Next up on The Falcoholic’s post-draft 2018 roster preview is the fullback group. Normally, this would be a position with perhaps one entrenched veteran and maybe a UDFA brought in for competition or as a camp body. Not this year! The Falcons have signed not one, not two, but three FBs as UDFAs. There’s an intriguing Trey Burton-esque TE that was added, as well.
2017 Production: 6 carries, 10 yards, 1.7 YPC | 2 receptions, 6 yards, 3.0 YPR (college)
The first true fullback that the Falcons added after the draft, Luke McNitt certainly looks the part of an NFL lead blocker. At 6’2, 250 lbs, McNitt has the requisite build of a fullback and demonstrated quality blocking chops at Nebraska. McNitt was a team captain for the Huskers and was named Nebraska’s Lifter of the Year in 2017. At Nebraska’s Pro Day, McNitt managed 26 reps—which would have put him in third among all RBs at the 2018 NFL Combine (Georgia’s Nick Chubb and Penn State’s Saquon Barkley tied for first with 29). He’s an intriguing option that will be right in the mix for the open FB position in Atlanta.
2017 Production: 3 receptions, 34 yards, 11.3 YPR (college)
Another true college fullback, Daniel Marx has a proven track record of blocking for incredibly productive RBs at Stanford—names like Christian McCaffrey and Bryce Love. The 6’2, 245 Marx certainly has the size needed to be a successful blocker at the NFL level. He has also shown some ability to contribute in the passing game, with 11.3 YPR in his final season at Stanford. Marx should be a competitive option in training camp that can also contribute on special teams.
2017 Production: 198 carries, 1027 yards, 5.2 YPC, 12 TD | 8 receptions, 67 yards, 8.4 YPR (college)
Richard is actually not a true fullback, having been the primary RB for Arizona State alongside Kalen Ballage, who was drafted by the Dolphins in the fourth round. The 5’9, 218 pound RB isn’t your typical fullback prospect, as he’s very much on the small side and only posted 12 bench reps at the NFL Combine. Still, Richard was known as a punishing power back in his time at ASU, with pretty solid production during his time as the starter. Perhaps Atlanta can use those talents more effectively in making Richard into an NFL FB. Richard, however, probably faces an uphill battle against two more experienced options in McNitt and Marx.
2017 Production: 7 carries, 28 yards, 4.0 YPC, 2 TD | 39 receptions, 410 yards, 10.5 YPR, 9 TD (college)
Perhaps the most intriguing option, Jake Roh is officially listed as a TE on the Falcons’ roster. The 6’3, 227 Roh is certainly too small to play TE full-time in the NFL, but his true position is more of a versatile “half-back” type role. Think Trey Burton, and you’re on the right track. Roh was a dangerous weapon playing that position for Boise State, where he piled up 9 receiving TDs and 2 rushing TDs during the 2017 season. His blocking chops will certainly need some work at the NFL level, but Roh has interesting potential as a “swiss army knife” type of player in the Falcons’ backfield.
It appears that the Falcons’ FB competition will come down to these four UDFAs, unless Atlanta opts to add a veteran to the mix at some point in the future. That seems unnecessary, as both McNitt and Marx should be able to provide at least competent play as pure blockers. The team also brought in interesting conversion projects like Demario Richard—who could provide some ability as a runner—and Jake Roh, who could be a versatile weapon out of the backfield.
I’d say that McNitt and Marx are the early favorites for the FB position. It’s also possible that Roh manages to squeeze out a role as the 4th TE or 4th RB on the roster, offering some creative blocking and mismatch opportunity. Trusting any starting role to a UDFA in what amounts to their rookie season is a gamble, but it could pay off for the Falcons. It appears that they’ve found some quality contributors that would be significantly cheaper than veteran options—if they can make it work.
What do you think about the FB position after the 2018 NFL Draft? Do you have faith in any of these UDFAs to become a serviceable option at the position this season? Any player in particular you prefer?