MADISON, Wis. — Bradie Ewing just might be the best college player at his position as he prepares to hear his name called in the NFL Draft next week. But in the world of professional football, the value of a fullback differs from that of other, more glamorous positions, meaning Ewing’s name might not be called for quite some time.
Such is life for Ewing, a former Wisconsin standout, who happens to play a position that few teams utilize. Because most of those teams already have a fullback, even fewer teams are willing to take a chance on drafting a new one.
“It kind of varies year to year, and I think last year was a pretty high year for fullbacks more than some drafts,” Ewing said during Wisconsin’s pro day in March. “Typically, I think one goes around the sixth round, maybe one seventh round. Hopefully I’m in that elite group.”
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All indications suggest Ewing will get his wish.
Draft guru Mel Kiper lists Ewing as the top fullback on his big board. According to nfldraftscout.com, Ewing is rated as the third-best. He projects as a sixth or seventh-round pick in the draft, which runs from April 26-28. That means Ewing likely won’t be drafted until the third and final day.
Ewing is simply hoping for an opportunity with any NFL team, even if it comes with the last pick.
“I think once they get through those top-tier players — top 150, 200 players — teams just start grabbing guys they like,” Ewing said. “Once you get past the fourth round, it’s just kind of up in the air and you just hope for the best.”
Last season, the top fullback taken was Stanford’s Owen Mercic, selected by the Cleveland Browns in the fourth round with the 124th overall pick. Arizona chose Connecticut fullback Anthony Sherman in the fifth round (136), Miami took Tulsa’s Charles Clay in the sixth (174) and four others were taken after that.
Since 2000, the highest a fullback has been selected is in the second round at No. 52, when the St. Louis Rams picked Brian Leonard of Rutgers in 2007.
The book on Ewing is that he is a smart, tough, physical player who comes from a pro-style offensive system, which should help his cause in the NFL. However, he is viewed in some circles as a player with marginal value as a rusher and someone who lacks the bulk necessary to consistently block in the NFL. Ewing is 5-foot-11 3/4 and weighs 239 pounds.
According to NFL.com, Ewing “is the beneficiary of a thin fullback crop this year, although there’s growing sentiment that the position is being eliminated from NFL offenses.”
The site describes Ewing as a block-first fullback who will need to play in an offense that intends to use him that way. He’ll also likely be used on special teams — something Ewing realizes going into the draft.
“As a fullback, I think that’s something I have to do just because you only play 20, 25, 30 snaps a game,” Ewing said. “To be able to play on special teams, it’s almost a must to make the roster.”
Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema said during pro day that Ewing needed to place added importance on catching the ball out of the backfield to make his game more versatile. During Ewing’s career at Wisconsin, he caught 28 passes for 328 yards with two touchdowns.
Ewing carried the ball just seven times in his career for 33 yards and two touchdowns, and he didn’t run the ball once as a senior last season.
At this stage, Ewing recognizes he’ll have to do a little bit of everything well to latch on to an NFL team and stay there.
“Just be versatile,” Ewing said about what he thinks it will take to make the league. “Be myself. I think my film speaks for itself. And just continue to do what they ask as far as catching the ball and show, maybe, I can do some running back-type stuff, too. Just show them the type of player I am, and hopefully that’s enough.”