The fullback position looms as one of the biggest question marks for the Cleveland Browns offense, as the start of the 2013 NFL season rapidly approaches. Norv Turner and Rob Chudzinski offenses have made great use of traditional fullbacks to get the most out of their power running schemes and there doesn’t appear to be a proven starter on the Browns roster heading into the preseason.
Owen Marecic has seen the majority of the work in his first two NFL seasons but has yet to live up to the billing of the first fullback selected in the 2011 NFL Draft. Disappointing, considering his earlier success in the pro style offense of Jim Harbaugh at Stanford. Many pegged him as NFL ready but he has looked overwhelmed at the pro level. It’s hard to get noticed as a fullback in the NFL, unless it’s in a negative way. For this, Marecic has stood out in his first two seasons with the Browns.
Brad Smelley, on the other hand, was supposed to be a work in progress. Transitioning from the tight end position at Alabama, where the seventh round pick was a reliable target in the short and intermediate passing game, he figures to be the more athletic option at the spot. Though in almost no action with the Browns last season, he caught just one pass for three yards.
It does not bode well for either fullbacks that the Browns just recently went out and signed another backup fullback in Brock Bolen, who spent his first three seasons in Jacksonville and all of last season on the injured reserve list. There has also been speculation that the Browns would kick the tires on recently released veteran Lawrence Vickers. Vickers had a successful run with the Browns blocking ahead of 1,000 yard rushers Jamal Lewis and Peyton Hillis. His time in Cleveland included two seasons in Chudzinski’s offense when he was coordinator of the Browns in 2007 and 2008. Despite the familiarity between Vickers and the organization, nothing has materialized.
One thing you can be certain of is that the Browns will not keep three or likely even two fullbacks when they pare down to the 53 man roster at the start of the season. The preseason will be critical for these three individuals and their hopes for making the Cleveland Browns roster.
Projected starter: Owen Marecic holds the slim edge in potential and a large one in playing time.