The continued proliferation of quick-hitting spread offenses results in less than half of the 32 teams in the NFL trotting out a fullback these days. Therefore, good luck to the 14 teams that deploy a true fullback when it comes to finding a collegiate prospect that fits the bill.
Old School Approach
However, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Just look at the New England Patriots. The team hoisted yet another Lombardi Trophy thanks to a grueling and punishing run game. It’s an attack spearheaded by sledgehammer fullback James Develin.
“I think the fullback position has always kind of got the moniker that it’s a dying breed, that it’s kind of on its way out, but I think football is such a matchup game and things work so cyclically,” Develin told Boston.com. “As defenses get smaller and try to stop the passing attack, it kind of leaves them susceptible to, with lighter, faster guys on the field, for a power running game. “I think there’s always going to be a legitimate use for a fullback and I’m just happy to be out there doing what I do.”
Watching the Patriots grind out the yardage in the playoffs — smashing the opposition from beginning to end, effectively — one cannot help envision this is exactly the offense Raiders head honcho Jon Gruden wants.
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Whether it was as a pathfinder on a run, stymieing defenders in pass protection or making an impact on special teams, Develin is willing to answer the bell. The Raiders need someone like that. They hoped to get it in Keith Smith, signed as a free agent from the Dallas Cowboys. Gruden and Co. swung and missed.
Fortunately, for the Raiders, there is a prospect in the draft that dots the I’s and crosses the T’s: Wisconsin fullback Alec Ingold. At 6-foot-2, 242 pounds, Ingold brings a bulldozer mentality to the position like the 6-foot-3, 255-pound Develin. As a linebacker-turned-fullback, Ingold welcomes contact and can sustain it when it counts the most — clock-killing time.
Not many defenses will welcome putting a hat on a not only a hard-charging fullback, but the running back who is sprinting behind him. Even on the rare occasions he does not initiate first contact, Ingold is always looking for work. Ingold is more athletic than casual viewers give him credit for and adds an element Smith couldn’t bring to the Raiders — goal line presence (six touchdowns on 26 carries) and trusty hands out of the backfield (seven TD catches). Having a fullback of Ingold’s caliber allows Gruden to use more I and power formations as opposed to the heavy spread shotgun formations the Raiders deployed.