The San Francisco 49ers have the highest-paid fullback in the NFL. Kyle Juszczyk signed a four-year, $21 million contract with the Niners in 2017, surpassing most running backs in salary, and then San Francisco doubled down with a five-year, $27 million contract in 2021. Whereas most teams have all but eliminated the fullback position from the roster, Kyle Shanahan has regularly given 30 catches, a handful of runs, and over 50% of the snaps per season to his highly-prized fullback over the last six years.
It feels like the rest of the league is beginning to trend back in that direction now, but maybe more so by lining up tight ends and receivers in the backfield as blockers and route runners than with contracts directly paid to fullbacks. One such case is the Los Angeles Rams and Ben Skowronek.
The second-year wideout has had a bit of a breakout campaign so far, moving ahead of all receivers not named Cooper Kupp and Allen Robinson in snap count for the Rams. Juszczyk took notice last week, as his teammates on defense were preparing for how to stop L.A.’s offense on Monday night. Including this unknown receiver who seems to be running a lot of plays similar to Juszczyk now, as he told to NBC Sports Bay Area on Saturday:
“I thought it was impressive that a wide receiver lined up in the backfield like that,” Juszczyk said on Saturday. “And then the defensive guys were talking to me about it, ‘Hey they are running all the plays they use with you in them.’ So I checked them out today.”
Juszczyk notes that he didn’t start playing fullback until late in his career at Harvard, after previously being a wide receiver, and then not fully embracing the role until his Senior Bowl week. He notes that the position is more difficult than it looks.
“Everyone takes for granted how difficult it is to be able to enter through the line of scrimmage when you’re not used to doing it,” Juszczyk said. “That’s where when you see a position change with someone playing fullback, that’s where they will struggle the most.”
Seeing Skowronek play like Juszczyk may be a bit of an advantage for the 49ers. But knowing that Skowronek can play a bit like Juszcyk could also be a new advantage for the Rams headed into Monday Night Football.