Why The Fullback Position May Be Returning To Detroit

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What Recent Coaching Hires Say About The Detroit Lions Rushing Attack Next Season.


Why The Lions Will Use A Fullback Next Year

As time goes on, we are slowly getting a clearer picture of what the new Lions coaching staff will look like. We have known for a while now that Matt Patricia will be the new head coach, but now some of the other positions are being filled too. According to reports, Jeff Davidson will be the new offensive line coach of the Detroit Lions.

Davidson has been in the NFL for a long time. He started his career as a guard for the Denver Broncos in 1990, and retired with Saints in 1994. In 1995, he was named as an assist coach with the Saints, and he has coached every year since.

Davidson’s most notable work in the NFL is with the Carolina Panthers as an offensive coordinator from 2007-2010 and as the offensive line coach of the Minnesota Vikings from 2011-2015. In those two tenures, his rushing attacks finished top five in the entire NFL six times.

Looking at these teams shows us a lot about what we can expect in Detroit next year. There are many, many differences between what the Lions have tried to do with their rushing game and Davidson’s schemes, but one of the glaringly obvious ones is that Davidson’s rushing offenses have always included fullbacks. The Lions did not have a fullback on their roster in 2017.

From 2007-2009, fullback Brad Hoover started 27 games for the Carolina Panthers. In Minnesota, Davidson’s run block relied heavily on fullback Jerome Felton, who played in 45 games from 2012-2014.

In 2016, Davidson was the offensive line coach for the San Diego Chargers. The Chargers rostered fullback Derek Watt, who played in all 16 games. Last season, Davidson was the offensive line coach for the Denver Broncos. Fullback Andy Janovich played in all 16 games for the Broncos.

If this pattern continues, and Davidson does feel that having a fullback is essential to a good run game, the Lions will have a fullback in 2018.

Free Agent Options

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There are five fullbacks set to become free agents this year, and all are actually really good options. They are:

Anthony ShermanSherman is a fullback for the Kansas City Chiefs. In 2017, he was the lead blocked for star rookie running back Kareem Hunt, who led the NFL in rushing yards. Sherman was the fifth rated fullback by Pro Football Focus.

John KuhnLions fans are probably familiar with Kuhn, who played with the Packers for nine seasons. Besides being a good blocker, Kuhn has rushed for 19 touchdowns in his career, and caught another nine. Kuhn is also excellent in pass protection. Kuhn is 35 years old, so he may lean towards retirement.

Mike Tolbert: Tolbert has the most offensive production of anybody on this list by a lot. In Tolbert’s career, he has ran for 2649 yards and 34 touchdowns. He has also caught another 12 touchdown passes. Tolbert has had a good career, but is an older player and may be past his prime.

Zach Line: While Line has nowhere near the statistical output of Tolbert or Kuhn, he is a fantastic blocker. This season, he was rated as the third best fullback in the NFL by Pro Football Focus.

Derrick Coleman: Derrick Coleman is probably the worst option on this list. He appeared in all 16 games for the Atlanta Falcons this year, but was ranked just the 18th best fullback by Pro Football Focus.

Draft Options

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Many of the options in the draft are extremely versatile players who project to be effective players in the NFL. These players are:

Khalid Hill: Khalid Hill was a fullback for the Michigan Wolverines. He was an extremely versatile player in college, scoring 16 touchdowns in the last two seasons. Hill is a powerful runner who blocks well, and has even played a bit of tight end.

Jaylen Samuels: Samuels is also an extremely versatile player. In his four year collegiate career, he has caught 201 passes for 1851 yards and 19 touchdowns, while also rushing for 1107 yards and 28 touchdowns. Last season, he ran and received effectively while also blocking for running back Nyheim Hines, who had 1113 yards.

Dimitri Flowers: Flowers is a big fullback who can do a little bit of everything. Besides serving as a lead blocker in the excellent Oklahoma Sooners offense, he had 464 receiving yards and five touchdowns last season. Flowers also plays on special teams.

Ryan Nall: Ryan Nall played running back in college, rushing for 2216 yards and 24 touchdowns in three seasons. However, as he goes into the NFL, he is switching his position to fullback. He is a more athletic option to keep an eye on.

Nick Bawden: Nick Bawden is an athletic freak. After playing quarterback in his freshman season, he switched positions to fullback, and will play that position in the NFL. Bawden received an invitation to the Senior Bowl, and is probably the best fullback draft prospect this year athletically.

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