The Detroit Lions have used a fullback in each of the last two seasons. Which players could see snaps as a lead blocker in 2019?
Fullbacks, once a staple on most NFL teams, are simply not a given for offensive coordinators these days as roster construction continues to evolve. For the Detroit Lions, a number of players could to see snaps at the position in 2019.
The Lions currently have one designated fullback on the roster, second-year man Nick Bawden, who missed his entire rookie season with a torn ACL. He would seem to be the leader in the clubhouse to win the job, considering he was a recent draft selection. In his absence last season, the Lions used converted linebacker Nick Bellore for the majority of the fullback snaps.
However, in his post draft wrap-up press conference last month, Lions general manager Bob Quinn mentioned that rookies are simply not handed starting positions, they have to earn them. While Bawden isn’t technically a rookie and he plays a unique position, he could fall into the same category this fall.
Regardless of how much confidence the Lions do or don’t have in Bawden, the fullback rotation could hinge on two factors: whether or not the Lions keep four tight ends on the roster with one earmarked as a lead blocker, and who offers the most on special teams. That could include unusual candidates.
The Lions like players who, if they aren’t highly proficient in one specific area, can fill multiple roles. To this end, under former offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter, offensive lineman Joe Dahl saw time late last season in the backfield as a 305-pound gadget blocker. Even in a new offense, Dahl could be an occasional option at fullback, should he remain on the roster.
Despite hiring a new offensive coordinator in Darrell Bevell, the fullback won’t be going anywhere. In his 12 years running the offense for the Minnesota Vikings and the Seattle Seahawks, a fullback was used in each season under Bevell. Add in the fact that his teams are known for their run-heavy style, and the lead-blocking back will remain a factor in 2019.
Another player to keep tabs on is rookie seventh round tight end Isaac Nauta. His draft stock suffered from a poor showing at the NFL scouting combine in March, but the Lions liked his college production against high-level competition.
That hardly guarantees him a spot on the 53-man roster. But, his exceptional blocking at the University of Georgia and potential as a part-time H-back may give him an edge over other fringe tight end candidates. Could it also lessen the need for a permanent fullback?
Versatility is the name of the game these days for the Lions, and their recent acquisitions both in free agency and in the draft speak to that creed. As the offseason progresses and training camp nears, roles for specific players could start to come into focus. Consequently, the fullback duties could be handled by unlikely sources.
Who do you think should get the majority of the snaps at fullback for the Lions in 2019? Let us know in the comments section below.