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Rating the fullbacks

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A conference-by-conference look at the top senior NFL fullback prospects.

ACC

Michael Cox, Georgia Tech – A stocky, lead-blocker type who helped lead the way for Tashard Choice to become one of the top rushers in the league the past two years. Cox is a good secondary option as a receiver, but does not show great ball skills. Has the size to serve as a short-yardage blocker, but will have to stand out on special teams and show better durability and toughness as a blocker to make it at the next level.

Big East

Owen Schmitt, West Virginia – Schmitt has a great combination of size, strength and receiving skills out of the backfield. He could create matchup problems if motioned around the offense. His size sometimes works against him. He is not always the best short-yardage runner as he can get too tall coming through the hole. Overall, he could be viewed as a versatile prospect who can run, catch, block and line up at several spots, including fullback and H-Back.

Big Ten

Dionte Johnson, Ohio State – The son of former NFL linebacker Pepper Johnson, Dionte followed in his father's footsteps by being named one of three team captains as a senior. He is a pure "Head Knocker" who at 5-foot-11, 242 pounds bullies opposing defenders at the line of scrimmage and shows good feet and balance for a player of his size. Has the ability to catch the ball, runs hard when given the chance and is also a very effective special teams player. Johnson has some very good pedigree as his godfather is former Ohio State All-American fullback Keith Byars.

Justin Valentine, Minnesota – Valentine is a third-year starter for a team that has always had a successful ground attack. He is a proven blocker with good strength at the point of attack, while also showing the ability to be an effective red-zone threat. He has scored 13 career touchdowns. An under-rated prospect at this position, he could impress in the postseason thanks to his better-than-advertised athleticism and speed.

Big 12

Chris Alexander, Texas A&M – The 5-11, 248-pound lead blocker nicknamed "Thumper" has developed into one of the better players at his position over the past two years. He produced either a first down or touchdown on more than 50 percent of his touches as a junior, but he is primarily viewed as a lead blocker for the next level.

Brandon McAnderson, Kansas – McAnderson has taken over as the team's primary lead rusher with the loss of Jon Cornish to the CFL. But his size would indicate a move to either fullback or one-back at the next level.

Pac-10

Michael Pitre, UCLA – He was the best player at his position in this conference entering the season, but has yet to play a down due to a left knee injury. Pitre has done well with the ball in his hands in the past, but will have to either return to the field for the second half of the Bruins' season or possibly opt to redshirt so he can prove to scouts that he is back to full-strength.

SEC

Peyton Hillis, Arkansas – One of the most versatile offensive players in the country. Has exceptional hands out of the backfield as well as being a solid runner and blocker no matter where he lines up. He is a well-built athlete who shows more quickness and acceleration than expected for a 6-2, 242-pounder. Has been banged up at times during his college career, but teams that are looking for a productive secondary option out of the backfield will go hard after Hillis.

Jacob Hester, LSU – The former fullback turned running back has taken the lead back spot for the Tigers seriously. He has proven to be a more polished runner than most expected. Hester is likely to be evaluated as more of a combo or one-back as he has size, good acceleration in the open field and has run through tacklers. He lacks the ideal skills of a true fullback, but could be a positive fit for a West Coast-style offense.

Carl Stewart, Auburn – An interesting athlete for this position, Stewart runs very well for his size (235 pounds), but continues to show improvement in the other facets of his game. Under-rated because the SEC is full of strong fullbacks, but his all-around athleticism and straight-line speed for his size warrant a closer look come the postseason.

OTHER CONFERENCES

Adam Ballard, Navy – Ballard has been used as more of a runner than pure lead blocker in the Middies' option scheme. But he has the strength and ability to get the job done when asked to drop the helmet on opposing defenders. It is difficult for players in this style offense to convert over to the pro game, plus he has a two-year service commitment. But he has good size (6-0, 235 pounds) and his effectiveness when the ball is in his hands would make him a strong fit for a team that uses a West Coast-style offense. Ballard is a better athlete and overall prospect than former Midshipmen fullback Kyle Eckel, who has spent time in the NFL with the Miami Dolphins.

Rolly Lumbala, Idaho – A Canadian native who learned the game while attending the Jim Barker School of Football in Calgary. Lumbala has matured into a solid all-around fullback. He has also shown some good ball skills, but still needs to work on becoming more of a firm blocker at the point of attack. He tends to push/shove guys rather than bowl them over.

Michael Viti, Army – One look at the 5-10, 245-pound Cadet makes you realize why opposing defenders have grown to respect his skill set and why the Army staff raves about him as both a blocker and team leader. He started to see the ball a little more as a junior, but is back to doing what he does best this season; block. Pro scouts have some concern about the health of his knees, but this kid has a great attitude and will not fail to impress if given a free-agent opportunity.

Nick Cleaver, New Mexico State – He currently plays mostly tight end for the Aggies, but is listed as being larger than reality on the team's roster. His true dimensions would make a move to fullback/H-Back ideal, thanks to his ability as a receiver. He will never be a front-line blocker, but could find his way into being a steady performer at a hybrid H-Back type role.

Doug Jones, Cincinnati – Easily the largest guy on this list as the 6-3, 265-pounder has made the full-time conversion from tight end to the backfield. He moves well enough for a player of his size, gives a good effort level on his blocks, but will fall off and struggles with getting downfield at times. Jones has some experience at snapping for field goals and extra points.

SMALL SCHOOL PROSPECTS

Jerome Felton, Furman – The highest-rated fullback prospect heading into the fall, Felton has not disappointed. Most believe that his skill set calls for him to be more of a one-back than a traditional fullback. He gained 74 yards on 20 carries against Clemson, but fumbled twice in an upset loss to Hofstra. Has the ability to pound the ball between the tackles, but shows impressive balance, quick feet and natural vision as a runner. He scored 23 touchdowns as a junior, but his blocking/receiving will be closely monitored in the postseason.

Brad Listorti, Massachusetts – A Rutgers transfer who has missed the start of this season with a back injury. Listorti has been one of the most productive tight ends since arriving last season; catching 38 passes for 604 yards. But he is just over 6-2 and about 245-250 pounds, so a transition to being more of fullback/H-Back is ideal. His injury status could lead to him applying for an extra year of eligibility, but he already used a redshirt season while at Rutgers.

Daryl Jones, Norfolk State – A former fullback who has become his team's primary rusher this season. He runs low, hard and his improved conditioning has seen him acquire a burst that was not always visible on game film in previous years. The 5-10, 245-pounder's stock is currently on the rise.

Blake Martin, Sam Houston State – Martin is another in the line of under-sized tight ends who will be evaluated in the postseason as fullback/H-Back types. He has good hands and has been timed in the 4.6 range at just over 6-1, 235 pounds. His ability to gain yards after the catch will certainly help gain him fans among area scouts. He will need to prove he can line up and block from the backfield. Martin resembles Casey Cramer, who has spent time in the NFL with both Tampa Bay and Tennessee.

Stuart Frazier, Nebraska-Omaha – A virtual unknown, but Frazier has the perfect skill set for teams still employing an old-fashioned smash-mouth, lead blocking fullback. Smart, aggressive and with the ability to take short-yardage carries and catch the ball out of the backfield. He has very good upper-body strength as part of a well-developed 5-11, 245-pound frame. Has potential at the position and shows the intensity and attitude to also be successful on special teams.

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