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Where Have the Fullbacks Gone?

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The Cowboys running troubles foreground the lack of a good fullback. Many teams share the Cowboys' problem. The fullback is an endangered species in the early '00s, as many teams have gone to one back three receiver sets, a la the Colts. College football compounds the problem as spead offenses are even more prevalent there. This means fewer fullbacks are being developed for the NFL teams that run traditional two back sets.

The trend has made the few bonafide fullbacks left valuable men. Lorenzo Neal, Mack Strong and William Henderson have learned what left-handed baseball relievers like Jesse Orosco have long known: as long as you can walk, you'll have a job. Neal and Strong are both 13 year veterans and their teams would beg them to come back if they threatened retirement this offseason. Neal blasts holes for LaDainian Tomlinson in San Diego. Strong is Shaun Alexander's escourt in Seattle. These unsung greybeards are big reasons why Alexander and Tomlinson lead the NFL in touchdowns.

Strong and the 11 year Packers veteran Henderson will be free agents next year. Dallas might consider them despite their age. Another younger option will be 49ers' fullback Fred Beasley. The eight year pro was Garrison Hearst's battering ram when San Francisco was still a playoff contender. Beasley is also considered the best running fullback in the game. I'm sure he would consider leaving a 49ers team that has crumbled around him.

Imagine how effective Julius Jones and Marion Barber would be with a Daryl Johnston clone leading their way. A fullback like Beasley would be a mid-priced free agent signing who could provide a big-ticket effect.