By Sam Ingro
While many fans are looking outside of the current Browns roster for help on offense, former Alabama Crimson Tide h-back Brad Smelley is working to show the Browns that he is the answer they are looking for.
After spending most of the season on the Cleveland practice squad, Smelley was activated on December 12th to the Browns roster. In very limited action, he caught one pass for three yards in Coach Pat Shumur‘s offense against Denver. The potential of Smelley teamed up with new head coach Rob Chudzinski, however, is absolutely sky-high.
Last year, the Carolina Panthers fullback under Chudzinski was the fourth leading receiver on the team.
Mike Tolbert hauled in 27 passes for 268 yards while averaging 9.9 yards per reception. Browns fans also probably remember fullback Lawrence Vickers. In 2007, the year Cleveland went 10-6 while barely missing the playoffs, Vickers grabbed 13 passes for 91 yards and two touchdowns. To say that the fullback gets more of a featured role in Chudzinski’s offense would not at all be an understatement, and one would expect it to be the same story in Cleveland for the 2013 season.
What the current regime will have to decide is if Smelley is a fit to have a bigger role in the Browns offense next season.
If Smelley’s time at Alabama is any indication, that answer should be a yes. In Cleveland, Smelley is listed at fullback, but with the Crimson Tide, Smelley fulfilled a jack-of-all trades role; performing duties as both fullback and tight end. His final season in Tuscaloosa, he hauled in 34 catches for 356 yards and four touchdowns.
During the Senior Bowl, Dane Brugler of NFLDraftScout.com made a statement that summed up what Smelley brings to the table, stating, “it could be argued that no pass-catcher has been more consistent than the Tide H-back who has shown vacuum-hands all week. He isn’t explosive in any way, but he plays hard and fast at all times.”
Averaging 10.5 yards per reception, he also was the primary blocker for current Browns star running back Trent Richardson. Behind the blocking of Smelley, Richardson cashed in 283 attempts his final year for 1,679 yards and 21 touchdowns.
Reuniting the combination of Richardson and Smelley could re-spark that chemistry that produced those jaw-dropping stats just two seasons ago. Aside from that, having the versatility of Smelley in the backfield would allow for one more check-down option for quarterback Brandon Weeden. The ability to audible more quickly and get the ball out of his hands would make moving the chains an easier task for Weeden to handle.
While it is always a longshot for a seventh-round pick of a former regime to make the team in a new season, Smelley is no ordinary player. His work ethic, physical nature and pass-catching ability could make him a sure-fire addition to the 2013 active roster. Knowing how much Chudzinski utilizes his fullbacks and tight ends allows him to use one roster spot to fill two positions, now it’s just a matter of allowing his abilities to make a splash to get noticed in training camp.