Although the Giants coaching staff has gone out of its way to not tip its hand as to how it's thinking about the fullback position, the feeling outside of the organization seems to be that Henry Hynoski, who lost last season due to a fractured left shoulder, is the favorite to beat out John Conner.
That’s not necessarily the case. Later this week, I’ll break down the key factors in this battle and how each man stacks up, but for now, any talk about one man having a lead over the other in this competition is premature.
How close is this battle? Pro Football Focus, on its free site, ended up adjusting its classification of Conner from a “high quality” to a “good” starter (same ranking they gave Hynoski).
On offense we were a little generous to full back John Conner initially. That’s not to say his play wasn’t impressive last year, but looking at his career body of work we found a player whose grade has alternated between having a positive and a negative every season since he’s been in the league.
(You can see the updated chart from PFF here.)
During the spring, both Hynoski and Conner received snaps with the first team unit, a factor that would suggest that neither is ahead of the other in the very early stages of this race.
For those who believe Hynoski is the better receiver, Conner did just as well with his opportunities to catch passes. Like Hynoski, Conner also also took a few handoffs.
In addition to which back has the better running and ball-security skills, lead blocking is the other critical area that needs to be looked at when evaluating this competition. Head Coach Tom Coughlin told Bart Hubbuch of the New York Post that the team will remain committed to the running game.
Although we didn’t see many multiple-back sets in the spring, that could be a result of the no-contact nature of the spring practices, which would make it pointless to waste time running plays in which the coaches couldn’t fully gauge a given player’s performance.
The bottom line is that Conner (8.1), who per the data at Pro Football Focus (subscription required) is a better overall blocker than Hynoski (6.3), is still very much part of this race.
Craig Johnson, the Giants' new running backs coach, was very generous with praise of Conner when I asked him about the fullback.
"John Conner, who came in when Henry got hurt last year, has shown me a lot of really good things," Johnson said.
"He’s very agile, very mobile—he can put his hands on guys and get the guys blocked."
Depending on the role the new offense defines for the fullback, Conner could end up the winner of this battle, even if just by a hair.