B/R NFL 1000: Ranking the Top 16 Fullbacks from 2014June 10, 2015
B/R NFL 1000: Ranking the Top 16 Fullbacks from 2014
Who is the best player in the NFL? Not based on the last 10 years or one game, but over the last year, who was the best? Good luck answering that one without starting a fight, right?
Well that's what the NFL 1000 aims to do by scouting, grading and then ranking the best players at each position before putting them in order and breaking ties to come up with the top 1,000 players. No narratives, no fantasy football points, no quarterback rating; this is cold-hard scouting.
You can find rankings for all other positions on our B/R NFL 1000 main page.
The B/R 1000 metric is based heavily on scouting each player and grading the key criteria for each position. The criteria are weighted according to importance for a possible best score of 100.
Potential is not taken into consideration. Nor are career accomplishments.
Fullbacks are judged on blocking (35 points), power (20), speed (20), hands (20) and their value as a starter or backup (5).
In the case of ties, our team asked, "Which player would I rather have on my team?" and set the rankings accordingly.
Subjective? Yes. But ties are no fun.
Each player was scouted by me and a team of experienced evaluators (Dan Bazal, Cian Fahey, Dan Hope, Marshal Miller, Justis Mosqueda) with these key criteria in mind. The following scouting reports and grades are the work of months of film study from our team.
All statistics from Pro Football Focus (subscription required). Players' heights, weights and seasons played from NFL.com.
16. Jed Collins, Free Agent (Played 2014 with Detroit Lions)
In his season with the Detroit Lions, Jed Collins was expected to help bolster the Lions' lackluster rushing attack and help create a more balanced offense. The acquisition was not successful, as Collins lacked the ability to clear out running lanes for Detroit’s backfield. He isn’t strong enough to get a consistent push in the hole and has to rely more on angling off defenders to create space.
Collins doesn’t posses top-tier strength and isn’t able to take on constant pressure from rushing defenders without giving up ground. He matches up better with second-level defenders when he can use his agility and quickness to seal off his opponent.
Although he shows only average speed for his position, Collins is quite agile and quick for his size. He has the ability to get open on underneath passing routes and can set the edge on runs outside of the tackles.
While he isn’t looked to often in the passing game, Collins has solid hands. He isn’t going to make many spectacular grabs, but he'll haul in throws within his frame.
Collins is a solid starter, but the Lions will look for an upgrade heading into the 2015 season after letting Collins sign with the Cowboys in March. Collins has since been released by the Cowboys and remains on the free agent market.
15. Cory Harkey, St. Louis Rams
A multitalented fullback who can also be used as a tight end, Cory Harkey provides the Rams with a versatile player who can line up anywhere on the field. He is more adept at blocking coming out of the backfield and uses his momentum to drive defenders back, creating holes for the St. Louis running backs to run through.
Harkey has acceptable power, but he is by no means overpowering. He pushes most defenders off their spot when he is moving downhill but struggles at times when on the line of scrimmage across from a physical defensive end.
Speed is not one of Harkey’s strengths. He has enough quickness to get open underneath but isn’t any kind of threat to make plays after 10 yards.
Good routes and sound hands are what make Harkey a viable option in a short-yardage passing game. He has the ability to extend to catch passes.
Harkey’s versatility is what allows him to see action on Sundays, but he doesn’t do any one thing spectacularly. The Rams might look to find a more physical blocker to help out with the running game next season.
14. Will Ta'ufo'ou, Free Agent (Played 2014 with Jacksonville Jaguars)
Will Ta’ufo’ou is a balanced, well-versed blocker as a pass protector and when asked to open up rushing lanes. He’s smart with his angles and does a good job shielding defenders from the ball. His hand placement is above average and allows him to redirect or lock out would-be tacklers.
Ta’ufo’ou can run over defenders as he clears out inside rushing lanes and uses his body well to create openings for the ball-carrier. He’s a bowling ball at 5’11” and 253 pounds, and he uses that size and leverage to knock defenders off balance well.
Ta’ufo’ou didn't have the kind of speed that led the Jaguars to give him carries in the backfield, but he had enough quickness to close out on blocks and be a lead blocker on the outside.
The Jaguars used Ta’ufo’ou as a dump-off option in 2014, and he paid them back with seven catches on eight targets. He’s not a great receiver, but he's reliable and can get upfield with the ball in his hands. He’s a body-catcher, though, and won’t make plays away from his body.
