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Scouting Jets fullback Nick Bawden

NFL: Detroit Lions at Philadelphia Eagles Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Jets recently added fullback Nick Bawden to their active roster after having signed him to their practice squad back in September. Today, we break down Bawden in detail.

The 25-year old Bawden is listed at 6’2” and 245 pounds and was a seventh round pick out of San Diego State in 2018. Prior to joining the Jets, Bawden had been limited to 10 NFL games in his first three seasons due to injuries.

Background

Bawden was initially recruited to San Diego State as a quarterback and even made two starts in his freshman season, winning one. However, he only completed 13 of 38 passes and the team decided to convert him to fullback at the end of his first season.

He saw some action in his new fullback role as a sophomore but didn’t get any offensive touches. However, he played a significant role in his last two seasons as both Donnel Pumphrey and Rashaad Penny had 2,000-yard seasons with Bawden leading the way. He also caught 30 passes for 240 yards and a touchdown over the two seasons.

Bawden was the only fullback selected in the 2018 draft as he went to the Lions. However, he missed his entire rookie season due to an injury in OTAs. He played 10 games in 2019, catching four passes for 17 yards, but again missed the entire season in 2020 due to injury.

The Jets signed Bawden to their practice squad in September and elevated him for two games during which he played 10 offensive snaps. He was signed to the active roster last week.

Now let’s take a look at what Bawden brings to the table, divided into categories.

Measurables/Athleticism

At 6’2” and 245, Bawden has a solid, powerful frame but lacks length. He was invited to the scouting combine but did not work out due to injury.

At his pro day, Bawden ran a 4.72 in the 40-yard dash and posted a 109” broad jump. His agility numbers were okay but he didn’t do a bench press or vertical.

Usage

While Bawden has primarily lined up as a fullback, he can also line up in the slot, out wide, at tight end or as a halfback in two back sets.

As noted, he was a quarterback in high school and college, which might make him dangerous on gadget plays.

Run Blocking

As noted, Bawden’s résumé includes some big rushing numbers for the backs he was blocking for with San Diego State. Some of the footage of him making solid lead blocks is impressive.

What stands out about his film is that he doesn’t simply charge recklessly into his target. He will approach under control and engage cleanly with his block so that he can angle off the defender or gain a leverage advantage.

Despite doing a solid job in college, Bawden graded out poorly as a run blocker in his first season with the Lions. Pro Football Focus had him graded in last place for all NFL fullbacks. Nevertheless, he still had some impressive moments at this level.

He had eight offensive penalties in his college career but doesn’t have any at the NFL level yet.

Pass Blocking

Bawden has plenty of experience as a pass blocker. He stayed in to block 135 times in his senior year, for example. In two years as a starter, he only gave up three sacks and his pass blocking efficiency numbers were solid but he did get beaten sometimes.

At the NFL level, he’s only stayed in to pass block occasionally, without surrendering any sacks or pressure.

He also displayed an ability to contribute as a downfield blocker in the passing game on this play with the Jets.

Pass catching

Bawden only caught four passes for 17 yards in his 10 games with the Lions, but the Jets already unlocked some untapped potential in last week’s game.

As you can see, this is the same look on which he threw the block for Elijah Moore above, just to the opposite side. He sets up the defender who is expecting him to block again.

Other than this, he only really caught short passes both with the Lions and at San Diego State. He showed he can be a possible red zone threat on this play where he again sets up like he’s going to block and then changes direction to get open.

The Jets ran a similar play to this at the goal line in Bawden’s first game and the defensive lineman blatantly held him although the officials didn’t call it. This shows that they are looking at him as an option in these situations though.

He mostly only caught short passes so didn’t have much of a chance to showcase great hands, but he didn’t drop any passes in his college career on in NFL preseason or regular season action.

Running ability

Bawden rushed for 47 yards on 12 carries in college, but nearly all of this was on scrambles while playing the quarterback position. He didn’t have any designed runs as a quarterback and carried the ball just once for four yards out of the backfield. He fumbled once as a quarterback.

He can turn upfield with a short pass and break a tackle or fall forward at the end of the run and also showed unexpected abilities with the ball in his hands on this catch.

Special Teams

Bawden has played multiple roles on special teams, including blocking on returns and in punt protection, rushing punts and covering kicks. He had a couple of special teams tackles with the Lions, including this impressive hit on a kickoff.

He’s been effective at times as a blocker but had an illegal block in the back in the Jets-Dolphins game, the second of his career. He also had two special teams penalties in college.

Instincts

As noted, Bawden is a patient lead blocker, who sizes up his target and can move from one assignment to another or adjust to the defender to change leverage.

However, at times he can display confusion when the block he is expecting to make does not present itself immediately.

Attitude

Having made the position change from quarterback to fullback after much deliberation, Bawden has shown a determination to make this work for himself as he learnt a variety of roles, including on the other side of the ball.

The other challenge he has had to deal with is all the injuries which he has attacked with toughness and tenaciousness. Despite being described as quiet and humble off the field, Bawden apparently has bought into to the aggressive nature of the position and has worked hard to master it.

Injuries

Bawden’s knees have been a problem for him since entering the NFL. He tore his ACL in OTAs as a rookie and then was placed on injured reserve with another knee injury the following November. His third season also saw him spending the year on injured reserve with a knee injury suffered in camp.

In college, Bawden played through some injuries, catching passes with a cast on his hand. However, he was limited by foot and shoulder injuries at the end of his senior year.

Scheme Fit

The Jets offense clearly lacked a Kyle Juszczyk-type of versatile fullback that was such a weapon for Kyle Shanahan’s 49ers but you can already see the Jets trying to open up their playbook and use the types of plays Juszczyk excelled at since Bawden has been on the gameday roster.

Bawden has been a teammate of Ty Johnson, Jarrad Davis and Josh Johnson while with the Lions.

Conclusions

The Jets’ system needs a player like Bawden and may, at some stage, target one in the draft or via free agency. However, based on what we’ve already seen from him, it’s worth getting a look at Bawden himself first, to see if he can be that guy.

If he can stay healthy, Bawden gives the Jets a dimension they seemed to lack in the first half of the year, but let’s see if he can continue to display the same level of efficiency as his workload increases.