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Fullbacks: Everything You Need To Know About 2011 Free Agent Class

I've compiled a bunch of data and info for Baltimore Ravens fans, so we can have more basis for our discussions on the topic. Much of this data is from Pro Football Focus, who grade every player on each play: their grading system is explained here. 

According to the Baltimore Sun, General Manager Ozzie Newsome has stated that the ideal situation would be to sign a fullback for four or five years.

Vonta Leach

Previous contract: 4 years/$8M (29 years old/ 6'0", 250 pounds)

 

2010: PFF overall grade: 5.2 Run Blocking: 2.8 Fullback ranking 3rd

2009: PFF overall grade: -7.4 Run Blocking: -5 Fullback ranking 26th

2008: PFF overall grade: 11.5 Run Blocking: 13 Fullback ranking 2d

 

An All-Pro FB after blocking for Arian Foster to an NFL-leading breakout season, Leach is now looking for a record FB contract, above Leonard Weaver's, whom the Eagles signed last offseason for 3 years, $11.2M, with $6.5M guaranteed. I think even at $4M a year, Leach would be worth the investment. His lead-blocking could keep Rice healthy longer, and keep up the physicality so important to the Ravens identity.

Le'ron McClain

(26 years old/ 6'0", 260 pounds)

Previous Contract: Rookie contract

 

2010: PFF overall grade: -7.8 Run Blocking: -4.8 Fullback ranking 20th

2009: PFF overall grade: 6.9 Run Blocking: 4.7 Fullback ranking 3rd

2008: PFF overall grade: -10.8 Run Blocking: -3.1 Fullback ranking

 

McClain wants more carries. I understand this, given that a versatile fullback makes our playcalling more opaque: if it's a known fact that our FB can catch, as well as run, then his being on the field doesn't necessarily telegraph a run play. But McClain has struggled with drops (4th worst among RB/FBs) and is not a great pass blocker (5th worst among FB/RBs), making his impact in the passing game limited. He is also a one-dimensional runner, but is a change of pace from Rice, whom I would like to see have less carries this year to keep him healthy. McClain's youth makes him a prize in this FA class, and if Ozzie does want to sign an FB to  4-5 year contract, that youth could be key. But the Ravens are too honest to promise him a ton of carries, so he will probably sign somewhere he thinks he can get touches.

Jason McKie

Signed to Ravens for 2011 season for $765,000 (31 years old/ 5'11", 247 pounds)

 

2010: PFF overall grade: n/a Run Blocking: Fullback ranking

2009: PFF overall grade: -9.5  Run Blocking: -8.9 Fullback ranking 29th

2008: PFF overall grade: -.5 Run Blocking: -1.3 Fullback ranking 17th

 

Cut by the Bears because Martz's system doesn't use a fullback, McKie is 31 and doesn't seem like a long-term solution at FB. He finished 17th in PFF's rankings in 2008 but was the worst-ranked FB in 2009. He hasn't played since the 2009 season, and we were able to pick him up midseason when McClain was injured, so he was not on an active roster.

 

Lawrence Vickers

 

Previous contract: 1/1.76m (28 years old/ 6'0", 245 pounds)

 

2010: PFF overall grade: -11.4 Run Blocking: -5.4 Fullback ranking 29th

2009: PFF overall grade: -5.6 Run Blocking: -2.2 Fullback ranking 23rd

2008: PFF overall grade: 4.6 Run Blocking: 2 Fullback ranking 9th

 

The writing on the wall is that Vickers is out in Cleveland after they drafted Owen Marecic, Jim Harbaugh's FB in Stanford. Vickers had a down year, but most teammates have only good things to say about him. Vickers believes he can be a versatile West Coast FB, but the Browns don't seem convinced.The Plain Dealer writes

 

"Vickers' reputation as an explosive lead-blocker actually began in Romeo Crennel's last two seasons in 2007 and '08. He paved the way for successive 1,000-yard rushing seasons by Jamal Lewis, who was running on bald tires and leaking oil. In 2009, when Lewis went down with concussion symptoms, Vickers' crushing lead blocks helped Jerome Harrison amass 561 yards in the final three games."

 

Vickers says he fought his way on the field during Mangini's tenure even though his system didn't use an FB. Vickers seems like a classy guy, saying "If it is my departure in Cleveland, I'm going out with a bang. The team is on the rise...Am I mad at Tom or even Mike [Holmgren]? No. I'll see them. I'll shake their hands."

 

But I think Vickers is a great choice: he'll come cheap, doesn't need carries or targets, and is very familiar with the AFC North. He will also play with a chip on his shoulder. I love this quote: "I just hope I don't have to come to Cleveland in a different uniform because it's gonna be bad."

 

John Kuhn

 

Previous contract: 1 year/$1.176M (28 years old/ 6'0", 250 pounds)

 

2010: PFF overall grade: 4.9 Run Blocking: -.7 Fullback ranking 4th

2009: PFF overall grade: -.6 Run Blocking: -2.9 Fullback ranking 17th

2008: PFF overall grade: 10.6 Run Blocking: 7.2 Fullback ranking 3rd

 

One of Green Bay's three (!) rostered FBs last season, Kuhn became a fan favorite. He could be the best FA for the Ravens, but he's a FA in name only. The Packers offered him what will likely be an obsolete tender for the 5th year player under the new CBA, but he's stated he wants to return to GB, and why not? Great team who will probably get another SB during his tenure there. This article gives some nice insight into the FB position in general and on GB.

 

"When you take a look at the Packers fullbacks, really the only player that the coaches seem to trust with catching the ball is John Kuhn. And his catching ability is what lead to more time on the field than the rest of the fullbacks, which lead to more rushing attempts (if for no other reason than to hide his role on the offense), which lead to the Packers discovering he was a pretty good short yardage back, which then lead to Kuhn becoming a folk hero for Packers fans and a staple on the offense."

 

He's finished in the top 5 two of the past 3 years at FB in PFF's rankings, remarkable consistency for such a little-known player. If the Ravens can lure him here I would be thrilled but I don't see it happening.

 

Naufahu Tahi

 

Previous contract: 1 year/$1.176M (29 years old/ 6'0", 254 pounds)

 

2010: PFF overall grade: -9.2 Run Blocking: -9 Fullback ranking 25th

2009: PFF overall grade: -2.2 Run Blocking: -2.4 Fullback ranking 19th

2008: PFF overall grade: -3.3 Run Blocking: -.9 Fullback ranking 16th

 

Vikings FB, I know AV23 is keen on him but I'm not convinced. The Vikings run blocking has struggled, and if AP weren't such a beast it would be even more obvious.  PFF rated him near the bottom in 2010.

The opinions posted here are those of the administrator of this blog and his loyal readers. They are in no way official comments from the team, and should not be misconstued as such, even though he thinks he could do just as well or even a better job!

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