Finishing off our series on running backs heading into Cleveland Browns training camp, we now take a look at the competition at the fullback position. It might be just a one-man competition, but Danny Vitale will still be fighting for his spot.
1. Danny Vitale - Only Fullback on the Roster
Height: 6-1 | Weight: 239 lbs | Age: 23
Experience: 2 years | College: Northwestern
The Browns’ primary fullback to begin last season was Malcolm Johnson. After a pretty terrible rookie season, he rebounded with a decent training camp in 2016 and was less mistake-prone by the time the regular season came around. However, the Browns’ front office had their eye on a different fullback in Vitale, a 6th round pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Vitale was on the Buccaneers’ practice squad until mid-October, when the Browns signed him to their active roster. Two weeks later, they waived Johnson, making Vitale the team’s new primary fullback by default. In 9 games with Cleveland, Vitale caught 4 passes for 27 yards. Fullbacks tend not to produce a lot of stats, but Vitale is viewed as a good receiver at the position -- someone who defenses could forget about in situations to where he can pick up a key first down every so often. That’s why it was so unfortunate when this happened:
Dan Vitale is happy RG3 scored, but he'll still have nightmares about this. #Browns pic.twitter.com/hPA7L45pYW— Scott Patsko (@ScottPatsko) December 11, 2016
Despite that misfortune, Vitale, along with some members of the Browns’ coaching staff, believe the fullback can be their version of Kyle Juszczyk, the former Raven who signed a big free agent deal with the 49ers this offseason:
“I had this discussion with Coach Hue and with [running backs] coach Kirby [Wilson], and I think we all kind of decided I can be that Juszczyk-type guy if I do what I’m capable of doing. He’s a guy I’ve looked at since his first year in the league and watched what he’s done, how far he’s come. He’s really exciting to watch, and there’s a reason he was a Pro Bowler and he’s getting paid now. He’s a guy I watch religiously.”
Vitale also talked about last season’s dropped touchdown in the rest of the interview. One of Vitale’s offseason goals was to put on a few more pounds to help “move some defenders a little more.” Vitale would seem to have the fullback position locked up, but we also have to remember that last year, head coach Hue Jackson tended to only use the position for 10-15 snaps per game.
Final Roster Odds: 90%
It’s tough to come up with a poll when there is only one player at the position, but I took a stab at one below.
How often do you think Hue Jackson should use a fullback?
This poll is closed
About the same as last year (10-15 snaps per game)
More than last year (around 20 snaps per game)
We don’t even need to carry a fullback on the roster.