Mike LaFleur’s 49ers relied heavily on the fullback position. Is Trevon Wesco capable of handling that role for the New York Jets?
When Mike Maccagnan’s New York Jets drafted Trevon Wesco with the 121st overall pick in the fourth round of the 2019 NFL draft, their obvious goal for him was to settle into a role as a blocking specialist. Through two years, the results have been mixed. Wesco has earned a decent amount of playing time (12.8 snaps per game over 28 appearances) and has been far from awful as a blocker, recording plenty of impressive reps, but his blocking has been inconsistent overall.
The inconsistent nature of Wesco’s performance level is backed up by the fact that the Jets have not shown full confidence in him. They decreased his snap count in 2020 compared to 2019 (12.2 snaps per game to 13.4) and then signed Tyler Kroft – another blocking specialist – in the 2021 offseason.
Decreased playing time, the addition of a veteran who plays the same role, and the exodus of the general manager who drafted him are all bad signs for Wesco’s job security, but there is one thing that has his prospects of making the team looking good in spite of all of that: Mike LaFleur‘s offense.
Over his four years in San Francisco, LaFleur was part of a 49ers offense that utilized the fullback position more than any other team in the league, making Kyle Juszczyk a regular member of their starting lineup. Juszczyk started 51 of his 58 games with the 49ers from 2017-20, leading all fullbacks by a massive margin with 1,918 snaps played over that span (33.1 per game).
Even when Juszczyk went out, the 49ers still utilized the fullback position heavily. Across a four-game span with Juszczyk out of action due to injury in 2019, San Francisco had tight end Ross Dwelley line up at fullback for 18.3 snaps per game. While that is a big decline from Juszczyk’s average of 32.4 snaps per game that season, it would still rank as one of the highest marks in the league at the position. An average of 18.3 snaps per game would have ranked third among fullbacks in 2019, behind Juszczyk and C.J. Ham (22.1).
The fullback was also a big part of the Falcons offense that LaFleur coached for as an assistant under offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan from 2015-16. Patrick DiMarco ranked sixth among fullbacks with 20.2 snaps per game in Atlanta’s 2016 Super Bowl season. DiMarco ranked third with 23.1 snaps per game in 2015.
If LaFleur carries over this aspect of his Atlanta and San Francisco offenses to New York, the Jets are going to need a fullback, and considering that Joe Douglas has yet to make any additions at the position this offseason, Wesco is the best option for the fullback role on the roster.
Wesco has played 97 snaps at fullback in his two-year career, an average of 3.5 snaps per game. The Jets experimented heavily with Wesco at fullback near the end of 2019, lining him up in the backfield for 11.0 snaps per game over the final three weeks of his rookie season. The increased usage did not carry over into 2020, but Wesco still played a little bit of fullback in his second season as he manned the position on 45 snaps over 12 games (3.8 per game).
Is Wesco capable of handling the fullback role in Mike LaFleur’s offense? Let’s take a look at some of his reps in the role.
Great fullback rep here from Wesco against All-Pro linebacker Darius Leonard. Wesco leads Frank Gore on an inside zone handoff to the left side. He gets a good jump off the snap and beats Leonard to the B-gap. Leonard lowers his shoulder and looks to “squeeze” the run – muddy up the running lane by knocking Wesco inside – but his attempt is fairly weak and proves unsuccessful as Wesco comes in aggressively, gets lower than Leonard, and blasts Leonard’s inside half to plow him out of the lane.