When the 49ers recently signed free agent Kyle Juszczyk, it was notable because he’s a fullback, a position the Niners didn’t have in their offense in 2016 under head coach Chip Kelly.
In new head coach Kyle Shanahan’s scheme, the fullback makes its return.
Yet Juszczyk is far more than a fullback. The veteran is not only a fine lead blocker, but a good receiver and ball carrier. He’s a versatile, adaptable player who should be able to line up all over the field.
The analytic website Pro Football Focus noted that Juszcyk in 2016 played 51 percent of his snaps at running back, 32 percent at fullback, 8 percent at slot receiver, 7 percent at wide receiver and 3 percent at tight end.
San Francisco general manager John Lynch told reporters recently that Juszczyk’s true position is “OW”: offensive weapon.
“We see an offensive weapon that (Shanahan) is thrilled to be able to use in a number of different capacities,” Lynch told Joe Fann of the team’s website. The 49ers are paying him accordingly, with a four-year deal worth as much as $21 million, including a $5 million signing bonus and a $2 million guaranteed first-year salary.
This past season, Juszczyk made the Pro Bowl after catching 37 passes for 266 yards. He carried just five times for 22 yards and a TD. In 2015, he led all fullbacks in receptions with 41 for 321 yards and four touchdowns. In San Francisco, he's expected the carry the ball more.
Juszczyk says he takes pride in being a hybrid player in a league that is evolving to use players in multiple roles.
“You’ve got safeties playing linebacker,” he said. “You’ve got linebackers playing defensive end. On offense, you’ve got tight ends playing wide receiver. I think being multi-dimensional in today’s league is really an asset. I think it’s something that I can help bring to this team. Hopefully that’s an asset that leads to wins.”