The Falcons have a vacant fullback spot, and the likely reality is it will be filled by an undrafted rookie.
Luke McNitt of Nebraska and Daniel Marx of Stanford are the leading candidates as rookie minicamp opened Friday.
Both players got their first taste of the NFL, though neither stood out in the brief first practice. They joined the Falcons with an eye on the open spot on the depth chart.
The team chose not to re-sign fullback Derrick Coleman, who signed a one-year deal with the Cardinals.
McNitt and Marx have to prove themselves as multi-dimensional. While some offenses have strayed away from the position, the Falcons aren’t among them. In fact, they emphasize the fullback, according to both players.
“They want to see versatility,” McNitt said. “They want to see blocking. They want to see you do it all. They value the fullback here. They want it to be a big part of the offense.”
McNitt is aiming to become the second active Cornhuskers fullback in the NFL. One of his best friends, Andy Janovich, has been with the Broncos since 2016.
He’s leaned on Janovich since their days together at Nebraska, and he’ll continue doing so today.
“I talked to him regularly,” McNitt said. “I lean on him for advice. He’s one of my best friends, and I’ve always looked up to him and modeled my career after him. I talk to him a lot. I’ll probably call him tonight. He was wondering how it was going. He was calling me ‘rookie’ and everything. We have a good relationship.”
Marx, meanwhile, gained a reputation as a vicious blocker while at Stanford. He helped pave the way for Christian McCaffrey and Bryce Love, two of the more prolific running backs in college football history.
The California native credited Cardinal coach David Shaw for what he feels is a complete skillset. Like McNitt, Marx knows he has to show a little of everything to make the Falcons.
“The fullback position in the NFL has really adapted to being versatile,” he said. “Whether that’s run blocking, pass blocking; I’ve tried to model my game after that. Do my best to make myself as well-rounded as possible.”
Marx played in 14 games across four seasons, but didn’t have much statistically production because of the Cardinal scheme. He had only five rushing attempts for seven yards and three catches for 34 yards.
McNitt appeared in 21 games, with 18 coming at fullback after he converted from tight end following the 2015 season. He had eight rushing attempts for 14 yards, while adding three receptions for 12 yards.
Both players contributed on special teams, which they’ll need continue if either will make the team.
The day moved quickly for the fullbacks, who admitted it can be hectic in the early going. They’re aware they’re competing against each other, but each came to Atlanta for the same reason: a commitment to the fullback.
“The style of play this team runs is very conducive to having a fullback,” Marx said. “Just the history of them here, it’s been like that. So that jumped out to me.”
McNitt agreed, adding that conversations with the organization before the draft created familiarity that prompted him to sign with the Falcons.
“The opportunity here definitely jumped out to me,” McNitt said. “I’ve learned a lot about this organization from talking to the coaches. Schematically and culture, this is just the best fit for me. It’s the perfect situation.”
For both, the minicamp is the first step of showing how quickly they can absorb information, and how seamlessly they can translate it to the field before training camp and preseason games begin.
The better of the pair might end up a Day 1 starter for a surefire playoff contender.