Can the Cleveland Browns find the answer to one of the most important roles in head coach Hue Jackson’s offense? Clemson’s Jordan Leggett may hold the key.
Hue Jackson’s offense utilizes the H-back role, which is usually filled by a player who is fast enough to evade linebackers, big enough to be mismatches against safeties, and tenacious enough to be an effective blocker in the run game.
This player plays the hybrid role by lining up all over the field. They can line up as a wide receiver, inline in a traditional tight end set, in the backfield as a running back, or behind the tight end in the traditional H-back formation.
The emergence of spread type offenses in college and their bleeding into the NFL have created the need for a dynamic player to fulfill this role, and Jackson’s offense made significant use of this role during his time in Cincinnati.
However, his first season in Cleveland was marred by continual search for the right H-back.
In the 2016 NFL Draft, the Browns looked to secure the H-back role by drafting Seth DeValve from Princeton. At 6-foot-3 and 245 pounds, DeValve is big enough to play the H-back role in the NFL. His SPARQ score was the highest among tight ends, meaning DeValve has the athleticism to play the position.
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However, size and athleticism must translate into production on the field, which did not happen in 2016.
Mid-season the Browns brought in Dan Vitale to help secure the H-back role. Vitale played the Super Back role at Northwestern which is their name for the H-back role. Vitale had the fourth highest SPARQ score of any running back in the draft.
Vitale’s performance in the 2016 season was average, as his greatest asset was his effectiveness as a blocker at the H-back position. Although not highly effective, it was better than the other options available.
Working against Vitale is his height and weight and he will need to get bigger to be the longterm solution at the position.
Which leads to the ultimate question, can the Browns find a “pro-ready” H-back in the 2017 NFL Draft? One possible solution to the position could be Clemson’s Jordan Leggett.