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Round 4: Ravens Select FB Kyle Juszczyk

Posted Apr 27, 2013

Baltimore selected a versatile fullback/tight end. What does it mean for Vonta Leach?

The fullback position is considered by some to be a dying breed.

The Ravens drafted one for the NFL’s new age.

The Ravens’ first offensive pick of the 2013 NFL Draft, coming with compensatory pick No. 130 in the fourth round, was Harvard fullback/tight end Kyle Juszczyk.

Harvard has a reputation for churning out gritty, talented fullbacks and Juszczyk is no exception, although he brings more to the table.

The 6-foot-1, 248-pound senior is a major receiving weapon, and should give the Ravens a versatile weapon out of the backfield.

“I don’t think I’m that traditional old-school fullback that is going to run [isolation blocks] all day,” Juszczyk said. “Although I feel like that’s something I can be effective at, I think there are other ways I can be used.”

Juszczyk led the Ivy League with eight touchdown receptions and led Harvard with 52 catches for 706 yards in 2012. For his career, he set the mark for all Harvard tight ends with 125 catches (6th all-time) for 1,576 yards (7th all-time) and 22 touchdowns (3rd all-time).

The two-time All-American shined at the Senior Bowl when facing better competition, and visited the Ravens in Owings Mills, Md., for a pre-draft workout. He had a whopping 12 official visits.

“I had a lot of options, I really wasn’t sure where I would end up,” Juszczyk said. “I kind of had a good feeling after leaving Baltimore that that would be a good fit for me.”

Juszczyk met with Running Backs Coach Wilbert Montgomery, who told him he’d be used as a fullback in many different formations. He can play 'U' back, 'H' back, a second tight end or even split him out as a wide receiver.

"[Harvard Head Coach] Tim Murphy played him pretty much everywhere," Head Coach John Harbaugh said. "He is a very versatile guy, so you feel like you pick up a roster spot or two when you put him on your 46-man roster, if he can earn that."

The Ravens have two-time Pro Bowl fullback Vonta Leach on the roster, but his offensive role was shrinking. Due to the rise of the passing game and three-wide receiver or extra tight end sets, traditional fullbacks are seeing less field time across the NFL. Leach went from 665 offensive snaps in 2011 to 579 last year.

The addition of Juszczyk will create questions about Leach’s future in Baltimore. Leach, 31, has one year left on his contract and is reportedly slated to count $4.33 million against the salary cap.

“I couldn’t ask for a better mentor,” Juszczyk said of Leach. “I feel like he’s been the best fullback in the league for a while now. I’m really looking forward to learning from him and working with him.”

Although Juszczyk is a different breed of fullback, he still brings toughness to the game, which will be used on special teams and in his lead blocking. Even when he was playing more than 100 snaps on offense, the sure-tackling Juszczyk still played on special teams.

“Physicality has always been one of my strongest traits,” Juszczyk said. “I’m not going to shy away from hitting somebody in the mouth.”

The Ravens lost a Harvard man in center Matt Birk, who retired after the season. Now they’ve added another brainiac. Juszczyk met Birk, who is represented by the same agent, at a fundraising event about a month ago. Juszczyk was the second Ivy-League player off the board in the 2013 NFL Draft.

“It’s always cool to see the Ivy League get a little respect and people recognize that we play some serious football up there,” Juszczyk said.

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