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Undrafted Free Agents and the Running Game

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  • Scott Sheaffer
    I often get too caught up in the physical potential of prospects. That s all we see from this description. Fannin s physical potential is tremendous. He has
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 2, 2011
      I often get too caught up in the physical potential of prospects. That's all we see from this description. Fannin's physical potential is tremendous. He has terrific size and speed for a running back. 5'10 is a good height for RBs. 230 is big. He's got the build to be a power runner and a tough guy to bring down in the open field. Then there's the speed. His speed is excellent. So why wasn't he drafted at all?? Were there off the field issues we haven't heard about? I know Fannin has a history of injuries and fumbles. His speed is comparable to Danny Woodhead's and he's much heavier than Woodhead, BUT he lacks Woodhead's vision and ability to make people miss (from the little I know of Fannin) and Woodhead sometimes shows surprising power for someone of his size. We also know Woodhead is very smart, tough, and has a tremendous determination to succeed and overcome adversity. How does Fannin rate in these areas? For a few years Fannin was touted to be a "break out star," but that never happened in college. I can see all that knocking him down into the lower rounds, but I can't see it knocking him completely out of the draft. Without knowing more, I think he's at least worth a look in camp. If, like Patrick Pass, he lacks the drive or the toughness or some other factor needed for success, the Pats can let him go. He has some similarities to Ridley, the big back the Pats took in the third round just before Ryan Mallet on their back to back third round picks. Without checking though, I think Fannin has shown a bit more as a pass receiver. As Rathman of the 49ers demonstrated in the late 1980s, a big bruising fullback with good hands and route running ability can be an effective weapon in the passing game. My guess is there has to be something really bad here to make teams shy away from Fannin that we just don't know about. At least with Woodhead, you knew why teams mistakenly stayed away. He lacks size and played for a small school. (And I'm thankful that after the Jets brought Woodhead into the NFL and kept him there for a few years, he finally ended up with the Pats.) With Fannin, it's more of a mystery. 

      I know that Pats needed to get younger overall at running back, and they needed someone to step in for Stephen Neal and possibly Logan Mankins (and eventually Light), but with the picks of Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley at RB, Lee Smith at TE, and Marcus Cannon and Nate Solder as offensive linemen, it seems like New England is really looking to gear up the running game. Even though Ben Jarvus Green-Ellis had a 1,000 yard year, and Danny Woodhead made some terrific plays, the Pats didn't have a dominating running game, and the depth was very thin with too many old and brittle backs on the depth chart. There were a couple of games (Cleveland and the Jets in the playoffs) where the defense gave Brady fits by employing a strategy which a first rate running game would have destroyed. The defense backed people off the line of scrimmage and had players sort of milling around crowing the middle of the field. A great running game could have countered that. Our running game wasn't quite good enough, hence we got the long "drive to nowhere" against the Jets. Our running game was good, but a stronger one could have made the Jets and Browns pay for that strategy and knocked them out of it. We often hear that this is a copycat league, so maybe the Patriots are moving preemptively to prevent more teams from getting away with that game plan. If a team used that defensive strategy against the Jets, for instance, I could see the Jets RBs tearing off ten or fifteen yard chunks or maybe even going seventy or eighty yards on one play. Again though, the Pats were showing age and losing players key to the running game anyway. Alge Crumpler provided great blocking, and they need an heir apparent to him as an extra blocking tight end. They needed linemen, and Marcus Cannon might prove to be an absolute beast. They needed younger backs to replace Fred Taylor and Sammy Morris and (maybe Kevin Faulk). As good as Woodhead and Green-Ellis were last year, we really didn't have much behind them on the depth chart.

      Scott Sheaffer

      On Jul 2, 2011, at 7:03 AM, patriotzip@yahoogroups.com wrote Mark Morse:

      RB Mario Fannin Auburn 5’10 230 4.37 – I cannot believe Fannin was not drafted.  
      He reminds me of Patrick Pass, solid build, big and fast with excellent 
      receiving skills.  More of a fullback type that can run between the tackles but 
      also his blocking is near the level of NFL caliber FB.  Had pass receiving 
      streak of 22 games broken this past year.
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