Among the 19 undrafted free agents signed by the Chargers, three of them were players who could or will already play fullback in the NFL. Those three were Louisiana Tech fullback Bobby Holly, Tulane’s big-bodied back Darius Bradwell, and Florida State’s fullback-turne-tight end Gabe Nabers.
For my first 2020 UDFA profile of the offseason, we are going to focus on the latter of those three choices.
The 6’3, 242-pound Nabers arrived as a fullback in Tallahassee back in 2016 under then-head coach Jimbo Fisher. Once Fisher left FSU to take the same position at Texas A&M, the school hired former Oregon and USF coach Willie Taggart who then eliminated the fullback position altogether in their new spread-style offense. Nabers naturally made the transition to tight end for the final two years of his career after primarily being used as a blocker in 2016 and ‘17.
He only had a single catch to his name prior to 2018, but that lone catch went for the first touchdown of his career with the Seminoles. As a junior in 2018, Nabers was utilized just a tiny bit more in the passing game and finished the season with three catches for 46 yards. He finally “broke out” as a receiving threat by catching 15 passes this past season for 221 yards and another two touchdowns.
Nabers will make this team on his versatility between being an excellent blocker from a variety of different positions and being able to contribute in the passing game as a safety valve or at/around the goal line. Former offensive coordinator Walt Bell, who was with the team in 2018, called Nabers a “human Swiss army knife” due to all the things he was able to do for the offense.
Nabers’ two receiving scores in 2019 were a couple short receptions in the flat that came off play-action. In fact, the majority of his 15 catches utilized a play fake in order for Nabers to tale advantage of the hesitation it caused due to the threat of running back Cam Akers, who is now with the Rams.
From time to time, the offense would throw in a pop-pass to Nabers right up the gut and it was by-far his most effective play while at FSU. Below is a video of him getting the ball out into space and coming excruciatingly close to finding the end zone.
Senior TE Gabe Nabers went 63 yards before he was brought down right before the end zone. Nabers was noticeably (and rightfully) disappointed, (as was I), but he put the Seminoles in a great position to score: pic.twitter.com/awARfwMr0C— Courteney Korosec (@CourteneyyK) November 16, 2019
In the offense that I expect Shane Steichen to run in 2020, there are going to be plenty of pistol formations utilized. They’re also going to want to run the ball a lot out of these formations. While Anthony Lynn was still in Buffalo, he worked alongside Greg Roman, the mastermind behind the Ravens’ prolific offense in 2019, so get prepared to see some similarities between the two teams this season.
One of the those similarities may be the significant amount of players that can both run/catch and block. While the Chargers have three tight ends on the roster, only the top two in Henry and Green are worthy blockers. This is where player like Nabers comes in. On top of utilizing the trio of Mark Andrews, Nick Boyle, and Hayden Hurst, the Ravens also had part-time fullback, part-time defensive tackle Patrick Ricard. If the Ravens wanted, they could easily use nine guys to block on running plays. Nabers gives the Chargers the ability to come out in a run-heavy set and audible to a more spread-out formation to take advantage of defenses caught in slower personnel.
I recently watched FSU’s bowl game against Arizona State and made a point to note all the different spots Nabers lined up at during the game. Here’s what I got:
1.) In-line tight end
2.) Wing tight end (off the line of scrimmage)
3.) In the B-gap (behind the OT and OG)
4.) Backfield next to the QB
5.) Slot receiver
That’s quite a few spots. That’s the type of versatility that is needed in today’s NFL, though. The more you can do with the same amount of people, the better off an offense can be.
Finally, Nabers offers special teams value like the majority of fullbacks in the NFL. He’s an above-average athlete for the position and can cover ground on kick coverages with the best of them.
So, in short, I want Nabers on this team. He does everything you want at from a player at his position in the current NFL and his presence could help elevate this offensive scheme into the modern day era of football.