Sometimes it’s the little things in life that make the biggest difference, unfortunately those little things have a tendency to go unnoticed and are not given the recognition they deserve. By no means are Kyle Juszczyk’s contributions on the football field considered small, or unappreciated as his contract and most recent Pro Bowl invitation suggest. But fullbacks aren’t usually considered an “Offensive Weapon” either.
In his final season with the Baltimore Ravens, Pro Football Focus ranked Juszcyzk as the top fullback in the league. Desperate to add talent, not even a bidding war could stop John Lynch from signing Juszczyk. His four year, $21 million contract is still considered the richest in NFL history among fullbacks. Never the less head coach Kyle Shanahan continues to find ways to get his money’s worth.
This season Juszczyk has six carries for 21 yards and 29 receptions for 309 yards and a touchdown. Those may not be eye-popping statistics, but his value can’t be calculated by numbers. In his 49ers’ debut against a stout Carolina defense, Juszczyk only had two receptions for 17 yards. Clawing through the carnage, he was able to open holes for Carlos Hyde, who averaged 5 yards a carry, his longest run going for 18 yards.
Juszczyk was named to his second Pro Bowl that year, finishing the 2017 season with 33 receptions for 315 yards and a touchdown. He was ranked fourth among all fullbacks with an overall grade of 74.8 by Pro Football Focus. As he gains more opportunities, the fullback will continue to garner more accolades. In the mean time Juszczyk is willing to do whatever the team asks of him.
“Every game, if the other team has a fullback, he’ll come up to me, and it’s usually the exact same conversation,” Juszczyk said. “It’s, ‘Damn, man, they’ve got you doing everything. You’ve got it good.’ Literally every single time. There’s not much I can say. I just grin.”
As the fullback position becomes more irrelevant in this pass happy league, Juszczyk doesn’t mind getting dirty, but don’t let his rugged exterior fool you. Against the Minnesota Vikings in the first game of the 2018 season, he recorded a 56-yard reception and had another great catch two weeks later against the Chiefs, hauling in a 35-yard touchdown pass from Jimmy Garoppolo.
General manager John Lynch has compared Juszczyk’s big play-making ability to former 49ers fullback Tom Rathman. Like Rathman, Juszczyk has been very effective catching the ball from out of the backfield. Kyle Shanahan takes it a step further, utilizing Juszczyk’s versatility all over the field to help create miss matches and exploit defenses.
For most of the season the 49ers have used him as their primary third-down back, but due to various injuries to the backfield Juszczyk has seen his snap count steadily increase. Hoping to end the season on a high note, expect Shanahan to utilize Juszczyk’s big play ability more often as we head down the stretch.
- ^Fucillo, David (July 19, 2018). “Kyle Juszczyk contract remains ‘gold standard’ in discussions of bloated deals”. ninersnation.com. Retrieved December 19, 2018.
- ^”Kyle Juszczyk: Career Stats at NFL”. NFL.com. Retrieved December 19, 2018.
- ^”NFL announces 2018 Pro Bowl rosters”. NFL.com. December 19, 2017. Retrieved December 19, 2018.
- ^”Pro Football Focus: Kyle Juszczyk”. profootballfocus.com. Retrieved December 19, 2018.
- ^Fann, Joe (November 7, 2018). “Why Kyle Juszczyk is More of a Unicorn Than the Last of a Dying Breed”. 49ers.com. Retrieved December 19, 2018.