Power Ranking the Best Fullbacks Remaining in the NFL Divisional Round
While the fullback position isn't as glamorous or important as other positions, the good fullbacks may wind up being difference makers in the outcomes of the upcoming Divisional Round matchups.
With the way the NFL has shifted to a pass-first league, the demand for throwback-style physical fullbacks has declined greatly. That isn't to say there aren't a few classic fullbacks remaining in the league, though.
Ranking fullbacks can be difficult because a lot of what they do doesn't translate to the stat sheet. Also, more than most positions, the play style of the team directly affects what the fullback is tasked to do, which in some cases is primarily blocking.
An argument could be made that fullbacks are on the verge of extinction, but fullbacks still play vital roles for certain teams, including quite a few teams still in the playoffs.
8: Mike Cox
In Mike Cox, the Atlanta Falcons have a decent blocker who understands his assignments on running plays.
The problem with the Falcons' rushing attack is with their running backs. Michael Turner isn't the runner he used to be, and the coaching staff has refused to give Jacquizz Rodgers more touches despite Turner's descent.
Cox is not a threat with the ball in his hands, which is why the Falcons use him almost exclusively as a blocker.
7: Jacob Hester
The Denver Broncos signed Jacob Hester in late November to add size to their backfield after Willis McGahee got hurt.
Hester played in each of the Broncos' last three regular season games, averaging 4.8 yards per carry on 17 attempts and finding the endzone twice.
While Hester isn't great in pass protection, he has looked serviceable protecting Peyton Manning.
The Broncos may try to take advantage of Hester's above-average athleticism as a fullback, because the opposition is likely to overlook him.
Hester is a good goal-line option due to his versatility as both a runner and a receiver.
6: Brandon Bolden
The New England Patriots don't really use a fullback. The role of Brandon Bolden is the closest thing, though.
In the Pats' high-octane attack, a significant portion of the running plays come from the shotgun, which decreases their need for a conventional fullback.
I could have gone with James Delevin instead of Bolden, but it's unlikely that Delevin will see much action.
Bolden is in the sixth spot because he is more likely to play a role moving forward than those behind him on this list.
5: Bruce Miller
Bruce Miller played defensive end during his days at the University of Central Florida but was converted into a fullback after being drafted by the San Francisco 49ers.
Having just finished his second regular season at fullback, it's safe to say the switch has worked wonders for each party.
Miller is a big part of the 49ers' rushing attack which is ranked fourth in the entire NFL. Miller's blocks on the second-level open up holes for Frank Gore and LaMichael James, which makes their lives much easier.
While he only touched the ball 17 times this season, his impact goes beyond the statistics.
The fullback position isn't glamourous, but Miller appears to be just fine doing the dirty work that needs to be done.
4: James Casey
James Casey isn't a great blocker, but he is a threat in the passing game, which is exactly what the Houston Texans need from him.
On the season, Casey caught 34 passes for 330 yards, which were third and fourth on the team respectively.
Once he gets the ball, Casey doesn't have the speed or agility to hurt a defense, but he isn't likely to hurt the Texans with a fumble or by running a poor route.
Casey fits in perfectly with what the Texans need, as they are better off with a receiving threat rather than a throwback bruiser at fullback.
I wouldn't be surprised if some teams try to replicate the success the Texans have had with Casey at fullback by converting college tight ends into fullbacks.
3: Michael Robinson
While Marshawn Lynch gets the majority of the credit for the Seattle Seahawks' ferocious run game, the blocking from his offensive line and fullback Michael Robinson should not be overlooked.
Robinson is thriving as a fullback due to his size and the way in which he attacks the defense. Unlike most fullbacks, Robinson played quarterback in college so he is used to breaking down the game in a cerebral manner.
The fullback is one of the most commonly overlooked players on the team, although Robinson doesn't seem to mind.
According to Joshua Mayers of SeattleTimes.com, Robinson said the following about his satisfaction in the fullback role:
My gratification is when Marshawn (Lynch) or Justin (Forsett) or Leon (Washington) comes to me and says, 'Good job, man. We couldn't have done it without you.'
The Seahawks' front office and coaching staff deserves credit for signing Robinson after the San Francisco 49ers released him after the preseason.
2: Jon Kuhn
John Kuhn exceeded expectations with his play against the Minnesota Vikings in the Wild Card Round, as he found the endzone twice.
The Green Bay Packers fullback is a role player in the offense, but that doesn't mean he is unimportant.
Kuhn is primarily used as a receiver or short-yardage back, both of which make the Packers' explosive offense a little harder to defend.
His pass-blocking has also been superb this season. According to ProFootballFocus.com, Kuhn has allowed just one sack and one hurry on 74 pass-blocking snaps, which is the fourth best average among all backs.
1: Vonta Leach
Vonta Leach is without a doubt the best fullback still in the playoffs, as he is the best fullback in league overall.
At 6'0" and 260 pounds, Leach is a powerful runner the opposition must account for in the red zone. However, he is very versatile and provides value throughout the entire field.
Leach is a competent receiver, as he caught 21 passes this season for 143 yards.
It's rare to see Leach miss a block, in either the run or pass game. Having such a dependable roster in the back-field cannot be understated, especially since the Baltimore Ravens offensive line was shaky at times.
The Ravens fullback will also be starting in the Pro Bowl, which is the cherry on top of successful season.
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