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How the Chiefs can address fullback as Mike Burton heads to Broncos

Kansas City lost Burton to Denver this offseason, so who will Andy Reid turn to next?

AFC Championship - Cincinnati Bengals v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

It's one of the most underappreciated positions on the roster — that is, unless you ask Andy Reid or Dave Toub.

The fullback plays a limited role on the Kansas City Chiefs offense, primarily in short-yardage situations, plus the occasional wheel route. But fullbacks have traditionally been paramount to the special teams' units — usually playing on all four phases of special teams.

It's also a time-honored annual tradition for Chiefs fans to try and talk themselves into scenarios where the team does not carry a fullback and instead uses the roster spot to build depth elsewhere. Some fans hope that a tight end could fill a dual role. Others wish for a fun hybrid player to join the roster and succeed... but they rarely do.

Learning (or not learning) from our past transgressions, let's examine the options for replacing former Chiefs fullback Michael Burton, who joined the Denver Broncos in free agency.

In-house options

Kansas City Chiefs v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Noah Gray: The Chiefs' tight end room is pretty full, so it could make sense to look at one or more of these guys as potential fullback-tight end hybrid options. Noah Gray did line up in the backfield for Duke sometimes, and he has the necessary effort level to continue developing as a blocker. He's 6'3" and 240 lbs. with relatively short arms, which makes him somewhat smaller for a tight end, but a good size for a fullback. His versatility is one of the main things the Chiefs liked about him.

Blake Bell: "The Belldozer" might be the best in-house option for a fullback hybrid, given his history as a short-yardage runner going back to his quarterback days at Oklahoma. He had 24 rushing touchdowns in 20 games from 2011-12 in college. He's the most skilled in-line blocker in the room and has shown the ability to execute the quarterback sneak in place of Patrick Mahomes. At 6'6", he's taller than your average fullback, but his toughness and willingness to do the dirty work speak for themselves.

Veterans in free agency

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Derek Watt: Watt is, of course, the older brother of T.J. Watt and the younger brother of J.J. Watt. The 30-year-old former Steeler and Charger is a staple on special teams, regularly making tackles on kick and punt coverage. Derek is a versatile player but not dominant at any single thing. In college, he even did a little long snapping. He can win as a lead blocker or as the ball carrier in short-yardage situations. For a fullback, he is a little more on the finesse side. In his seven-year NFL career, Watt has about 250 total yards of offense but has converted 26 first downs and two touchdowns.

Cullen Gillaspia: The 27-year-old former Seahawk, Giant and Texan was a walk-on at Texas A&M as a linebacker but switched to fullback as a senior. In addition to being the starting fullback, Gillaspia was a mainstay on special teams, blocking two kicks, forcing a fumble and recovering another. In the NFL, he's worked on both offense and defense but has had minimal opportunities other than on special teams.

The draft and undrafted free agency

Hunter Luepke: In high school, Hunter Luepke was a state champion wrestler, a three-time all-conference centerfielder on the baseball team, AND a conference champ at the 100M in track. The pride of North Dakota State University would go on to do it all for the Bisons as a ballcarrier and receiver. He was effective in short yardage but not limited to those plays. He showed a legitimate burst and ability to break away as a running back and caught passes down the field like a receiver, lining up at running back, fullback and tight end. Sure, it was the Missouri Valley Conference, but his attitude and ability should translate to a contributor at the NFL level, especially as a pass catcher. He's 6'1" and 234 lbs., ran a 4.56 40-yard dash at his pro day, and — similar to Chiefs linebacker Leo Chenal — Luepke has said, "I like to hit people; I like to bring the violence to them."

Luepke should get drafted on Day 3, perhaps as early as Round 5.

Monte Pottebaum: As with many fullbacks, Monte Pottebaum came into Iowa as a linebacker but converted to fullback. He's got the mullet and the attitude you want out of a fullback. Pottebaum is 6'1" and 239 lbs., and he ran a 4.90 40-yard dash. He's the prototypical old-school fullback who thrives as a lead blocker and short-yardage rusher. He actually averaged 4.5 yards per carry and had seven catches for 48 yards in a very limited Iowa offense, but he only scored one touchdown in his career (back in 2021). Pottebaum should be available as an undrafted free agent.

Jack Colletto: You've heard of the "Belldozer." Meet the "Jackhammer." Colletto did a bit of everything at Oregon State. At 6'3" and 240 lbs., he has all the same traits as the fullbacks mentioned above. He's a great special teams tackler, a tough run blocker and can do just enough with the ball in his hands to make defenses account for him. Between Oregon State and Arizona Western, he was a starting quarterback, then a linebacker and finally a fullback. In his final season with the Beavers, he had 103 yards and six scores on the ground, adding 46 receiving yards. He also had 27 tackles, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Colletto should be a priority undrafted free agent.

Derek Parish: If you've been reading draft guides and profiles, you might see Parish listed as an EDGE, where he's a draftable prospect as a situational pass rusher. But he really should just be listed as a "football player." He's actually hoping to play both offense and defense in the NFL. His transition to fullback didn't really happen until the pre-draft process when he was recovering from a biceps tear. He blew up his pro day with a 4.56 40-yard dash, 6.76 3-cone, 4.09-second shuttle, 27 reps on the bench and 37-inch vertical. He's 6'0" and 241 lbs. and has all of the attitude you'd want from a special teams captain. Oh, and it looks like he might want to wear jersey No. 0, which would be fun now that it's available. Parish could be drafted somewhere around the sixth round.

The bottom line

We should expect the Chiefs to add a fullback or two to compete in training camp (when we can revisit this debate about whether to keep one on the active roster).

My preference would be for them to use one of their 10 draft picks to lock in Derek Parish (who could also really help on defense if they let him) or Hunter Luepke (who could be a Kyle Juszczyk-type as a pro).

It would be well worth the cost to lock in one of these guys for multiple years to give them a chance to carve out a nice role on this team. If they wait for free agency after the draft, they may settle for a more limited player rather than one with the upside of Parish or Luepke.


How do you want to see the Chiefs address fullback?

This poll is closed

  • 19%
    In-house option
    (202 votes)
  • 4%
    Veteran in free agency
    (44 votes)
  • 39%
    Using a pick in the NFL Draft
    (399 votes)
  • 21%
    Undrafted free agency
    (216 votes)
  • 15%
    Stop using a fullback
    (160 votes)
1021 votes total Vote Now

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