Considering the fullback position has slowly been de-emphasized in the NFL, perhaps it’s no surprise that Auburn’s Jay Prosch picked out a throwback when asked to name a player he respects.
“I always looked up to Mike Alstott,” Prosch said of the former Tampa Bay star. “I never watched a ton of his stuff, but what I saw, he seemed like a hard nosed, get-after-it type of guy. Just an old-school hammer.”
It turns out that’s what some are calling the 6-foot-1, 258-pound Prosch. NFL.com’s Nolan Nawrocki wrote that he is “an old-school, throwback fullback,” an assessment Prosch — who is widely considered to be one of the draft’s few prospects at the position — appreciates.
“It definitely makes me feel good — a lot of stuff I do is kinda old-school football stuff,” Prosch said.
Prosch was a key cog in Auburn’s rushing attack this season, helping open holes for star running back Tre Mason, who rushed 317 times for 1,816 yards and 23 touchdowns in 2013. Prosch reportedly ran a 4.72 40-yard dash during Auburn’s pro day.
But Prosch also knows that you have to do more than just block if you want to make the 53-man roster. Coaches that still use fullbacks, like the Chiefs’ Andy Reid, believes say that their value is tied to their versatility.
“As long as it's not necessarily an extra offensive lineman in people's minds, it gives you a whole lot of flexibility, at least in our scheme,” Reid said. “We're lucky to have a guy we can move around.”
Indeed, Chiefs general manager John Dorsey swiped fullback Anthony Sherman from the Cardinals last season for cornerback Javier Arenas. While Arenas was not retained after the 2013 season, the Chiefs got tons of production out of Sherman, who only received two carries all season but caught 18 passes and was a valuable special-team weapon.
Prosch’s biggest issue is he doesn’t have a ton of tape showing the same kind of versatility. He caught five passes for 95 yards and a touchdown this season and didn’t log a carry. For his career, he logged 11 catches for 115 yards and 14 carries for 47 yards.
But the good news for Prosch is that he does have experience blocking in different types of schemes. At Illinois, where he started in 2010 and 2011, Prosch said he spent time in a more traditional offense. After he transferred to Auburn, Prosch said he spent most of his time in coach Gus Malzahn’s shotgun and run-heavy zone-blocking scheme.
“I feel well-rounded now,” Prosch said. “When I started at Illinois, we had a lot of downhill, iso blocks so it was easier to get a head of steam and you could really see who the bigger man is. But doing Coach Malzahn’s offense, I really enjoyed that, too. I feel like I grew at it.”
Prosch said he also spent plenty of time on special teams in college, including kick return and kickoff, which is another largely mandatory requirement for NFL fullbacks these days.
“That’s something I really enjoyed doing, too, because it gives me a little more freedom than blocking,” Prosch said.
Prosch said the Falcons, Patriots, Seahawks and Texans are the teams that have shown interest so far.
But no matter he winds up, he’ll be eager to show tha he’s a more versatile player than the run-blocking thumper his film suggests. His career, after all, may depend on it.
“But I guess what I want people to see — what I haven’t been able to show is college — is that I’m more than (just) a hammer,” Prosch said.Top five prospects for the Chiefs
•1. Trey Millard, 6-2, 247, Oklahoma
Two-year starter who rushed 17 times for 97 yards and a touchdowns in 2013 before he suffered a season-ending ACL injury in October. Also caught 11 passes for 78 yards and one touchdown. 9 1/8-inch hands.* Did not work out because of ACL injury.
Tore his ACL on Oct. 26. Do-it-all fullback with versatility. Showed comfort as a receiver and also lined up as an H-back and tight end at times. Blocking is adequate, doesn’t hammer people but generally does his job. Good hands. Shows good speed for a fullback — reportedly ran in the 4.65 range before his injury. Delivers some big hits on special teams.
•2. Jay Prosch, 6-1, 256, Auburn
Four-year starter who did not record a carry in 2013. Caught five passes for 95 yards and a touchdown. Transferred from Illinois after his sophomore year because of his mother’s illness. Is 21 years old. 10-inch hands. 4.72 40-yard dash. 27 bench reps. 32-inch vertical. 109-inch broad jump.
Helped pave the way for Auburn’s prolific rushing attack in 2013. Big body who moves well on his feet. Impressive timed speed for a fullback, looks like a good athlete. Has experience in man and zone blocking schemes and has contributed on special teams. Is very strong and can move people when he locks on but doesn’t always sustain blocks. Not a ton of experience as a receiver but the height-weight-speed combination is very intriguing.
•3. Ryan Hewitt, 6-4, 246, Stanford
Three-year starter and converted tight end who rushed for five times for eight yards in 2013. Also caught nine passes for 46 yards. Is 23 years old. 9 14-inch hands. 4.87 40-yard dash. 33-inch vertical. 109-inch broad jump. 7.04 three-cone drill. 4.35 20-yard shuttle. 11.86 60-yard shuttle.
May be more of an H-back type because of his height, but he’s primarily been a blocking back in Stanford coach David Shaw’s West Coast offense. Wasn’t a factor in the passing game as a senior, but he caught 34 passes as a sophomore so he’s shown the ability to be a threat in the passing game. Occasionally flexed out wide. Can block on the move and wall off defenders but doesn’t show overpowering pop on contact. Good acceleration out of a three-point stance. Big frame probably limits his ceiling as a runner. Contributor on kickoff return in college.
•4. J.C Copeland, 5-11, 271, LSU
Two-year starter who rushed 13 times for 25 yards and three touchdowns in 2013. Also caught four passes for 31 yards and zero touchdowns. Is 22 years old. 10-inch hands. 4.95 40-yard dash. 23 bench reps. 28 1/2-inch vertical. 111-inch broad jump. 7.68 three-cone drill. 4.58 20-yard shuttle.
Is perhaps a bit too heavy for his size but has intriguing bulk, nonetheless. Moves fairly well and shows some power as a runner. Has committed silly penalties in the past and only has seven career receptions. Is a strong and willing blocker, though he doesn’t always sustain blocks. Could have potential as a lead blocker and short-yardage runner due to his size and strength.
•5. Chad Young, 5-9, 238, San Diego State
Three-year starter who rushed 22 times for 115 yards and three touchdowns in 2013. Also caught 15 passes for 70 yards and one touchdown. 8 3/4-inch hands. 4.8 40-yard dash. 34 bench reps. 34-inch vertical.
Former walk-on who turned himself into a player. Short, squatty and powerful with quickness. Aggressive, feisty and relentless — gives great effort as a blocker and shows some pop at the point of attack. Was a goal-line threat as a runner. Has worked to become a decent receiver. Lack of size means longer pass rushers can give him trouble. Should contribute on a special teams.
*All evaluations and rankings are based largely on multiple draft profiles ― thanks to NFL.com, ESPN.com, CBSSports.com and DraftNasty’s 2014 NFL Draft Manual ― in addition to interviews with draft analysts mixed with the author’s own opinion. Measurements and testing results are from the combine and pro days, according to the resources listed above.