Memories flood my head of William Henderson hurdling defenders after catching a screen pass. Or John Kuhn pounding the ball up the middle in short yardage situations. Those are great memories, but it’s been five years since the Fullback position was officially occupied on the Green Bay Packers roster. Their numbers are definitely few in the league today. But I still think one could fit on this roster. So, looking into positions to fill for 2023, what about a Fullback?
I can already see the comment section under this article lighting up. “The Fullback position is extinct” “We don’t need one” “What’s a fullback?”
I get it but hear me out. When Josiah Deguara was drafted, he was kind of labeled a Tight End/Fullback hybrid. For whatever reason, Deguara just has not been utilized as advertised. He’s a pretty good lead blocker and has made some explosive plays on receptions, but just not what you want to see. With Robert Tonyan and Marcedes Lewis seemingly absent in 2023, they might want to test Deguara more at tight end to see if he will be worth a 2nd contract or not after this season. If that’s the case, might they look for a true fullback?
Does a Fullback fit?
Time and time again, we hear about how Matt LaFleur has the same coaching concepts as Head Coach of the 49ers, Kyle Shanahan. Well, on that 49ers offense is Kyle Juszczyk, a fullback who’s made the NFL’s Top 100 Players list twice in the last two years. Juszczyk does it all. Rushing, receiving, run blocking, pass blocking, he’s an animal. 49ers tight end George Kittle has said that Juszczyk fixes plays for the O-line and the Tight Ends before they get broken, he holds the offense together.
With the emphasis that Matt LaFleur puts on every player on the offense doing their part in blocking and helping out regardless of their position, I think a fullback even a little like Kyle Juszczyk could be a must.
I will admit that Aaron Jones does better in space, and perhaps doesn’t need a lead-blocking fullback when running the football between the tackles. But for outside runs and screen passes, it might be beneficial to have a little bit more of an athletic body to help set the edge or clear a path downfield.
AJ Dillon, however, could benefit from that lead blocker out of the backfield. With his smash-mouth style, taking away one less tackle Dillon has to break to get in the secondary could be huge. After failing to improve off his year 2 break-out, perhaps a fullback could be just what AJ Dillon needs to get over the top.
But who could that be?
2023 Fullback Options
There are actually quite a few options that the Packers could have in 2023 if they decide to bring in a true fullback. Keith Smith, Khari Blasingame, and of course former Wisconsin Badger Derek Watt are set to be available come free agency. But none are quite as appealing to me, as Raiders’ fullback, Jakob Johnson.
LaFleur has said he wants to play more physical year after year. Well, Jakob Johnson would let the Packers play bully ball up front. Johnson is a superb blocker and in 2022 he paved the way for the vast majority of Josh Jacobs’ 1,653 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns. Before Jacobs had Johnson plowing the field, he was achieving AJ Dillon-like numbers in the rushing game in a featured-back role. So, imagine AJ Dillon with Jakob Johnson in front of him.
Of course, this day in age, you’re likely to see a Fullback go undrafted. The top ones heading in to the 2023 draft are Hunter Luepke of North Dakota State, and Javon Williams Jr. of Southern Illinois.
Hunter Luepke is of course the higher ranked fullback. He is good with the ball in his hands and is also not afraid of meeting a linebacker in the gap to make a lead block. Javon Williams is somewhat the same but might be a little bit bigger of a body to challenge the NFL level. Either way, both fullbacks could make an impact as late round picks or undrafted free agents.
Whether rookie or free agent, I’d like to see the Packers carry a true fullback. It meets the style of offense I think Matt LaFleur has been leaning towards and will help win football games in December and January.
Greg Meinholz is a lifelong devoted Packer fan. A contributor to PackersTalk as well as CheeseheadTV. Follow him on Twitter at @gmeinholz. for Packers commentary, random humor, beer endorsements, and occasional Star Wars and Marvel ramblings.