New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton uses the fullback more than most NFL teams. Coming into the 2020 season, Payton was looking to replace retired fullback Zach Line. Enter 29-Yr old FB Michael Burton, who had played for three teams in his five NFL seasons before joining the Saints.
Burton is the subject of this Year-in-Review spotlight.
The role of a fullback in today's game is a thankless one, but Burton did it as well as anyone in 2020. He was an important factor on field goal and punt protection squads and was part of a Saints kick coverage unit that was the best in the league. Offensively, Burton only averaged 14 snaps per game and was in on over 20 snaps in just two games, but usually played a vital role when he was in the lineup.
Burton was a road grader for backs Alvin Kamara, Latavius Murray, and Taysom Hill for a New Orleans rushing attack that averaged over 141 yards per game and ranked sixth in the league. Most often used in short yardage and goal-line situations, he was usually an extension of the offensive line for a Saints offense that bullied opponents.
One of the many things that puts Sean Payton among the league's elite offensive minds is the expert use of his complementary pieces. Burton caught all four of his pass targets in 2020, resulting in 28 yards. He also carried the ball a career-high 7 times this season. His rushing total was just 18 yards, but six of his seven runs resulted in a 1st down.
Burton is an unrestricted free agent this offseason, but the market for a fullback in the NFL is usually modest. Michael Burton personifies old-school football, the type of player that does the dirty work that rarely earns headlines. However, opponents can attest to the hard-nosed style that Burton plays, and the New Orleans running backs that earn the headlines know how valuable Burton was paving the way in front of them.