NFL Draft 400: Ranking the Draft's Top Fullbacks

Matt Miller@nfldraftscoutNFL Draft Lead WriterApril 20, 2017

NFL Draft 400: Ranking the Draft's Top Fullbacks

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    Steve Helber/Associated Press

    The 2017 NFL draft class features elite talents at the top of the board in Texas A&M's Myles Garrett and LSU's Leonard Fournette. After that? This is one of the deepest classes in the six years I've been scouting at Bleacher Report. 

    Stacking the board top to bottom for the '17 class was no easy task. There are a record-breaking number of first-round talents on my board. Outside of Round 1, it was easy to imagine putting 60 of the top players into the top 40. If you can't find starters in Round 4 of this class, you're doing it wrong.

    So who is the best overall? How about the best at each position? The goal of the NFL Draft 400 series is to figure that out.

    The top 400 players were tracked, scouted, graded and ranked by me and my scouting assistants, Marshal Miller and Dan Bazal, and Connor Rogers. Together, we viewed tape of a minimum of three games per player (the same standard NFL teams use). Oftentimes, we saw every play by a prospect over the last two years. That led to the grades, rankings and scouting reports you see here.

    Players were graded on strengths and weaknesses, with a pro-player comparison added to match the prospect's style or fit in the pros. The top 400 players will be broken down position by position for easy viewing before the release of a top-400 big board prior to the draft.

    In the case of a tie, players were ranked based on their overall grade in our top 400.

    Here are the top fullbacks for the 2017 draft at the end of the month.

Matt Miller's NFL Draft Grading Scale

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    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    At the end of each scouting report, you'll see a final grade that falls somewhere between 4.00 and 9.00. This scale comes from the teaching I received from Charley Casserly, Michael Lombardi and other former and current front-office personnel in the NFL. I tweaked it this year to be more transparent, and as a result, each player received a number grade as well as a ranking.

    This applies to all positions across the board.

    Matt Miller's NFL Draft Grading Scale
    GradeLabel
    9.00Elite—No. 1 pick
    8.00-8.99All-Pro—Rare Talent
    7.50-7.99Round 1—Pro Bowl Potential
    7.00-7.49Round 1—Top-15 Player Potential
    6.50-6.99Round 2—Rookie Impact/Future Starter
    6.00-6.49Round 3—Rookie Impact/Future Starter
    5.80-5.99Round 3-4—Future Starter
    5.70-5.79Round 4—Backup Caliber
    5.60-5.69Round 5—Backup Caliber
    5.30-5.59Round 6—Backup Caliber
    5.10-5.25Round 7—Backup Caliber
    5.00Priority Free Agent
    4.50-4.99Camp Player

9. Dakota Ball, Alabama

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    Samantha Baker/Associated Press
    Measurables
    HeightWeight40 Time3-ConeShort Shuttle
    6'2 1/4"271 lbs5.16s7.87s4.55s

    POSITIVES

    Dakota Ball is a bowling ball of a player. Nick Saban moved him to the defensive line in 2016, but Ball's background is at fullback and tight end. That's where he has his best chance in the pros. He's a versatile, selfless player who can make an impact as a blocker, receiver or goal-line option, and he has the tools for special teams play. Ball might not fit into one specific bucket as a fullback or H-back, but he's athletic and smart enough to carve out a role as a utility player.

              

    NEGATIVES

    A jack-of-all-trades, Ball is a master of none. He's a compact, squatty player with poor length and a lack of quickness to unleash himself off the edge as a blocker. When he gets his hands on a player, Ball can move him, but he struggles when asked to reach a defender. There will be NFL teams that focus on Ball's 2016 season and render him undraftable because he was playing defense.
     

    PRO COMPARISON: Will Ratelle, Kansas City Chiefs

    FINAL GRADE: 4.99/9.00 (Undrafted Free Agent)

8. Nate Iese, UCLA

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press
    Measurables
    HeightWeight40 Time3-ConeShort Shuttle
    6'2 3/4"252 lbs4.97s7.30s4.60s

    POSITIVES

    A three-year starter at UCLA, Nate Iese has athleticism that few fullbacks in this class can compete with. He has good length and big hands and uses both to grab the ball as a receiver or to hold onto a linebacker in the run game. He showed his versatility by moving to tight end in 2016 and had a career year with 25 catches and 400 yards with four touchdowns. Iese can play in space and is an easy, clean projection as an H-back. Because he can line up in the backfield, in the slot or as an H-back, he has value to creative offensive schemes.

