I was trying to come up with a clever title and just decided, screw it, and went with the generic title. While poking around the Internet this morning, I came across another 49ers blog called 49ers Locker. They're providing "projected grades" for the 2008 season position by position, and over the weekend they addressed fullback. They projected a C for the season in large part due to the position's lack of use in the Mike Martz offense.
So the question becomes what will happen with the fullback position and how many guys will be kept? In the initial 53-man projection we did, Moran Norris was the only fullback we kept. However, the OTAs have me wondering what will end up happening at that position. I looked back over Matt Maiocco's OTA reports and he had some interesting comments. During the practices open to the media, Zak Keasey received most of the first-team snaps. At the same time, when discussing the role of the fullback in Martz's offense, it's clear that some of the FB responsibilities are filled by the tight ends and H-backs. After OTAs were completed, MM went through the roster and when addressing fullback said:
Fullback: Moran Norris has been the starter. But how much will Martz utilize the fullback? Probably not much. Might the 49ers go with Zak Keasey ahead of Norris? We already know the 49ers plan to use Frank Gore and Michael Robinson together in the backfield some of the time. Other times, they can use tight ends Vernon Davis, Delanie Walker and Billy Bajema out of the backfield. Does that make Norris expendable?
Looking at the 49ers roster as it currently stands, there are plenty of guys to fill the necessary roles. Vernon Davis lined up in the backfield quite a bit last season and the coaches have stated they'll use Michael Robinson in the same backfield as Frank Gore at times. While any of those options reduces the power running idea a little bit, it gives the offense more flexibility. If you've got a non-fullback in the backfield with Frank Gore or DeShaun Foster you're going to have play the team a little more straight up.
Of all the position battles heading into training camp, this will definitely be one that requires some exhibition games to fully flesh out. I'd be pretty surprised if the team didn't keep a fullback, but I'd also be a little surprised to see them keep more than one.