After not seeing the field in his rookie season due to injury, this former seventh-rounder is surprising one insider at Detroit Lions’ training camp.
The fullback position seems all but dead in the NFL nowadays, with fewer and fewer teams implementing them into their offenses. Yet, that didn’t stop the Detroit Lions from taking a flier on San Diego State fullback Nick Bawden in the seventh round of the 2018 NFL Draft.
Originally a quarterback, the 6-foot-2, 245 pound Bawden was one of the best fullbacks in the country in college, leading the way for the likes of current NFL running backs in Donnel Pumphrey (who was briefly with the Lions’ practice squad and is once again a member of the Philadelphia Eagles) and Rashaad Penny (Seattle Seahawks).
Soon after being drafted by Detroit in the final round, Bawden suffered a season-ending ACL injury during the second day of minicamp. After having to sit on the sidelines for his entire rookie campaign, the former Aztec has returned to the field. And Bawden has impressed one Lions’ insider with his early play.
Here’s how DetroitLions.com’s Tim Twentyman responded to a recent mailbag question about which player has surprised him the most through the first week of training camp.
"“There’s been a few, but one for me has been fullback Nick Bawden … He’s been a much better pass catcher than I thought. I don’t know if I’ve seen him drop a ball all through camp. He’s been good in one-on-one pass drills vs. the linebackers. He’s physical filling the hole as a blocker, and seems to be making a case for there to be a true fullback on the initial 53-man roster.”"
The Lions could use another receiving threat out of the backfield now that longtime running back Theo Riddick has signed with the Denver Broncos following his recent release. During his final two seasons at San Diego State, Bawden recorded 30 receptions for 240 yards and one touchdown.
Bawden’s presence as a violent run-blocker should also help the Lions make the transition to a more run-centric team under new offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell. And he could boost the play of young running back Kerryon Johnson, who is now cemented as the starter, giving him a reliable lead blocker at the point of attack.
Nick Bawden should also make an impact on special teams as the former quarterback is a great all-around athlete. If he is able to do so, the former seventh-rounder will likely earn himself a spot of the Detroit Lions’ final-53 man roster. And that’s something that’s becoming increasingly rare for true fullbacks across the NFL.