If the Jaguars want more of an athlete at the fullback position, they could use an upgrade. That said, Ta’ufo’ou is a solid option and a great value who remains on the free agent market.
13. Mike Tolbert, Carolina Panthers
After being ranked as the top overall fullback in last year's B/R 1000 series, Mike Tolbert drops nearly out of the rankings this year. While Tolbert was hurt for the better part of the season, even when he was playing and healthy he wasn’t nearly as effective. He's never been known as a spectacular run-blocker, but the Panthers really missed his superb pass-blocking skills in protecting Cam Newton.
Tolbert looks like a bowling ball on the football field, using his short but bulky frame to get under defenders and drive them out of position. He is an excellent short-yardage back and is rarely tackled in the backfield for a loss of yards.
Although Tolbert doesn’t have blazing speed, he is considered one of the fastest fullbacks in the NFL. He is quick off the snap and has great acceleration for the position. Tolbert is excellent in the open field and has enough shiftiness to make defenders miss.
One of the skills lacking in Tolbert's game is his hands. He drops far too many easy passes. He takes his eyes off the ball while trying to turn upfield to make a big play.
While a healthy Tolbert is one of the best fullbacks in the league, it helps that the Panthers have one of the most effective rushing attacks.
12. Jay Prosch, Houston Texans
Going from Auburn to the Houston Texans isn’t an easy gig, but rookie Jay Prosch made a nice adjustment and showed improvement throughout the season. As a blocker, he brings all the physical tools and the willingness to collide with another grown man at full speed, but he needs to work on his angles and hand placement to become a better all-around blocker.
At 256 pounds, Prosch is one of the bigger fullbacks profiled this season. He’s thick, powerful and strong at the point of attack. He’ll get better with improved leverage and a better understanding of angles, but for a rookie, he was impressive.
As a mover in the open field and when asked to close down on blocks, Prosch shows good speed and the burst needed to power into his hits. He doesn’t have the type of speed to be used as a runner, but as a blocker it’s good enough.
Prosch displayed good hands in college, but Houston didn't ask him to be a threat in the passing game. He was targeted just four times, with one catch and two dropped passes. The talent might be there, but the production wasn’t in his first season.
The former Auburn star walked into the Houston offense and became a starter in his first season. And his play there, coupled with the team’s investment in him, makes him the unquestioned starter moving forward.
11. Darrel Young, Washington Redskins
Darrel Young is an edge-blocker who uses his quickness and agility to get out to tackles to create rushing lanes for Washington’s running backs. He doesn’t posses the power to consistently clear out holes in the middle of the field or push defenders back off of their spots.
Young has to bank on playing with leverage and being quick to his punch, as he lacks the brute force to drive defenders backward. Having a nose for the goal line, Young led all fullbacks with three rushing touchdowns this past season.
A lack of straight-line speed hurts Young and takes playing time away from him. He shows above-average short-area quickness, but he isn’t able to get behind defenders or stretch the field to make him more of an option in the passing game.
Young’s hands improved this past season, and he was a more consistent receiver. He hauled in 11 of the 14 targets thrown his way and scored two touchdowns.
Young excelled in the red zone this past season where he scored five times. If he can continue to make plays inside the 20, his playing time should increase next year.
10. Will Johnson, Pittsburgh Steelers
Le’Veon Bell’s 1,300-yard season doesn’t happen without Will Johnson leading the way on inside runs. Bell is a fantastic runner (you’ll see that in the running back rankings), but Johnson shares the credit for opening rushing lanes and protecting Bell at the second level. He’s a powerful blocker but can sometimes lose balance and see his consistency suffer when in space. He’s an old-school power guy, though, and can set the edge or clear out an inside lane.
As a runner and blocker, Johnson brings good strength and power to the table. He’s naturally gifted but could see his grade raise with better leverage and less blocks in which he tries to knock the defender down with a shoulder.
Speed isn’t a part of the game when you’re 6’2” and 242 pounds, but Johnson does move well in short areas and has good burst out of his stance. He’ll close on a block in space with good speed, but don’t ask him to run away from any defenders.
The Pittsburgh offense doesn’t ask Johnson to be much of a receiver—he had just six catches all season—but when thrown to he’s reliable.
Johnson is young, tough and a bruiser in the blocking game, but he hasn’t been a dominant player at his position, so there’s still a chance the Steelers would upgrade if given the chance.
