The Detroit Lions are bringing back the fullback.
Lions general manager Bob Quinn wasn't kidding when he said he wanted to bolster Detroit’s last-ranked rushing attack.
He selected interior offensive lineman Frank Ragnow in the first round, running back Kerryon Johnson in the second round, and capped off their draft with the selection of San Diego State fullback Nick Bawden, who was the lead blocker for 2,000-yard running back Rashaad Penny last season.
The Lions phased out the fullback position last season after releasing former 2015 fifth-round pick Michael Burton in the offseason. This draft pick is an indication the position might be phased back in under new head coach Matt Patricia.
View photos of fullback Nick Bawden.
Bawden (6-2, 245) has had an interesting career path. He was actually a three-star recruit as a quarterback, and started two games as a freshman for the Aztecs, completing 13 of 38 passes for 147 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions.
Coaches asked him to make the switch to fullback after the season, and he reluctantly agreed.
“It was definitely something that I wasn’t open to at first,” Bawden said in a conference call after the pick. “I had no idea I had it in me to play fullback because I knew how hard the position was and how tough you had to be.”
Bawden, who was a 220-pound quarterback, put on about 10 pounds each year he played fullback. He even remembers the moment he knew he’d be OK at fullback.
“We have a linebacker who used to play for us, one of my really good friends, Calvin Munson,” Bawden said. “He’s actually a starting linebacker for the Giants right now.
“Once I understood how to hit him and how to try to maneuver him through plays, I figured out that I could actually play the position because he was an absolute monster.”
Bawden was a reserve in 2015, the first year after the switch, but then became the lead blocker for the nation's top rusher in 2016 (Donnel Pumphrey) and 2017 (Penny).
He caught 15 passes for 137 yards as a junior, and 15 for 103 yards and his first touchdown this past season.
Bawden was one of the top fullback prospects available in this draft at a position that is hard to evaluate in the college ranks with the popularity of the spread offense and passing attacks.