Luke Stocker is a fullback, and also a tight end. As anticipated way back when the Falcons first signed him, Stocker’s going to be somewhat of a chess piece for Dirk Koetter’s offense in 2019, even if he doesn’t exactly bring the pop and fizz you’d expect from someone with that title.
For Stocker, it’s going to be all about positional versatility. One of the major issues with fullback usage in 2019 is that unless you have a particular skilled option who can be a threat as a runner, or you’re just a fan of having an extra blocker on the field to be tricksy, having that position on the field generally indicates a run. It’s fine to tip your hand a bit that way if you can simply overpower teams, but the Falcons probably still aren’t there even after their offensive line upgrades, especially after a solid but unspectacular season of limited usage for Ricky Ortiz at fullback.
Stocker can potentially change that, if Koetter and Stocker follow through on what they say his role will be in Will McFadden’s piece linked above.
“If the defense has a hard time understanding what my role is they don’t know how to call the play,” Stocker said. “They don’t know what personnel to put it, they don’t know if I’m in the game are we going to be in a two-back run system or a two-tight end system. That can cause problems for them.”
That confusion isn’t going to lead to broken plays all that often or anything, but leaving a defense guessing is never a bad thing. Stocker’s a solid enough receiving option and a plus blocker, which means that the Falcons can line him basically wherever they like and there’s no way to be absolutely certain what play they’ll be running. If Koetter’s feeling frisky, that might mean we get Stocker lined up in front of Devonta Freeman and running a route, or even the rare but enjoyable Stocker carry out of the backfield. The possibilities are...well, not endless, but there’s plenty of them.
Big picture-wise, the team’s plans for Stocker means he’s likely to be a pretty prominent part of the offense, and it makes it very likely he’s the team’s de facto second tight end. That leaves multiple players, including last year’s #2 and #3 Logan Paulsen and Eric Saubert, fighting over one or two positions on the depth chart. If the team elects not to keep a true fullback—and they should elect to do that, given that Qadree Ollison is also hanging around with some pretty excellent blocking skills for a rookie—they may well keep four tight ends, so don’t count out anyone just yet.
What is clear is that the Stocker signing will be a key one for an offense the Falcons are hoping will be among the league’s best in 2019. If he’s up to the task and the offensive line is as good as it can be, given the talent on hand, they might just do it.