The NFL Position That Everyone's Talking About In 2017
Michelle Bruton of OZY.com looks at an offensive tactic that teams around the league are stealing from Atlanta: the rise of the H-back. First made popular by Joe Gibbs' Washington teams in the 1980s, the H-back is similar to a tight end, but lines up just off the line of scrimmage or even in the backfield and often goes in motion.
Bruton examines how H-backs can be used as blockers in the run game but also as effective targets in the passing game. She makes particular note of Kyle Juszczyk, a fullback who just signed a four-year, $21 million contract with San Francisco. 49ers general manager John Lynch was sure to note that Juszczyk was not a fullback, he as an "offensive weapon." In other words, he won't just be smashing dudes between the tackles, he'll be frequently used as a receiver too.
This kind of thing can be hard to measure, but I thought I'd try and find 2016's top H-backs by taking all players with at least 20 targets out of the backfield, and sorting them by ratio of backfield targets to runs. (Arizona's David Johnson led the league with 76 targets out of the backfield, but with 293 runs, that dude obviously is no H-back.) The result is mainly a list of "receiving backs" more than H-backs, though Juszczyk is way ahead of almost everyone else. It's interesting that two Indianapolis players made the list -- but if Frank Gore is getting all the carries, the Colts' other running backs had to find another way to make an impact. If Bruton is right about this trend growing across the league, this table might look a lot different next year.
|Top "H-Backs," 2016|
|Highest ratio of backfield targets to runs, minimum 20 backfield targets|