While the fullback position has gone somewhat out of style in today’s NFL, the New England Patriots still use it extensively as a part of their offensive attack. This season, however, the spot has seen its fair share of turnover: James Develin was placed on injured reserve with a neck injury and is expected to not be reactivated; the same goes for his replacement, Jakob Johnson, who hurt his shoulder in Week 6 against the New York Giants.
With both the starting fullback and his stand-in out, the Patriots have a hole to fill. Tight ends Ryan Izzo and Eric Tomlinson are the favorites to step into the fullback role moving forward, but the team has also recently brought in three players for free agency workouts (via ESPN Boston’s Mike Reiss). Let’s take a closer look at them:
FB/TE Orson Charles
A fourth-round pick by the Cincinnati Bengals in 2012, Orson Charles has seen action at fullback and tight end over the course of his career — one that saw him play for six different teams and appear in a combined 52 games. Charles spent the 2018 season as a fullback with the Cleveland Browns before joining the Denver Broncos in 2019 as a tight end. He failed to make the team, however, and was released during roster cutdowns. The 27-year-old has been on the open market ever since, and was recently drafted for the new XFL.
FB Ricky Ortiz
After not hearing his name called during the 2017 NFL draft, Ricky Ortiz was picked up by the Baltimore Ravens with whom he spent his entire rookie season. The Ravens parted ways with him the following offseason, however, after he had spent his first year with them on the practice squad. This allowed Ortiz to join the Atlanta Falcons, and he went on to earn his new team’s fullback role: the now-25-year-old appeared in 12 games during the 2018 season as a lead blocker in the running game and a special teamer.
FB George Aston
George Aston was a teammate of Orson Charles in Denver, but also failed to make the team’s 53-man roster this year: the undrafted rookie out of Pitt was released during roster cutdowns after seeing regular action at fullback during the preseason. His production — he caught two passes for a combined seven yards — compared to veteran Andy Janovich led the team to part ways with him, and he has been on the open market ever since. Aston does bring some raw upside and athleticism to the table, but looks like more of a developmental option.