When the Detroit Lions reintroduced the fullback position to their offense last year, they brought in Jed Collins to occupy that role. Collins had been in New Orleans with Lions offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi, and considering his scheme is based heavily on the Saints' offense, it was a fairly straightforward transition for Collins. Just generally speaking, bringing him in made a lot of sense.
This year, the Lions went in a different direction by deciding to get younger at fullback. Collins wasn't re-signed this offseason, and he instead briefly joined the Dallas Cowboys before being released. He's now a free agent, and the Lions have two players in the mix to replace him at fullback this year.
Candidate No. 1 for the Lions' starting fullback job is Emil Igwenagu. He joined the Lions toward the end of training camp last year after spending the previous two seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles, and he ended up on the practice squad. Given his ability to play fullback and tight end and contribute on special teams, I'm honestly a bit surprised Igwenagu was never promoted to the active roster at any point during last season, but he came into the offseason as the favorite by default for the starting fullback job.
The outlook of the fullback position changed quite a bit when the Lions spent a fifth-round pick in this year's draft on Rutgers' Michael Burton. He is the other candidate for the starting fullback job, and given that he was actually drafted by the Lions, he's got a great opportunity to win this position battle despite being a rookie. The Lions seem to like Burton's ability to catch the ball out of the backfield and serve as an occasional lead blocker, and he also can contribute on special teams.
Who has the edge right now?
Igwenagu may have gotten some first-team reps last month, but it would be surprising if he beats out Burton for the starting fullback job. Yes, I am basing this entirely on the simple fact that the Lions drafted Burton, but I can't imagine they spent a fifth-round pick on him without having a clear idea of how he will contribute on offense and special teams. That may be unfair to Igwenagu, but he's going to need an incredible training camp to convince the Lions to keep him over Burton.
Previously: Backup quarterback, starting running back, No. 4 running back