In the very last round of the 2018 NFL Draft, the Detroit Lions surprised many by taking a fullback: Nick Bawden out of San Diego State. The move was easily put into perspective, however, when taking the entire draft into account. Earlier the Lions had taken two offensive linemen and a running back in the draft. The Lions were fixing to turn around their long-neglected running game.
“We wanted to add a fullback this offseason and he was a good value at that pick,” general manager Bob Quinn said hours after the draft concluded.
But Bawden won’t have a cake walk onto the Lions’ roster this year as the team’s de facto fullback. It appears the Lions already had a fullback on their roster.
Linebacker Nick Bellore played a handful of snaps at fullback last season—13 by my count. He also played 106 at linebacker. But according to Lions media that was on hand for Thursday’s first OTA practice open to beat writers, Bellore is now working as a full-time fullback.
“On Thursday, it sure looked like he’s making [fullback] a full-time thing. He was actually wearing a white offensive practice uniform, and I didn’t see him do a lick at linebacker.”
Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press notes that not only was Bellore in the running back/fullback rotation, but he was ahead of Bawden in reps, and interestingly enough, the very first 11-on-11 rep on a running play involved both Bellore and free agent addition LeGarrette Blount in the backfield, per Chris Burke of The Athletic.
It’s very early in the offseason process, and we can’t draw too many conclusions on what the team will look like three months down the line. Prior to Thursday’s practice, head coach Matt Patricia said that they’d be moving guys around in several different positions throughout offseason workouts.
“We’re just trying to see how much they can handle in different spots,” Patricia said.
For now, it looks like the Lions are getting a good look at what Bellore can handle on the offensive side of the ball. At the moment, he remains listed as a linebacker on the team’s official roster list. But if he continues to show progress, it could mean Bawden has some serious competition in the backfield.