Even the fullback situation heading into this season seems to be in good shape after determining that are quarterback and running back depth were good enough for passing grades. With only two fullbacks on the roster right now (excluding players that are labeled as "tight end" with the potential to double as a fullback), this won't take long.
With Maurice Carthon's playbook out of the way last season, we were able to get a more accurate gauge of Lawrence Vickers' abilities besides what he can do on pitch plays and/or throwing the football.
1. LAWRENCE VICKERS - STARTING FULLBACK
Experience: 2 years
Stats: No passes in '07
When Vickers was taken in the sixth round of the 2006 draft, it wasn't a big deal -- it looked like we attempted to draft our fullback of the future. Two years later, while he's probably not going to earn Pro Bowl status until his name gets out there more, I think it's safe to say that Vickers is definitely good enough to be our fullback of the future. The coaches have always seemed very high on his abilities, but thankfully Rob Chudzinski utilized him more efficiently than Carthon.
Worst Attribute: Short Yardage Situations - Take this complaint with a grain of salt, because in reality, you can't expect a fourth-and-one handoff to the fullback to work every time. That was the case last year with Vickers, who failed to move the chains twice on fourth-and-short when Anderson handed the ball off to him (once versus the Bengals, and once versus the Texans). Also, in a game against the Ravens, he didn't pick up the first down on a third-and-short, leading to a Phil Dawson field goal.
Best Attribute: Versatility - Carthon was on to something with the idea of using Vickers in various ways, rather than a plain old bruiser. However, Carthon's way of utilizing him was drawn up in a Madden game apparently.
Vickers' hands are solid for a fullback, giving Anderson the option to confidently check down to him in the flat. Vickers tallied 13 catches for 91 yards and 2 touchdowns last season. The numbers aren't eye-popping, but with the weapons we have on our team, I'd pleased to see his numbers so low. Vickers is a mismatch in the flat if a defensive back is trying to take him down -- we saw him spin out of a few tackles last season in impressive fashion.
Various Concerns / Comments - Oh, and by the way, Vickers' blocking for Jamal Lewis was good too. Funny how that's what he does 80-90% of the time he's on the field (blocking), and yet his "worst" and "best" attributes were about his other aspects of the game.
Job Security: A+
Player Quality: B+
Final Roster Odds: 100%
2. CHARLES ALI - BACKUP FULLBACK
Call him a backup fullback, but the only thing Ali did on gameday was play special teams. For him to be on the active list a lot more often than Jerome Harrison means that his contributions to the unit were valuable. Granted, that's an unfair comparison because Ali's size is more beneficial for creating a wedge, but I have to bring something up here...
Worst Attribute: Lack of Experience - Vickers goes down. Does Ali have what it takes to lead block for Lewis? I'd get the feeling that we'd bring in and start a player with more veteran experience, or even a guy like Steve Heiden, at fullback before Ali.
Best Attribute: Name - If Ali ever recovers a fumble on special teams and takes it to the house, I think it'd be kind of cool to hear the announcers yell, "Ali with the touchdown!" Especially if it were against the Steelers. Yep. Only in Madden.
Various Concerns / Comments - Obviously, the lack of experience is the big issue. He was a rare undrafted rookie free agent to make last year's club on offense, but that could have simply been due to the fact that we didn't have anyone else better in camp. Fans have raised a lot of questions as to whether or not he'll be brought back this year, but I'd say Darnell Dinkins is more likely to get the boot than him.
Player Quality: D+ (Incomplete)
Final Roster Odds: 50%
FB Position Quality (Overall): B
The Browns have a lot of options when it comes to the backup fullback situation, which is the reason I have Ali with a 50/50 chance of making the club. A few weeks ago, Terry Pluto discussed the very issue of what could happen with the Browns fullback situation, not because the Browns were displeased with Ali, but because it may be an ideal way to acquire another cornerback.
While I don't think Ali has proven enough to warrant a trade, I do believe that Kolo Kapanui could make the roster as the fullback instead, allowing us to rid of both Dinkins and Ali with a guy who can play both positions. Granted, Dinkins can play both positions too, but I was disappointed by a few of the costly penalities he had on special teams last year. Whether they were his fault or not, they stuck in my mind.
NEXT UP: WIDE RECEIVER