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Chargers 90-in-90: FB Gabe Nabers

Will Nabers’ role expand in the new offense or will the fullback position become irrelevant once more?

Dallas Cowboys v Los Angeles Chargers Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Nabers showed up 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’ 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 take advantage of the hesitation it caused due to the threat of running back Cam Akers, who is now with the Rams.

Nabers eventually signed with the Chargers as an undrafted free agent following the 2020 draft. As a rookie, he caught five-of-seven targets with two short touchdowns. He was also utilized on a few third/fourth-and-short runs throughout the year.

During his sophomore campaign with the Bolts, Nabers saw his role decrease as the coaching staff chose to use multiple players to fill the fullback role. He started just one game and finished the year with three catches for 17 yards. All of those numbers were down from the 2020 season where he posted 25 receiving yards and two touchdowns. He did, however, post career highs of three rushes for eight yards, one of which went for a first down.

Basic Info

Height: 6’3
Weight: 235
College: Florida State
Experience: 2
Years with team: 2

Contract Status

“Gabe Nabers signed a 2 year, $1,390,000 contract with the Los Angeles Chargers, including an average annual salary of $695,000. In 2022, Nabers will earn a base salary of $895,000, while carrying a cap hit of $895,000.” - Spotrac.com

The Good

Nabers is the Chargers’ most-experienced returning player at the fullback position. Former tight end Stephen Anderson saw time in the backfield during the 2021 season but he’s now in Arizona with the Cardinals. The former UDFA has the skillset to be both a traditional fullback and an attached tight end. He had mainly been used as a short-yardage back and a blocker out of the backfield. As rookie, Nabers caught a pair of touchdowns and saw most of his receptions come off play-action.

The Bad

Nabers saw his NFL career begin on a fairly high note after being signed as an undrafted free agent in 2020. Scoring two receiving touchdowns in a season while playing fullback in today’s NFL is a dream for most veterans, nonetheless an undrafted rookie. However, his usage saw a hit and he manage to play in just 10 of the team’s 17 games. Whether due to offensive philosophy or something else, seeing such a decrease in playing time from year one to year two is never a good thing.

Odds of making the roster/What to expect in 2022?

Nabers will have his hands full to make the final roster this season after the team used a seventh-round pick on former Purdue fullback/running back Zander Horvath. Both Nabers and Horvath have similar builds, but Horvath did a lot more in college and currently exhibits a wider skillset. Will Nabers’ close relationship with Justin Herbert help his case to stick around? I wouldn’t put it past the coaches to value that relationship when it comes to building the best locker room around their quarterback.