Though the fullback position in the NFL has found itself on the decline, the Buffalo Bills continue to make use of this specialty skill role. After losing to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LI, the Atlanta Falcons elected not to re-sign veteran Patrick DiMarco. The Buffalo Bills were quick to scoop him up and sign him to a four-year deal.
As fullbacks come, DiMarco is about as lauded as it gets. A Pro Bowl nod in 2015 and Pro Football Focus accolades may seem surprising for a player as under the radar as DiMarco. What traits stand out to warrant the praise?
Patrick DiMarco has been in the league six years now. You just saw 33% of his career rushing attempts. His two carries for the Bills last year was a personal best. The loss of two yards on this play represents his career rushing total. That’s...not great. The lack of film makes it nearly impossible to give an honest idea of how he runs but let’s give it a whirl anyway. This play is doomed from the get-go, with Grady Jarrett getting a fast victory over Eric Wood. This should be a loss of about four rather than two, but DiMarco keeps churning and makes the best of a bad situation. DiMarco comes in a little on the light side for a fullback. Coming in around the 230-pound range it makes the strength a little more notable. While there are positives here, it’s very clear he wasn’t signed to run the ball.
DiMarco is used more frequently on passing plays, seeing about ten targets a year and seven receptions. Like with rushes, the low sample size makes it hard to say much for certain, but his 70% catch rate is pretty good. At 6.8 yards per catch in his career, that isn’t too shabby for a dump off option (4.0 with Buffalo last year). This play was selected instead of a reception to demonstrate his above average agility and speed for the fullback position. Like above though, the numbers make it clear the team wasn’t all that interested in throwing to him.
Patrick DiMarco takes on a more traditional fullback role here, as he blocks for Mike Tolbert. You might recall that Tolbert got the Pro Bowl nod over DiMarco at the fullback position. This is despite not actually playing fullback last year. Back to the play. DiMarco takes on De’Vondre Campbell who is similarly-sized for reference purposes. DiMarco shows off good push and then balance as he maintains his block despite having a mess happening around his legs.
A major component of a success for a fullback is knowing who to hit. As DiMarco wades through traffic he has to rapidly identify who to wipe out. This isn’t a complete victory, but DiMarco times up his hit on Duke Riley nicely.
LeSean McCoy doesn’t use the lane created by Patrick DiMarco here (though it’s arguable maybe he should have). What’s on full display though is the speed DiMarco has getting to the second level. He also manages to drive his man back. The angle he pushes toward also effectively blocks a second man. DiMarco resets quickly to keep working his magic if Shady does in fact end up running his way.
And here’s why Patrick DiMarco is so valuable for the Buffalo Bills. DiMarco’s strength and blocking are good as seen above. He can certainly fill the role of a traditional fullback. What makes him especially dangerous is the speed at which he can put it all together. DiMarco blocks this play well at a full run. With a running back as shifty as McCoy on the team, DiMarco’s ability to weave in traffic and remain ahead of a speed back are incredibly valuable. DiMarco may not be the archetype for the role of a traditional bruiser, but is highly valuable for a team with a shifty speed back.