9. John Conner, Buffalo Bills
John Conner is a powerfully built fullback who can unload quite a punch. If he lines up against a defender in the hole, he is going to unleash some punishment, but Conner lacks the speed and mobility to be more effective in the outside running game.
Elite strength and toughness allow Conner to drive the defense back or even into the ground. He can take on just about any defender one-on-one and come out on top. Conner had only a few carries this year, but he showed the same physicality with the ball as he has without it.
One of the reasons Conner isn’t higher on this list is his lack of speed. He does great between the tackles, but when asked to block outside or go out for a passing route, he will consistently struggle to get into position.
Conner doesn’t see the field much on passing downs as a receiver or blocker. In the few opportunities he’s had, he hasn't looked like a natural pass-catcher, using his body to make catches instead of his hands.
Compact and powerful, Conner is an excellent lead blocker between the tackles but lacks the versatility to see more playing time.
8. Jerome Felton, Buffalo Bills
Many people expected the Minnesota Vikings running game to struggle this past season due to Adrian Peterson missing the entire year, but thanks to guys like Jerome Felton, they were respectable. Felton is an old-school fullback who seeks out contact and enjoys punishing defenders.
Felton has enough power to clear out a hole but will struggle sustaining his blocks. He has carried the ball only a few times in his career but has shown that he can gain ground in short-yardage situations.
Although he shows quick feet and lateral agility, Felton is far from a track star. He isn’t always able to get to the second level in time to create huge plays in the running game and isn’t going to get behind defenders in the passing game.
Felton had only one ball thrown his way this past season and finished the year without a catch. He rarely sees the field on passing downs.
A smashmouth-style fullback, Felton is a solid run-blocker but lacks an all-around game.
7. Marcel Reece, Oakland Raiders
Marcel Reece might be the best athlete at the fullback position, but that athleticism doesn’t always transfer over into his run- and pass-blocking abilities. He has enough speed to get to the edge, but he lacks the technique to consistently seal the edge. Often, Reece will play too high and won't hold his ground against defenders.
While Reece shows that he has a ton of strength, he once again is hurt by poor form. He doesn't stay low and use his leverage to get great push at the point of attack. As a runner, Reece shows the ability to break through arm tackles and almost always falls forward when being tackled.
One of, if not the, fastest fullbacks in the league. Reece has the speed and quickness to line up anywhere on the field and is one of the few fullbacks who can cause matchup problems against linebackers.
Once again Reece led all fullbacks in catches. While he caught nearly double the number of the second-place finisher, Reece should have had even more if it wasn’t for some drops and poor quarterback play.
Reece is a stellar athlete who can make plays in every asset of the Raiders offense, not just in the running game.
6. John Kuhn, Green Bay Packers
One of the most beloved fullbacks in the NFL, John Kuhn excelled this past season as a lead blocker. He was much more reliable in staying with his blocks and redirecting defenders to where he wanted them to go. He still lacks the power to be a consistent straight-ahead lead blocker and isn’t able to clear the hole as often as you would like to see from a fullback his size.
Not an overly powerful run-blocker, Kuhn relies more on footwork and technique to spring his backs for long runs. He is a capable runner who stays low and keeps his feet moving even after contact. Kuhn finished tied for the league lead in rushing yards by a fullback and averaged 3.5 yards per carry.
More quick than fast, Kuhn depends on his lateral agility and quick feet to make plays on the field. He has the ability to get to the second level as a lead blocker but isn’t a threat to get behind the defense and cause damage downfield.
Kuhn had limited opportunities out of the backfield this past year, but he caught all four passes thrown his way. He shows soft hands and an ability to extend his arms to make a grab. Kuhn won’t show up on any highlight reels, but he is a dependable receiver when Aaron Rodgers is forced to check down.
Kuhn doesn’t do anything extraordinary, but he is a solid all-around back who can create plays for his teammates and himself.
5. James Develin, New England Patriots
James Develin relies on sheer will and determination when it comes to opening rushing lanes for the Patriots backfield. He isn’t fast and possesses only above-average strength, but Develin still manages to get the job done with excellent technique and intelligence.
A leverage and angle blocker, Develin isn’t going to win any strongman competitions. But he has adequate enough strength to guide his running backs to the second level.
