Fullback-What Now?

Now that Kansas City Chiefs fullback Tony Richardson has inked a deal with the Vikings, we can start to speculate on who will be stepping up to fill his shoes as the Chiefs starting fullback. There are two guys currently on the roster that can do the job, and the Chiefs' choice will have a profound effect on the future of the offense.

Richardson was the Swiss Army fullback. He could block viciously, run the ball well and catch the ball as a check down guy in the passing game. Richardson was instrumental in running back Priest Holmes historic four year run that saw he gain more yards and score more touchdowns than any other Chiefs player. Now that Richardson is gone, there are two viable candidates on the Chiefs' roster: Kris Wilson and Ronnie Cruz.

Wilson was drafted by the Chiefs as tight end with intent to have an H-back type of role. Wilson is an explosive player, who blocks well, catches well and runs the ball with speed and power. This could be the Chiefs' opportunity to add that extra dimension to the offense, moving Wilson around to create mismatches all over the field. When he came to Kansas City, former offensive coordinator Al Saunders had Wilson learn the tight end, full back and wide receiver roles in the offense, so Wilson has already got a head start.

Chiefs fans got a taste of the player Wilson could be his first offseason, where he terrorized defenses. The Chiefs moved Wilson all over the place and he excelled in that H-back type role. Wilson's motions confused defenses, and he often sprung open for big plays in the passing game. Then he broke his leg, basically ending his season. Since, the Chiefs have played Wilson mostly in a traditional tight end role, but it will interesting to see if offensive coordinator Mike Solari brings that philosophy back.

Cruz, the other fullback candidate, spent last season backing up Richardson. Cruz is more in the tradition of Chiefs fullbacks, where like Richardson and Kimble Anders before him, he was basically a big running back. The Chiefs love converting bigger half backs to fullback. Cruz is like a younger version of Tony Richardson. He's a ferocious blocker and can run the ball well, and may be better suited to line up in front of half back Larry Johnson. With the Chiefs planning to feature Johnson even more this season, Cruz may be the better candidate for the starting fullback job.

The Chiefs may be more inclined to groom Wilson as the eventual replacement for Tony Gonzalez or even Jason Dunn, who's probably much closer to retirement than Gonzalez. Either way, the Chiefs will get a talented player to step up and fill Richardson's shoes. My belief is that with head coach Herm Edwards on board, you're more likely to see Cruz step in and fill those shoes, as opposed to Dick Vermeil, where you'd likely see Wilson.

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