              

    NEGATIVES

    Iese only carried the ball one time at UCLA—an amazing feat considering he started 25 games. He lacks the play power to drive-block defenders out of the hole and would be best suited playing in a zone scheme, where he can move with an angle block.
     

    PRO COMPARISON: Ben Braunecker, Chicago Bears

    FINAL GRADE: 4.99/9.00 (Undrafted Free Agent)

7. Prescott Line, Michigan State

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    Stacy Revere/Getty Images
    Measurables
    HeightWeight40 Time3-ConeShort Shuttle
    5'11 3/8"246 lbs4.96s7.18s4.32s

    POSITIVES

    Prescott Line, the brother of Minnesota Vikings fullback Zach Line, started his college career at his brother's old school, SMU. He later transferred to Michigan State as a graduate to find a better fit offensively. He's a strong, physical player who has three-down skills. Line carried the ball for over 750 yards in three seasons at SMU and caught 27 passes in that time before seeing his role changed at Michigan State to become more of a blocker. He has the burst and physicality to move the pile as a runner and a blocker. Line is a versatile player with the size, football IQ and strength to become an NFL starter.

              

    NEGATIVES

    Line has the compact, short arms you expect from a fullback but doesn't reach out and use that length well as a blocker. He's a wrecking ball who attempts to crash into linebackers and doesn't latch on and drive-block. He's a stiff mover when asked to go laterally and has a maxed-out frame that is muscle-packed and limits his flexibility.
     

    PRO COMPARISON: Darrel Young, Carolina Panthers

    FINAL GRADE: 4.99/9.00 (Undrafted Free Agent)

6. Cody Heiman, Washburn

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    Photo Credit: Washburn Sports Information
    Measurables
    HeightWeight40 Time3-ConeShort Shuttle
    6'1 3/8"229 lbs4.63s6.84s4.18s

    POSITIVES

    Cody Heiman started up at linebacker for Washburn, but NFL teams are asking him to switch sides and consider a move to fullback—a move similar to the one Bruce Miller made coming out of Central Florida. Heiman is an all-around athlete who won the Kansas state high jump (6'8") in high school and timed at 4.63 seconds in the 40-yard dash and repped out 31 times on the bench press at the Kansas pro day. Heiman will be making a position change in the pros, but he's an aggressive, physical player who has shown the quickness, strength and versatility to make an NFL roster.

              

    NEGATIVES

    Heiman is making a change from linebacker to fullback, but also from the MIAA to the NFL. He'll have a big transition period even if he's playing a position that isn't quite as critical as others. Heiman must learn to recognize blitzes and stunts while playing with the defender coming at his face instead of being one of those defenders. He's a small player with average length and a frame that is already maxed out.
     

    PRO COMPARISON: Keith Smith, Dallas Cowboys

    FINAL GRADE: 4.99/9.00 (Undrafted Free Agent)

5. Bobby Wolford, Boston College

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    Charles Krupa/Associated Press
    Measurables
    HeightWeight40 Time3-ConeShort Shuttle
    6'1"248 lbsN/AN/AN/A

    POSITIVES

    Bobby Wolford was the starting fullback at Boston College for the last four years. He comes out of the backfield and has lined up at fullback and as an H-back. He's a patient, balanced blocker when asked to reach linebackers and uses his length well at the point of attack. He's at his best blocking between the tackles and has a toughness that coaches will love. Wolford has some production as a receiver but was rarely used in that role. He's capable of contributing on special teams.

              

    NEGATIVES

    Wolford isn't a drive-blocker but someone who will latch onto a defender and hold his ground. His angles to the defender can be poor, and he must better anticipate path changes when he's approaching a defender. He gets caught waiting for a block instead of aggressively attacking. He's a stiff mover without loose hips and quick feet. Wolford isn't a threat as a ball-carrier.
     

    PRO COMPARISON: Patrick DiMarco, Buffalo Bills

    FINAL GRADE: 4.99/9.00 (Undrafted Free Agent)

4. Emmanuel Holder, Towson

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    Photo Credit: Towson Sports Information Department
    Measurables
    HeightWeight40 Time3-ConeShort Shuttle
    5'11 1/8"249 lbs4.99s7.41s4.56s

    POSITIVES

    A four-year starter at Towson, Emmanuel Holder has a short, compact frame with massive power. He's built like an old-school fullback or middle linebacker. Holder was used primarily as a sledgehammer in the run game but did flash some skills as a receiver out of the backfield. He can be a quality short-yardage or goal-line runner in the mold of Mike Tolbert. Holder has the experience as a receiver to be effective on swing passes and in the screen game.

