Continuing with our coverage of the running backs, we now shift to our one-day preview on the fullbacks. One perspective you could have is that the Browns only have one fullback on the roster in Owen Marecic. For the sake of this preview, and so the tight ends preview down the road is not too overloaded, we also include Brad Smelley. Some would want to see Chris Ogbonnaya included too, but we already talked about him in part two of our running backs preview.
1. OWEN MARECIC - STARTING FULLBACK
I don't know if there is a player on this team who fans loathe seeing more than Owen Marecic. That doesn't have anything to do with his personality, but it has everything to do with the performance he turned in during the 2012 NFL season.
First off, this one really stands out: Marecic had four opportunities to catch the ball in 2012, and he dropped every one. We're not talking about catches that required athleticism -- we're talking about simple passes in the flat without a defender around him.
Second, Marecic's blocking was ineffective in 2012. There weren't many plays that you would go back and look at the footage, and say, "hey, Marecic really opened that one up!" Instead, the reaction was more like, "I have no idea what Marecic was trying to do on that play." It happened over and over again, until even Pat Shurmur had enough and benched Marecic, opting to utilize former tight end Alex Smith at fullback instead.
Hate is a strong word. I don't hate Marecic. I am really turned off to the thought of him being our fullback in 2013, though, because I'm not convinced he has anything valuable to offer. I hope he proves me wrong. Maybe a new coaching regime will get him on the right track and make him the type of player who ESPN analysts were foaming at the mouth for when the Browns drafted him in 2011. One position you can't really assess in the offseason programs is fullback, because you need to see him against live contact. This will be a big training camp for Marecic, because there's no major incentive for the coaching staff to keep him around if he doesn't stand out.
Job Security: D
Final Roster Odds: 60%
2. BRAD SMELLEY - TRENT RICHARDSON'S BUDDY
Brad Smelley saw some action at fullback in last year's training camp for the Browns, so he gets grandfathered into that position again in 2012 despite the team not acknowledging him as a fullback (ClevelandBrowns.com lists him as a tight end, and that's where he played at the end of 2012).
A seventh-round pick last year, Smelley's chances at making the roster this year could be hurt significantly if he doesn't get reps at fullback. This would be a competition that he could win if he shows some blocking skills. If he is stuck at tight end, though, he's already guaranteed to be behind Jordan Cameron, Kellen Davis, and Gary Barnidge. Dan Gronkowski might even be ahead of him (speaking of Gronkowski, it'd be kind of cool to see the 6'5" figure lined up at fullback, eh?).
Smelley has some good hands and has a relationship with Trent Richardson from their playing days at Alabama. That relationship might have helped him last year, but I don't think it'll carry much weight this year. One benefit for him is that because he was on the practice squad most of 2012, he still has practice squad eligibility this year should the Browns or another NFL team want to stash him there again. Ultimately, I think the numbers game just doesn't work out for Smelley.
Final Roster Odds: 10%
Practice Squad Odds: 30%
The other day, I pointed out that the "Chris Ogbonnaya to fullback" rumors didn't seem to have a source. After reading this article at DraftBrowns.com, there actually is a source: Ogbonnaya himself. We'll see if that continues into training camp or not. The Browns experimented with Ogbonnaya lined up as fullback in the past, but used him more so for quick handoffs rather than a blocker.
Our poll today is black-and-white, plain-and-simple: does Marecic even make the roster in 2013?