What role will fullback play in KC’s offense under Brian Daboll?

Posted Apr 2, 2012

After using a traditional fullback in Cleveland, Daboll opted for a versatile H-back in Miami last season

Le’Ron McClain arrived in Kansas City to much fanfare when he signed a one-year free agent deal with the Chiefs last summer.

Fans hoped that acquiring the fullback would provide a quick fix to the team’s short-yardage rushing woes and add another capable ball carrier to the backfield rotation.

Even though Kansas City led the NFL in rushing in 2010, the Chiefs finished 32nd in the league on third-and-one conversions. In addition, the Chiefs ranked 31st in converting third downs of four yards or less.

McClain’s addition would also save a roster spot, combining the blocking ability of Mike Cox with the versatility of Tim Castille from the season before. His overall skill set was something the team hadn’t seen from the fullback position since Tony Richardson left for Minnesota following the 2005 season.

McClain’s role, however, ended up being an inglorious component in Kansas City’s rushing attack. Even with the loss of Pro Bowl RB Jamaal Charles to a season-ending knee injury, McClain totaled just 29 touches (15 rushes and 14 receptions) in 16 games with the Chiefs.

Less than a year after acquiring McClain, more questions surround Kansas City’s fullback position than before his arrival.

For starters, McClain is gone. He’ll now square off against the Chiefs twice a year after signing a three-year free agent deal with the Chargers.

The only fullback currently under contract is seventh-round draft pick Shane Bannon, who spent most of his rookie season injured on the team’s practice squad.

But outside of inexperience and a shortage of bodies, the bigger question surrounding Kansas City's fullback situation is how new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll plans to utilize the position moving forward.

In Miami, Daboll opted for a hybrid fullback in rookie Charles Clay last season.

Athletic and versatile, the Dolphins aligned Clay in the slot and out of the backfield after selecting him in the sixth-round out of Tulsa. He finished his rookie season with 16 catches for 233 yards and three touchdowns, but did not record any carries.

In Cleveland, Daboll opted for a traditional fullback.

Daboll inherited Lawrence Vickers, a former sixth-round pick of Romeo Crennel, when he arrived in Cleveland. Vickers rarely touched the football under Daboll – just 17 touches in 32 games – but he effectively bulldozed running lanes for a Cleveland rushing attack.

Chiefs fans remember Vickers as a one-man wrecking crew in the Browns’ record-breaking rushing day at Arrowhead Stadium in 2009. Cleveland rolled up 351 rushing yards in Kansas City, including a 286-yard rushing day from Jerome Harrison that broke Jim Brown’s franchise record set 48 years prior.

Though Cleveland’s offense was inconsistent from 2009-10, Vickers’ ability to pave a clear path was constant.

New Chiefs RB Peyton Hillis bullied his way for a career-best 1,117 yards running behind Vickers in 2010.

Vickers was the lead blocker last season for Arian Foster in Houston with the Texans averaging  153.0 yards per game on the ground.

The question remains: What does Daboll prefer in Kansas City?

Will he opt for a fullback he can move around and use to scheme opponents, or will he look for an I-formation bruiser?

With backfield touches dispersed between Charles, Hillis and Dexter McCluster, Kansas City’s fullback is likely to play an anonymous role carrying the football. Unless, of course, Hillis aligns in front of Charles and/or McCluster from time to time.

But regardless of how uncelebrated the role of Kansas City’s fullback might be, it remains an important part to the success of the offense.

Whether it’s finding a veteran bruiser, drafting a hybrid rover, watching Bannon develop in his second season or taking a flier on a college free agent, the future at fullback bears watching in Kansas City.

Top-Five Free Agent Fullbacks Remaining (

Ahmard Hall | 5'11” | 241 pounds | UFA - Tennessee
A Six-year NFL veteran, and former Marine sergeant, Hall has spent his entire career in Tennessee. He was the lead blocker for Chris Johnson's 2,000-yard season in 2009.
Jacob Hester | 5'11” | 235 pounds | UFA - San Diego
A former college tailback, Hester is a versatile fullback who can carry and catch the football when called upon. San Diego is likley to turn to Frank Summers, a more traditional fullback, and/or Le'Ron McClain next season. 
Moran Norris | 6'1” | 250 pounds | UFA - San Francisco
At 33 years old, Norris is nearing the end of his NFL career. However, he has been successful as Frank Gore's long-time lead blocker. A leg injury cost Norris his starting job to rookie Bruce Miller last season.
Owen Schmitt | 6'2” | 245 pounds | UFA - Philadelphia
Hard-nosed lead blocker has the mentality of a fullback, but saw his role decrease in Philadelphia last season. Began his college career at Wisconsin-River Fall, the former training camp site of the Chiefs.
David Johnson | 6'2” | 260 pounds | RFA - Pittsburgh
More of an H-back than a traditional fullback, Pittsburgh tendered Johnson at a low level. Originally a seventh-round pick out of Arkansas State, Johnson started all 16 games for the Steelers last season.

Top-Five Fullback Prospects (Pro Football Weekly)

Bradie Ewing | 5'11” | 241 pounds | Wisconsin
Comes from a pro-style offense, is intelligent and carries good work habits. Rarely touched the football for the Badgers. Projects to be a 5th or 6th round pick. Has special teams experience.

Alfred Morris | 5’10” | 222 pounds | Florida Atlantic
A college tailback, but projects as a versatile fullback at the NFL level. Rushed for 3,529 yards in collegiate career. Could be an asset in pass protection. Projects as a 6th or 7th round pick.

Cody Johnson | 5’11” | 260 pounds | Texas
Served as a "big back" for the Longhorns, but projects as a fullback in the pros. Best college season came in 2010 when he rushed 134 times for 592 yards with 6 TDs. Projects as a 7th round pick or college free agent.

Chad Diehl | 6’1” | 257 pounds | Clemson
Old-school fullback saw just six touches over 57 games at Clemson. Has the size and mentality to play fullback in the pros. Projects as a 7th round pick or college free agent.

Ryan Houston | 6’1” | 245 pounds | North Carolina
Cleared of the NCAA/UNC investigation after five games in 2010, but took a redshirt to play as a senior in 2011. Effective power back in short-yardage situations, tallying 397 carries for 1,482 yards at UNC. Projects as 7th or CFA.

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