be known as the league’s best.
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