What Can Dan Vitale Bring to the Buccaneers?
Not many fullbacks garner the attention of draft analysts and fans, but Dan Vitale has shown that he's more than just your typical fullback. The Northwestern product is bringing his "Superback" position to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' offense, where he could provide an impact from numerous roles where the Bucs sorely need depth.
As a potential half back or tight end, Vitale could end up seeing time on offense if he lands a roster spot, as well as being able to contribute to several different special teams units.
Vitale in College
In Northwestern's unique offense, Vitale was considered a "superback", a running back/tight end/fullback hybrid that the Wildcats used for multiple roles and assignments. He blocked, he ran between the tackles, and he caught passes out of the slot. He started all four years at Northwestern, racking up over 100 receptions for over 1,000 yards and 7 touchdowns as the Wildcats top receiving option.
His senior year he was a consensus Second Team All-Big Ten player, being the lead receiver in Northwestern's spread offense. In addition, Vitale earned three straight Academic All-Big Ten designations. His college teammates loved his leadership and work ethic and it translated on the field.
Vitale at the Combine
Vitale's combine was a thing of beauty. At 6'1" 239 pounds he ran a 4.6 40 yard dash, punched out 30 reps of 225 on the bench, had a 38 1/2" vertical, a 10'3" broad jump, and a 7.12 3-cone drill. His speed testing outdid several wide receivers. His bench would've been top five out of the offensive linemen. His vertical was tied for 14th best out of every player at the combine. His broad jump was better than Jordan Howard, Kenneth Dixon, and CJ Prosise for fifth amongst running backs and fullbacks.
His athletic testing was the most comparable to Carolina Panthers' linebacker Luke Kuechly according to MockDraftable.com, with other top comparables being tight end Vernon Davis and running back Rashad Jennings. This sort of athletic comparisons show the natural ability Vitale has and what he could potentially bring to the Tampa Bay offense.
Vitale's NFL Potential
In Tampa Bay, Vitale can be a lead blocker for Doug Martin, back up Austin Seferian-Jenkins at tight end, or even be a goal line/short yardage back in a pinch. In new offensive coordinator Todd Monken's pass-focused offense, and with new head coach Dirk Koetter calling the plays, it could indicate that Vitale will continue to have more of an impact in the passing game than as a traditional fullback.
Last year the Buccaneers didn't run the ball with their fullback almost at all, with Jorvorskie Lane getting one carry the entire season and no other fullbacks contributing. The tight ends were active in the passing game, though, with the top two tight ends, Seferian-Jenkins and Cameron Brate, combining for 44 receptions for 626 yards and 7 touchdowns. Those numbers came despite a tight end corps that lacked depth and with Seferian-Jenkins playing in only seven games.
Having a versatile athlete that can perform well at a variety of positions, as well as being able to contribute on multiple special teams units, could mean that Vitale ends up being a great value pick for the Bucs.