Probably the slowest fullback on the list, Develin has issues setting the edge. He also struggles getting out into his passing routes, but if he manages to get the ball, he will fight for every yard and isn’t easy for one defender to bring down.
Although his attempts were limited, Develin caught all four balls thrown his way this past season. He has limited range and isn’t able to extend far for the ball, but if he can get his hands on the ball, he is going to haul it in.
Develin might not be the most athletically gifted player to ever play the game, but he plays at full speed every play. He is one of those guys who coaches love to have.
4. Kyle Juszczyk, Baltimore Ravens
In his second NFL season, Kyle Juszczyk became a top-tier fullback, mostly notably due to his blocking abilities. In the Ravens' zone-running scheme, he’s asked to read the line of scrimmage much like a tailback and then clear out the first defender crossing his face. That’s a tough job for any fullback, but to ask a second-year player to do it is impressive. Juszczyk showed strength, leverage and pop at the point of attack.
Juszczyk is still learning how to use all his physical tools to win at the point of attack, but as both a runner and a blocker, he shows good power for his 6’1”, 245-pound frame. He can clear out a hole and will put defenders on their backs.
As a bruising fullback, a lot of speed isn’t needed, but Juszczyk runs well and shows off his 4.73 speed from the Harvard pro day when he’s out in space.
Former offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak loved throwing to his fullback, and Juszczyk impressed with 19 catches in the regular season. He has soft hands and wasn’t credited with a dropped pass once this year.
As long as the Ravens need a fullback, Juszczyk will be their guy. He is one of the better all-around fullbacks in the NFL.
3. Bruce Miller, San Francisco 49ers
Bruce Miller was once again one of the best blocking fullbacks in the league this past year. He cleared the way for Frank Gore, who went on to rush for more than 1,000 yards for the fourth straight season. It doesn’t matter who the 49ers hand the ball to, as long as they run behind Miller.
Miller uses his power and agility to his advantage when getting to the second level and taking on linebackers. He doesn’t always play with leverage, though, and will get pushed back when matched up against stronger defensive linemen.
While Miller doesn’t have top-notch speed, he shows quick feet and an innate ability to get open on underneath routes. Out of all fullbacks who recorded double-digit receptions, Miller was the only one to average more than 10 yards per catch.
One of the few fullbacks in the league who is a solid blocker and a capable receiver, Miller was third in the league in receptions among fullbacks and has the ability to make catches away from his body.
Miller continues to be one of the elite fullbacks in the league, and it will be interesting to see how his role takes shape with a new coaching regime in San Francisco.
2. Henry Hynoski, New York Giants
At 260 pounds, Henry Hynoski really uses his weight to his advantage. He packs a strong punch and punishes defenders that meet him in the hole. Hynoski does not hesitate to create contact and is able to not only push defenders back but also knock them off their feet.
Hynoski is a heavily built man who is known for knocking defenders backward. He does not show the same intensity when he has the ball in his hands and doesn’t move the pile as much as you would like to see from someone his size.
Hynoski has adequate, but not exceptional, speed. He is able to get to the second level to take on defenders, but he will struggle when matched up against quicker, more agile linebackers. He isn’t the type of player who is going to cause much damage out in space.
Hynoski didn’t have any passes thrown his way this past season and rarely sees the field on passing downs.
Hynoski is a powerfully built fullback who can create huge holes between the tackles, but his lack of athletic ability makes him a detriment in the passing game.
1. Anthony Sherman, Kansas City Chiefs
One of the major factors in Kansas City’s stout rushing attack, Anthony Sherman helped lead the way for the Chiefs to finish the season tied for third in the league in yards per rushing attempt with 4.6. Sherman steamrolled several defenders in his sights.
While he isn’t the most powerful player on the field, Sherman uses great leverage and angles to create space for running backs. He might not always push defenders back, but he at least battles them to a stalemate, which more times than not is good enough for the Chiefs running backs to get to the second level.
Sherman doesn’t posses elite speed, but he shows excellent short-area quickness. That quickness allows him to get outside of the tackles and set the edge for Jamaal Charles and the rest of the Chiefs backfield.
An exceptional receiver out of the backfield, Sherman caught 10 balls this year, gaining double-digit yardage on four of them. He has enough power and quickness to be a threat with the ball in his hands.
Sherman has been one of the best fullbacks in the NFL the past couple of years, and the Chiefs should continue to rely on him to help out their rushing attack in seasons to come.