From Wikipedia: A fullback is a position in the offensive backfield in American and Canadian football, and is one of the two running back positions along with the halfback. Typically, fullbacks are larger in size than halfbacks and in most offensive schemes their duties are split between power running and blocking for both the quarterback and the other running back.
First off, although me and the neighborhood kids used to play 3 on 3 football in the snow back in the day, let me acknowledge that I never played any sort of organized football in my life -- no pee-wee, no Pop Warner, no middle school, and not in high school. I'm passionate about all things football and Jets, but I've never been in a film room, and my knowledge of x's and o's is quite limited.
I'm 32, and I feel like back in the 90's the fullback was a more prominent, utilized position. Daryl "Moose" Johnston was a household name, and best known for being Emmitt Smith's lead blocker. Sure, I just referenced an elite fullback, but if not blocking, a little later on off the top of my head there used to be more short yardage running FB's (like Mike Alstott), or pass catching FB's (like Richie Anderson types).
But what about today's game? Well, for the Jets, not too long ago John Conner was a bust, and Tommy Bohanon was (one of) the worst rated fullback(s) in the entire NFL last year. Yet, despite such a poor contribution from the position, I don't ever recall any bloggers, writers, fans, or other pundits exclaiming, "The Jets are just getting nothing from fullback. If they we're getting any contribution at all from this position, they'd be such a much better team!" If poor play at fullback doesn't really hold a team back, does this make the position somewhat expendable?
I'd have to locate the stats in terms of what percentage of offensive plays (in all of the NFL) that featured a traditional fullback to fully articulate a trend if one truly exists, but in today's NFL, it seems teams are generally abandoning the position to some degree. Besides the fact that in this past draft only two fullbacks were drafted (one in the 6th and one in the 7th round), in general more and more teams go with: 5 receiver-type sets, 2 TE sets, Wildcat-type sets, empty backfield sets, or even 2 RB sets (which if I recall Marty Mornhinweg used some of last year).
There's only just so many positions on the field. Well, after 5 O-Lineman and QB, there's exactly 5 skill positions left to fill on the offensive side of the ball. Although a fullback can be a jack-of-all-trades type player, or someone who excels at one particular aspect of the game, it just seems another position can give a team a desired skill on a particular play, and probably perform it better than a fullback.
Why put a run blocking fullback out there, when you can put another tight end out there to block? I mean, you can even use an extra traditional o-lineman out there if it's a goal line or short yardage situation. Why put a pass-blocking fullback out there, when you can have a running back out there who can pick up a blitz? And again, tight ends are blockers too. You see where I'm going with this, but again, who needs a pass catching fullback when you have running backs, tight ends, and wide receivers on the team to catch the football.
Maybe I'm not fully understanding the duties of the fullback, and why one is so necessary to the point the position takes roster spot(s) and playing time away from other players, so feel free to educate me and expand on this. On most plays, for me, I'd probably just rather see some 5-man combination of Decker/Kerley/Nelson/Hill/Evans/Saunders/Amaro/Cumberland/CJ/Ivory/etc out there, than a fullback. Hell, if Konrad Reuland or Zach Sudfeld end up on the team, and are known as decent blockers, even they might serve the team better than a fullback.