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Jets need a dedicated fullback to use in 2017

Aug 19, 2016; Landover, MD, USA; New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith (7) hands off to fullback Tommy Bohanon (40) against the Washington Redskins during the first half at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 19, 2016; Landover, MD, USA; New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith (7) hands off to fullback Tommy Bohanon (40) against the Washington Redskins during the first half at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
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The New York Jets had no fullback on the roster in 2016 and occasionally struggled in the blocking department. They need to incorporate one in John Morton‘s offense this upcoming season.

Similarly to the tight end position, former New York Jets offensive coordinator Chan Gailey refused to use a fullback in his spread offense. Whether it was for their lack of speed, versatility or another reason, it did the team no good. Run blocking at times became an issue and Bryce Petty had a hard time staying off the turf. If you find the right fullback, they can even make an impact on special teams. Gang Green chose not to pursue that type of player.

With how bad the tackle position was in 2016, it’s a head-scratcher why they didn’t look for that extra blocker. Ryan Clady missed eight games with a torn rotator cuff while Ben Ijalana struggled in his place. Right tackle was no different. Brent Qvale never got in a groove, Breno Giacomini might as well have sat out the entire year and Brandon Shell was too raw early on. They needed that insurance blocking in the backfield.

New York has a chance to get that insurance in free agency or even in the draft this offseason. With Kyle Juszczyk, Patrick DiMarco and Mike Tolbert off the board, Zach Line highlights the best of the remaining fullbacks without a home. Line spent the last four seasons in Minnesota leading the way for future Pro Football Hall of Fame running back Adrian Peterson. He didn’t block for him in 2016, but his campaign was still impressive nonetheless.

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He earned a 75.9 overall grade on Pro Football Focus, which ranked 13th out of 18 fullbacks who received at least 100 snaps. He earned a run blocking grade of 74.1 and a pass blocking grade of 73.1. His career stats aren’t too shabby either. He has 13 carries (most of which were at the goal line) for 25 yards and two touchdowns along with seven receptions for 103 yards and a touchdown. In third or fourth and short situations, he’s the kind of guy who can come through.

The other quality fullbacks still on the market are Jerome Felton, Marcel Reece, and Will Tukuafu. Felton played the fifth-highest number of snaps in 2016 with 322 and PFF gave him a 78.7 overall grade. Reece joined Seattle late in the year and saw 93 snaps. He earned a 71.6 overall grade. Tukuafu also spent his previous season with the Seattle Seahawks and played 48 snaps. Unlike the other three, the Oregon graduate was actually given a bad overall grade (48.5).

If Gang Green chooses to draft someone in the later rounds, there are three prospects who should go in the last three rounds. According to CBS SportsSam Rogers of Virginia Tech is projected to go in the fifth, Freddie Stevenson of Florida State in the sixth or seventh and Nate Iese of UCLA in the seventh. Stevenson appears to be the most intriguing of the three. He racked up 24 bench press reps and ran a 4.75 40-yard dash at the 2017 NFL Combine. The Jets wouldn’t be crazy to take the Seminole with their seventh-rounder. There’s a good chance he’s available at 224th overall.

Next: The ongoing search by the Jets for a new quarterback

General manager Mike Maccagnan needs to go out and get a fullback. Matt Forte and Bilal Powell can’t do everything on their own and let’s not forget about pass blocking. Whoever is under center for New York needs as much protection as possible. With the way things look right now, that guy will probably be Bryce Petty or Christian Hackenberg. For one of those youngsters to stay calm, a fullback has to be there to pick up the blitz. We’ll see soon enough if they decide to grab one.

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