Who is the best player to wear number 47 in the history of the Cleveland Browns?
The countdown to the 2020 NFL season is upon us. With 47 days remaining until the Browns season opener, we continue the countdown by celebrating the best Cleveland Browns player to ever wear number 47: Lawrence Vickers.
Lawrence Vickers was selected by the Cleveland Browns in the sixth round of the 2006 NFL draft out of the University of Colorado. Most players of the modern age of football are converted from tailback or tight end to become a fullback, but not Vickers. Vickers was one of the last of a dying breed because he played fullback throughout his entire collegiate career.
Vickers was drafted to compete with the incumbent starter at fullback and six-year NFL veteran, Terrelle Smith. It is extremely uncommon for teams to carry two fullbacks on their active roster, but Vickers was able to display enough value that the Browns did just that. Although Smith did not lose his starting roster spot, Vickers was active for all 16 games.
The rookie backup fullback was a key contributor on special teams, registering five solo tackles as well as returning five kickoffs for 84 yards. Vickers also started one game at fullback at the end of his rookie season. He had shown the Browns’ coaching staff enough for them to believe he could be the starting fullback, and they let Smith hit the free-agent market.
The 2007 season signaled a commitment to the running game. The Browns drafted the top offensive tackle in the draft, Joe Thomas, picked up the top free-agent guard, Eric Steinbach, and signed free-agent, and former Browns’ killer, Jamal Lewis. With the Browns upgraded left side of the offensive line and Vickers as his lead blocker, Lewis enjoyed a career resurgence.
Lewis rushed for 1,304 yards and nine touchdowns in 2007. On top of his lead blocking efforts, Vickers proved to be an effective receiver out of the backfield. The second-year fullback hauled in 13 passes and scored two receiving touchdowns.
With the same offensive unit returning in 2008, the expectations to win were the highest they had been since the Browns returned in 1999. Unfortunately, the Browns fell short of those lofty expectations. The running game was not completely derailed in 2008, as Lewis eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark by a grand total of six feet.
2009 marked a head coaching change for the Browns as they moved on from Romeo Crennel and brought in another former Patriot assistant, Eric Mangini. The prevailing thought was that Mangini would employ a ball-control offensive scheme with a power running game to aid his defense. Although Vickers started nine games, the shift had begun to use a second tight-end as an H-back to replace traditional fullbacks.
In 2010, the Browns went to more single back sets with three wide receivers and the necessity of using a fullback was decreased immensely. This shift in offensive philosophy spelled the end for Vickers in Cleveland. After the season, the Browns did not offer Vickers a contract and he signed with the Houston Texans.
Vickers will be remembered for his blue-collar work ethic and doing the dirty work during his time in Cleveland. Although the number 47 does not have a lengthy history of success in Cleveland, Vickers was the best number 47 in Browns’ history.