Continuing our series on the 2018 Detroit Lions, we take a look at fullback Nick Bellore. How did his role change throughout the year, and what should we expect next season?
Nick Bellore, FB
Expectations before 2018
Originally a linebacker, Bellore filled in at fullback for the Detroit Lions after they experimented with defensive end Alex Barrett. In very limited snaps in 2017 (13 snaps on offense), Bellore totaled a single catch: a 1-yard touchdown.
In the seventh round of 2018 NFL Draft, the Lions took San Diego State fullback Nick Bawden, and he was largely expected to fill the need at fullback, rendering Bellore a likely cut candidate. Bellore’s path to the roster was slated to be via special teams.
Actual role in 2018
2018 Stats: 1 carry for 0 yards (0.0 YPC), 0 TDs, 4 receptions for 15 yards
PFF Grade: 60.4 (Didn’t qualify for rankings)
To Bellore’s benefit, Bawden tore his ACL in June, thus opening the door at fullback. There was still some debate as to whether or not the Lions would even opt to carry a fullback on the roster, but Bellore won the job out of training camp.
Offensively, little was expected from him. In terms of blocking, Bellore actually performed decently, finishing as the 10th-best run blocking fullback. Of his 119 snaps on offense, 86 of them came as a run blocker, 26 of them came as a receiver, 6 came as a pass blocker, and only 1 came as a runner. Bellore actually had an excellent pass blocking grade, but it is too small of a sample size to truly represent his performance. The 26 snaps as a receiver is somewhat surprising for the former linebacker; Bellore was even split out wide on a few plays.
Bellore’s most significant role was on special teams, recording 7 solo tackles — the most among special teamers — on 236 snaps. He was quite effective as well, finishing as the 8th highest graded Lion on special teams; of the players above him, only Tracy Walker recorded over 200 snaps.
Outlook for 2019
Contract Status: Unrestricted free agent
Bellore is an impending free agent, but he will likely demand a minimal contract. Even with Nick Bawden slated to return after a full year of recovery, the Lions could bring Bellore back for his special teams ability. The Lions are unlikely to carry two fullbacks heading into next season, but there is a chance that Bellore could covert back to linebacker if they wanted to keep both. Bawden isn’t a roster lock either — with a good enough performance in training camp, perhaps Bellore could unseat him as the starting fullback.