Commentary

Fullbacks offer midround value

Role of fullbacks diminishing in NFL but there are values to be found

Originally Published: April 8, 2009
By Steve Muench | Scouts Inc.
The Baltimore Ravens selected RB Le'Ron McClain in the fourth round of the 2007 draft in an effort to replace Ovie Mughelli, who left as a free agent and signed with Atlanta that year. Most front offices saw McClain as a powerful lead blocker who could catch the occasional pass out of the backfield and develop into an effective short-yardage back, and he was an excellent fit for the Ravens. The fact that McClain has already started 30 games -- including three in the postseason -- isn't much of a surprise.

On the other hand, few thought he would be as effective running the ball as he was last year. After all, McClain didn't carry the ball much in college and he didn't run all that well at the 2007 combine. Even so, Baltimore leaned on him heavily when injuries slowed RB Willis McGahee and rookie Ray Rice struggled early last season. McClain responded by rushing for 902 yards and 10 touchdowns on 232 carries.

His 82-yard touchdown run in the closing minutes of a late-season win over the Dallas Cowboys sealed the victory for the Ravens and is an excellent example of McClain's ability to mask his lack of speed. He broke several tackles and did an excellent job of using his downfield blockers on that particular play, and his efforts over the course of the 2008 season earned McClain a trip to the Pro Bowl. Oh, and he also did a good job of covering kicks as a rookie in 2007.

With McGahee getting healthy over the offseason and Rice making strides last year, McClain will likely return to a more traditional fullback role this year, but he was a great find for the Ravens and will remain a valuable part of the offense.

The diminished role fullbacks play in the NFL has caused their value on draft day to drop and teams in the market for a traditional fullback can find quality fullbacks capable of making early contributions in the middle rounds, just as the Ravens did with McClain. Below is a look at three fullbacks from well-known schools and one small-school prospect expected to come off the board on Day 2 of the 2009 draft and where they could find good fits.

To find out which midround prospects could become contributors at the next level and which teams could provide a good fit for them, become an ESPN Insider. Insider
Steve Muench played four years of Division I-AA football before joining Scouts Inc. in 2002. He has evaluated both NFL and college players for Scouts Inc., but his current focus is on the NFL draft.