Overview: Seattle drafted Owen Schmitt with the 163rd overall pick of the 2008 NFL draft. Seattle acquired the pick by trading down with Dallas. Schmitt was rated the best blocking fullback in the draft and by some, the best fullback in the draft. His colorful background, modest start, cult following and gladiator-like dedication to his sport made him an instant fan favorite. He played in four preseason games and fifteen regular season games. Of the fifteen, only in week nine did he start or play significant snaps at fullback.
What went right: You get caught up in hype, you rail against it or you ignore it. I have the bad habit of railing against it. I was a Schmitt skeptic. Then we got a little of this:
Overtime, fourth play of Seattle's first drive. 1st and 10, Chicago 36. Seattle breaks 2 WR, TE, SB. Bears in a base 4-3. Seattle is running a sweep play left, with both guards, left guard Murray and right guard Mansfield Wrotto, pulling. At the snap, Schmitt again attacks the right defensive end, but this time strikes with such force that he levels both end Nick Osborn and tackle [Matt] Toeaina. That pileup picks all three linebackers and Forsett sweeps untouched into the second level. (Wrotto, by the way, ran out of gas, falling before he could engage his block. Too bad too, because Wrotto's assignment, Rod Wilson, went on to tackle Forsett.) For all the hype justifiably surrounding Forsett, Schmitt deserves much love. His run blockin' got me wonderin' "Weaver who?"
Schmitt made the preseason his personal blocking dummy. Justin Forsett was the draw, but Schmitt was the pith. And pith he did, scrambling brains like rocket-fueled Temple Grandin.
What went wrong: Preseason has its share of AAAA players. Guys that can dominate the cream of college football, but don't have what it takes to make the pros. Schmitt has some AAAA qualities. He's try hard and weight-room athletic. He wasn't recruited out of high school. He excelled in Rich Rodriguez's unorthodox spread option offense. Schmitt played half back more than he played fullback.
Outlook: Schmitt was the third fullback selected in 2008. The two before him were their teams' primary starter and the one selected behind him was cut by Arizona. Teams chew through fullbacks. Starting them early and dropping them quickly. Seattle has displayed a pronounced, but prudent ambivalence about Schmitt. He saw some snaps in 2008 despite playing behind an established starter. That starter wasn't in great standing, though. He has been named Seattle's starter heading into 2009, but his replacement is versed in the offense, established, a former fourth round pick himself, and a player that Greg Knapp hand-picked. It's good news Schmitt has been named the starter. It speaks of confidence. Seattle is lucky not to be reliant on him. He has a couple troubling snags. His blitz awareness is weak. He's a bit stiff, especially at or near full speed. I don't think he'll develop into a great receiver. The most important of those three, his blitz awareness, should develop, and though I'm not fond of punting receiving ability at any skill position, Knapp doesn't pass to his fullbacks, and Knapp is the man calling plays. Knapp expects him to block and block and block, and Schmitt's power, acceleration, ferocity and appetite for pain both inflicted and taken suggest Schmitt could be the best lead blocker in football.