- Matt Williamson, ESPN.com
After watching games and breaking down film, Scouts Inc. has evaluated and graded more than 2,500 NFL players heading into the 2011 season. Here's how the fullbacks stacked up.
This is a dying breed. As much as I love watching a "downhill" physical fullback lead his running back through the hole, blowing up a linebacker in the process, pure blockers at this position just don't offer enough in the passing game, and that takes a chunk out of their overall value. You have to be versatile.
For instance, there isn't another lead blocker in the league like Vonta Leach, but he isn't going to carry the ball. And some teams don't even have a fullback on the roster as we see more double-tight end or three wide receiver sets in base offenses.
Leach is a thick and powerful fullback who understands his role with the team. He is strictly a blocking back who has not had a carry from the line of scrimmage in the past two years.
He has ideal dimensions for the position as well as the kind of temperament you are looking for in a lead blocker. He is a good receiver out of the backfield on the short swing passes, but will struggle when trying to track the ball downfield or make adjustments to balls thrown slightly off target. He will unload into blocks as he rolls his hips, and can react and adjust to movement once engaged.
McClain has developed into one of the more physical lead blockers in the league. He is a big, strong player with deceptive agility and quickness. McClain has enough speed and quickness to get to the corner on perimeter leads.
As a ball carrier, he is effective running between the tackles in short-yardage and goal-line situations. He has good vision to the hole with some ability to adjust and hit the hole with good pad level. He takes good angles to seal for position after attacking the line of scrimmage. He has good overall quickness, agility and balance to secure and sustain his blocks. He also has adequate hands as a receiver out of the backfield. McClain is a great fit for what the Ravens want to be, which is a physical, hard-nosed offensive unit.
Weaver has an excellent combination of size, strength and athleticism. As a run blocker he will get overextended at times, which limits his ability to finish.
He is a good athlete with the ball in his hands and is versatile enough to be effective as a runner or receiver out of the backfield. He runs with good vision, but is primarily a one-cut runner who will get upfield quickly. He is more of an athletic fullback than a power, smash-mouth back, which makes him a good fit in a West Coast system. It remains to be seen how effective Weaver will perform in 2011 given the severity of his knee injury.
Tolbert is a short, thick, powerfully built ball carrier who can be a load once he gets up a head of steam. He is a no-nonsense runner who sticks his foot in the ground and hits the hole with all he's got and has shown the ability to add extra yards after initial contact.
He shows adequate speed once he gets to the second level. He gave the Chargers a nice change-of-pace ball carrier who lays it all on the line each and every game. He is a decent receiver out of the backfield, although he is most effective on the short swing passes rather than downfield routes. He still needs work on his blitz pick-up as well as blocking techniques, but definitely brings a lot of value as a role player.
The Falcons are generally a single-back team, but when they go with a fullback, Mughelli is the guy they look to. He is a bruising blocker that understands angles and can unload on defenders in the hole.
He does a good job squaring up on pass rushers in blitz pickup.
20hBy Ian O'Connor