Investment in 'Juice' Paid Off for 49ers - NBC Bay Area
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Investment in 'Juice' Paid Off for 49ers

Fullback Kyle Juszczyk was an key component of offense who received Pro Bowl recognition for his play in 2017

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    Niners fullback Kyle Juszczyk (No. 44) was a leader and major contributor in his first season with the team. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

    One of the biggest moves made by the 49ers last offseason was signing fullback Kyle Juszczyk to a four-year, $21 million contract.

    Though Juszczyk – called “Juice” by teammates -- didn’t carry the ball often, rack up big yards or get many mentions during televised games, the costly investment was one move that appears successful.

    In his first year with the 49ers, Juszczyk was selected to the Pro Bowl as a starter.

    In 14 games he carried the ball just seven times for 31 yards. But he had 33 catches for 315 yards and a touchdown, averaging 9.5 yards per reception out of the backfield. And, he was reliable, catching 33 of 42 targeted throws. Juszczyk also was a strong blocker and important piece of the running game, opening holes for Carlos Hyde and Matt Breida.

    Once Jimmy Garoppolo took over as the starting quarterback, the fullback became a much bigger part of the passing game, too. Over the first seven games, he had nine catches. He had 17 over the final five games with Garoppolo.

    Head coach Kyle Shanahan loves to use a multi-purpose fullback in his offensive scheme, and Juszczyk fills that role. Coaches selected the fullback this year’s Bill Walsh Award winner, given to the team’s most valuable player.

    Before the season began, Sam Monson of the analytic website Pro Football Focus named Juszczyk as the 49ers’ “secret superstar,” citing his great career work as a blocker and receiver with the Baltimore Ravens. Then Juszczyk went out and backed that up in his first season with the 49ers.

    And, he’s eager for Year 2.

    “It’s a wrap!” he tweeted after the season’s final game, a victory over the Rams that extended the team’s winning streak to five. “It’s been a crazy 2017 season but couldn’t be more excited for what the team is headed for in 2018!”

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