The fullback position is almost extinct in the NFL. Many teams in this age of passing use offensive schemes that feature multiple receivers over running backs and a fullback to block for them.
Yet as the Raiders prepare to open training camp this week, there will be a challenger to Keith Smith for the fullback role in Jon Gruden’s offense.
Rookie Alec Ingold, an undrafted free agent from Wisconsin, was college football’s top-rated fullback in 2018, according to the analytic website Pro Football Focus. He’ll battle Smith, the incumbent fullback, for a roster spot. At Wisconsin, Ingold, ranked No. 1 among all big-school fullbacks as both a ballcarrier and blocker.
In four seasons for the Badgers, Ingold carried 103 times for 343 yards and 17 touchdowns. He caught 14 passes for four TDs, averaging 13.2 yards per reception.
Ingold believes he’s athletic and versatile enough to be more than just a "battering ram" in the backfield, capable of being a bigger part of the passing game while also opening holes for running backs.
"Some people didn’t think I was worthy of a draft pick," Ingold told Greg Bates of the Press-Times in Green Bay. "Obviously, I think I belong on a team and I should be there. I definitely feel I have something to prove going into training camp."
Ingold played for Gruden at the Senior Bowl and said he loves Gruden’s passion. Obviously, Gruden and his staff were equally impressed by Ingold.
Gruden uses a fullback more than most other NFL coaches, so Ingold vs. Smith will be an interesting competition in training camp.
In his first season with the Raiders in 2018 after four years in Dallas with the Cowboys (first as a linebacker, then a fullback), Smith played all 16 games, carried the ball just one time and had five catches for 23 yards.
"It’s all I could ever ask for, getting the opportunity," Ingold told Bates. "I hope this next month I can make the most of it and I’ll be ready when my time comes."