              

    NEGATIVES

    Holder was born in 1992 and is already 25 years old. He missed most of the 2014 season with a dislocated kneecap that wasn't repaired surgically. He lacks speed and burst and doesn't show the lateral agility to slide and pick up rushers as a pass protector. Holder's lack of length is an issue for him as a receiver and blocker. His 16 bench-press reps are low considering his arm length and build.
     

    PRO COMPARISON: Chris Swain, New York Jets

    FINAL GRADE: 4.99/9.00 (Undrafted Free Agent)

3. Anthony Firkser, Harvard

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    Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
    Measurables
    HeightWeight40 Time3-ConeShort Shuttle
    6'1 5/8"246 lbs4.82s7.06s4.29s

    POSITIVES

    A versatile offensive weapon, Anthony Firkser started three seasons at Harvard after arriving as a high school wide receiver. He was used as a do-it-all player and was a huge part of the Harvard passing attack. He was the Joe Restic Award winner in 2016, which goes to a player displaying leadership, scholarship and integrity. Firkser can line up in the backfield, at H-back, at tight end or even split out wide at receiver. He has packed on 25 pounds since landing at Harvard and has the frame to play all over the formation. Firkser's short-area quickness is better than his deep speed, which allows him to be a threat on short option routes.

              

    NEGATIVES

    Firkser isn't a traditional blocker and may be seen as an H-back only, which limits the teams that will show an interest in him. He doesn't have great speed for his size and can be caught from behind in space by linebackers. As a blocker, Firkser doesn't pack much punch as a lead blocker. He's an angle blocker who would be a better fit when he can get a run at a defender before contact.
     

    PRO COMPARISON: Nick O'Leary, Buffalo Bills

    FINAL GRADE: 5.00/9.00 (Undrafted Free Agent)

2. Freddie Stevenson, Florida State

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    Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images
    Measurables
    HeightWeight40 Time3-ConeShort Shuttle
    6'0 1/2"234 lbs4.69s6.94s4.94s

    POSITIVES

    A three-year starter, Freddie Stevenson is a bruiser at fullback with a big, powerful frame. The FSU offense asked Stevenson to be a battering ram as a lead blocker, and he excelled in that role, opening up holes and sealing off defenders for Dalvin Cook. Stevenson's awareness and instincts as a blocker are well-developed. He's a throwback to the days of true lead blockers and has the athleticism to project to a bigger role than the Seminoles used him in.

              

    NEGATIVES

    Stevenson has little college production with the ball in his hands. He had just 25 carries and 19 catches in college. He has short arms and doesn't have the big, strong hands of a blocker or pass-catcher. He struggled when thrown to in college and in Senior Bowl practices and isn't a natural receiver. Stevenson has upside as a three-down threat but was rarely used on special teams in college. As a blocker, he has to learn to use all his tools and not look to just run over defenders. Learning to sustain and manage blocks will help him become a better pro.
     

    PRO COMPARISON: Jalston Fowler, Tennessee Titans

    FINAL GRADE: 5.00/9.00 (Undrafted Free Agent)

1. Sam Rogers, Virginia Tech

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    Michael Shroyer/Getty Images
    Measurables
    HeightWeight40 Time3-ConeShort Shuttle
    5'11 1/4"231 lbs4.87s7.27s4.34s

    POSITIVES

    A three-year starter, Sam Rogers is a stout, powerful player with the three-down skills teams want in the modern fullback. He's shown himself to be a valuable receiver in the Virginia Tech offense, grabbing 72 catches in the last four seasons. Rogers runs with power and has great pad height going through the line of scrimmage or when meeting a tackler on a swing pass. He's an aggressive, powerful, physical player. Rogers can play fullback and H-back, and he has experience on special teams. He's a versatile, valuable piece. Coaches we spoke to loved working with Rogers thanks to his weight-room and practice dedication. The fullback position might be losing value, but Rogers can play in the NFL with his running, receiving and special teams ability.

              

    NEGATIVES

    Rogers lacks overall athleticism and doesn't have the speed to run away from defenders. He takes too many steps to reach top speed and isn't a quick cutter going through traffic. Rogers can be stiff and doesn't have burst coming out of the blocks. As a blocker, his lack of length is an issue, and he has to learn to punch first and not rely on his body to absorb pass-rushers.
     

    PRO COMPARISON: Derek Watt, Los Angeles Chargers

    FINAL GRADE: 5.10/9.00 (Round 7)

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