One thing that I sit back and ask myself is, "I wonder if fans of other teams discuss their fullback situation as much as we do?" When Pat Shurmur took over, we went over the team's surprising decision to not retain fullback Lawrence Vickers, a guy who had paved the way for a couple of 1,000-yard rushers for the Browns.
Then, the team selected Owen Marecic in the fourth round of the 2011 draft. Marecic barely contributed on offense, and I think some fans formed a negative opinion of him purely due to their frustration with Vickers being let go. Case in point: how many of us are in love with Marecic's possible successor, Brad Smelley, after never hearing of the guy prior to the team drafting him in the seventh round? As the final part of our Offensive Attack series, let's take a closer look at the three fullbacks who are currently on the roster.
1. OWEN MARECIC - STARTING FULLBACK
Did you know that Marecic had a nickname? Probably not, considering he was not a major factor in the offense last year. When Marecic was drafted, the logic behind getting rid of Vickers is that Marecic would be a better fit for the West Coast Offense. In my mind, that registered as, "while Marecic might not be as good of a pure blocker, we're going to throw it to him and give him a good amount of carries too." Wrong. After the season was over, at least I can say I got one thing right: he wasn't as good of a blocker as Vickers.
The team's running game suffered as a whole in 2011. Marecic is not solely responsible for that, but it also doesn't reflect highly on him. The few times he was thrown the ball, he looked pretty awkward trying to catch the ball. He finished the year with 4 carries for 8 yards, and 5 catches for 31 yards. He suffered a concussion, forcing him to miss two games.
Anyway, back to Marecic's nickname. According to running backs coach Gary Brown last year, Marecic's nickname was "Gigabyte," because he retained everything that was told to him. Marecic also seems to be a perfectionist in a way. He weighed about 255 pounds last year, but said that he cut out sweets and fried foods to get down to about 240-245 this offseason in an effort to restructure his body. I think Marecic knows that he doesn't have a starting job locked up, but this could be his time to shine. I think Cleveland is more likely to commit to a fullback with a running back like Trent Richardson, and the offensive line should be improved to make Marecic's job easier. Marecic can't worry about the guy behind him -- he has to remember that he was taken in the fourth round, a pretty high honor for a fullback, and that he will get his chance to be the lead blocking back to start off camp.
Player Quality: C
Final Roster Odds: 90%
2. BRAD SMELLEY - PERSONAL FULLBACK TO TRENT RICHARDSON
How many of you have your Brad Smelley jerseys already? Ever since it was learned that Smelley played in Alabama's offense, and that Richardson reportedly recommended that the team sign him, Smelley has become one of the team's most-talked about seventh-round picks in recent memory.
When the Browns first drafted Smelley, he was listed as a tight end: that's because it's the position he played at Alabama. He's supposed to be a good blocker, but probably not as "tough" as a guy like Marecic is billed to be. Some people have made this out to be "Smelley vs. Marecic," and while you can bet that I'll list that as a training camp position battle (in a later post), each player might end up having very different, distinct roles. If you never read Chris Brown's article at Grantland, which was posted back in January, check it out. It talks about the role that Smelley played in Alabama's offense. Here's a snippet:
Players like Smelley are the key. This ex-quarterback turned tight end is the fulcrum of Alabama's offense. Smelley's numbers won't jump off the stat sheet at you, but if you watch the Tide on offense, you'll see him everywhere on the field. Smelley provides the subtle wrinkles that open up the field for Richardson; his movement creates the slight changes in assignment that can take a simple play and turn it into a game-breaker.
Here is a 30+ minute video with all of the highlights you can ask for on Smelley. This guy seems like a nice role player to have around, even if he's not the guy directly paving the way for Richardson. The reason I'm not ready to crown him the "starter" ahead of Marecic is because he wasn't really an everydown fullback at Alabama, and expecting him to suddenly be one in the NFL seems like a stretch. I think he's more of a threat to take Alex Smith's roster spot.
Final Roster Odds: 60%
Practice Squad Odds: 95% (if he doesn't make the final roster)
3. EDDIE WILLIAMS - BACKUP FULLBACK
Poor Eddie Williams is the afterthought here. With the team already having two fullbacks in camp, both of whom were draft picks by Tom Heckert, it's actually pretty surprising to see Williams still on the 90-man roster. I would not be surprised if the team ends up waiving Williams before the start of training camp to bring in a young player at another position.
Williams has been around the league for a few years. He was originally a 7th round draft pick by the Redskins in 2009. Last year, Williams was signed to Cleveland's practice squad early in the season. After being signed to Seattle's active roster, Cleveland got him back later in the season, adding him to the practice squad again. He made it to the active roster when Marecic got banged up at the end of last year, but didn't register any stats. His reputation is that he is not known as a power blocker, but is another good receiving-caliber fullback.
Final Roster Odds: <5%
Practice Squad Odds: 20%
That concludes our posts on quarterbacks, running backs, and fullbacks for our training camp previews! Next up, we'll start taking a look at the defensive and offensive lines down in the trenches. Before we get to that, let's do another poll: who do you think will be the team's primary blocking fullback for Richardson this season?