Rediscovering the Fullback Position

Ben Mason could provide the lead blocking the Bears can use in an outside zone blocking scheme, provided they want to keep using what worked last year instead of switching back to what didn't.
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No lover of real football could look at what fullback Kyle Juszczyk was doing for the San Francisco 49ers in 2019 and avoid saying "my team's gotta get one of those!"

Here was the proverbial sledgehammer pounding into the line and helping linemen open up holes for any part of the three-headed running back group. They made Green Bay's defense look like ants at a Monster Truck Jam during the NFC championship game.

The Bears haven't stocked the fullback position since Michael Burton left in free agency.

They've put tight end J.P. Holtz in the backfield as an H-back at times but their offensive system didn't really utilize an actual fullback.

Guess what?

The Bears could use a fullback now, not a quasi-tight end type. They don't have to actually have one because the outside zone run scheme they're using now can be done with or without a fullback, but who wouldn't like lining up a smasher as lead blocker and what running doesn't like running behind one.

If they're going to stick with the so-called "identity" they found in their running game last year, with outside zone running and bootleg action, then it's something they need to think about adding.

The combination of Juszczyk on the field with tight end George Kittle has been devastating both in the running game and passing game. Two big, mobile men were beating on smaller defensive backs and unsuspecting linebackers.

The Bears could do the same with a big fullback and tight end Cole Kmet on the field.

There is just the guy in this draft who could fill this role if the Bears became serious about adding someone who could cause problems for defenses as a lead blocker out of an I or also out of the slot. He could deliver "wham" style blocks and open the way for some of those shovel passes Nagy likes so much, or simply pile drive on short yardage.

The Bears have been a terrible short-yardage team in recent years and this could help reverse this situation.

It's Michigan's Ben Mason, a 6-foot-3, 254-pound battering ram.

"I like blocking," Mason told reporters covering Michigan early last season. "And they're going to let me block, so that suits my skill."

Football doesn't get more direct than the way he plays.

Mason isn't the downfield receiving threat Juszczyk has been but he can catch the ball and could develop in time.

This was the only fullback invited to the Senior Bowl and he impressed with both his blocking and receiving.

With former 49ers assistant Robert Saleh taking over as Jets coach, it wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility to see Mason turn up in New York in a similar role to how the 49ers use Juszczyk. Maybe he’ll wind up in Detroit and the Bears have to face him twice a season.

There are a few other draft-eligible fullbacks this year and some who could turn up as undrafted free agents. Here are the best of them.

Kylen Granson, SMU

Granson actually played a tight end spot in SMU’s offense but it’s been suggested by scouts he could be a fullback or H-back in the NFL at 6-2, 235. He’s more the size of former Bears tight end Trey Burton and wouldn’t be quite the same type of physical fullback as Mason but does have solid fundmentals as a blocker.

Tony Carter, LSU

This might be a player more along Matt Nagy’s lines. He was a fullback, then moved to tight end. So he offers the best of both. He has displayed good hands and at 6-foot-1, 250 he’s a blocker both for the run and pass. His father, James Carter, actually played fullback as well. And he was a defensive tackle for Georgia Southern in the mid-1980s. Carter is actually fairly fast, too. Without a combine time yet, he’s been projected to run about 4.6 in the 40.

Houston Heimuli, Stanford

You want a real fullback? Stanford’s Houston Heimuli is 5-11, 270. That’s a load. He caught a few passes at Stanford but mainly was the back who blocked for Cameron Scarlett in 2019. Heimuli’s ability to hit in space could make him valuable on special teams, as well as at fullback. He made Mel Kiper’s top five at this position.

Rhamondre Stevenson, Oklahoma

Stevenson is on many boards as a running back at 6-foot, 245 pounds. He runs with real power and banishing him to a lead blocker role would be a waste of talent. He had 665 yards and seven TDs on only 101 rushes last year. He looks definitely like a big back more in the Derrick Henry mold than an actual fullback. Averaged 7.2 yards per carry in college.

Mason Stokke, Wisconsin

What would a list of top fullbacks be without a Wisconsin fullback? The 6-2, 240-pounder had eight receptions last year and three went for TDs. He carried 38 times, many in key short-yardage plays. But Stokke is at his best like Mason is for Michigan – blocking for the run.

Carl Tucker, Alabama

Probably more of a tight end prospect, but many scouts have called him an ideal H-back type at 6-2, 248. Not the fastest for a tight end prospect at a projected 4.86 seconds in the 40. He was really a North Carolina player who had 36 receptions for the Tar Heels, then transferred as a fifth-year senior and played just one game for the Tide.

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