There was some question as to who would be the leader of the Broncos’ offense with Peyton Manning gone. A lot of words have been written about Trevor Siemian, but in the second quarter of the season opener against the Broncos, a new name emerged. The team’s first touchdown went to ROOKIE FULLBACK ANDY JANOVICH:
On third-and-1, the Broncos gave Janovich his first NFL carry, and perhaps the Panthers weren’t expecting the upback to take the ball. The defense kept pursuing as if searching for a running back, but Janovich was streaking past them to pay dirt.
Janovich was owned in 0.0 percent of ESPN fantasy leagues before the TD, because he’s a rookie fullback. PICK HIM UP.
Oddly, this is the third consecutive year a fullback has scored the first rushing TD of the season. As Andrew Siciliano pointed out, last year the first rushing score was by Pittsburgh’s Will Johnson, the year before it was Green Bay’s John Kuhn.
But let’s be honest: Fullbacks have gotten progressively less and less love in football circles over the last, ohh, five decades, with fewer and fewer teams opting to employ one each season. Janovich was the highest-drafted fullback in this past year’s draft, which is a polite way of saying he was a sixth-rounder, the 176th overall pick.
And even when teams do put one in the game, they rarely carry the ball: Panthers FB Mike Tolbert was the only person who could reasonably listed as a fullback to crack the top 100 in carries. Bleacher Report’s NFL1000 series ranked Patrick DiMarco as the league’s top FB, and he only had one carry last year.
But Gary Kubiak is a fan of the fullback. His teams have often ranked towards the top of the NFL in fullback usage, opting to use an FB on over half of his team’s snaps as head coach of the Texans in 2012. And now that Peyton Manning isn’t around, he can really employ one.
Janovich is the guy he wanted. He had 30 bench press reps at the NFL Draft combine, tied for fifth most among all players. And at Nebraska, he led the team in special teams tackles and had three touchdowns, including a 55-yarder against Wisconsin. His Denver teammates call him the Hammerhead.
So it’s fun to see a fullback running for paydirt. Maybe this will be his career highlight. Maybe he’s never going to score again. Who knows? He is the best rusher in the NFL in 2016 — at least for now.