wo-year starter Troy Fleming
is listed as a running back prospect by NFL scouts who conclude Fleming "never developed into a great blocker despite experience at fullback," in Sporting News Pro Draft scouting report.
That assessment probably suits Fleming just fine since he never really considered himself a fullback, but played the position in addition to working as a single back for the Vols. Fleming rushed for 9,487 yards during his high school career at Battle Ground Academy, good for second place on the all-time scholastic list. He was hoping to follow in the footsteps of such UT tailbacks as Charlie Garner, Jamal Lewis and Travis Henry, but instead played mostly fullback, a position which Shawn Bryson excelled as a dual threat for the Vols.
However during his four years on the Hill Fleming only carried the ball 80 times for 346 yards. His longest carry was 18 yards and he finished with one touchdown run. Fleming was an effective receiving threat out of the backfield although he wasn't a big-play threat, having averaged under seven yards per catch during his collegiate career.
Fleming, who is listed at 6-1, 226, with 4.58 speed, showed well for NFL scouts during UT's recent pro day and is projected to go in the mid to late rounds of the next month's draft, but there remain concerns about his blocking and breakaway ability. He is listed as the No. 19 running back prospect available in the draft.
Here's the complete scouting report published on Fleming.
No. 19 Troy Fleming, Tennessee, 6th round
NFL COMPARISON: Najeh Davenport, Packers
STRENGTHS: Has good size, shows good initial quickness to the hole and adequate vision as inside runner. Runs with power, shows ability to pick up yards after contact and moves the pile with leg drive. Has adequate speed for size and flashes ability to turn the corner in the perimeter running game. Runs adequate routes, has the burst to gain separation from some linebackers and rarely drops a catchable pass. Can adjust to the ball while it is in the air.
WEAKNESSES: Is a ‘tweener running back/fullback prospect. Doesn't have great change-of-direction skills and won't make multiple defenders miss. Isn't a consistent threat to turn a short gain into a big play. Never developed into a great blocker despite experience at fullback. Lacks experience carrying the ball.
BOTTOM LINE: Fleming is versatile and can pick up critical yards in short-yardage situations, but he lacks the bulk and lead-blocking skills to play a traditional fullback role in the NFL. He also needs to work on his pass blocking. GRADE: 3.0
There were only 14 running backs taken in the 2003 NFL Draft and nine fullbacks. Those numbers indicate it will tough for Fleming to make a roster unless he becomes a born-again blocker. Coincidentally, that's what UT's coaches were trying to get across to Fleming for the last five years.
As Tennessee's running game struggled to gain traction the last two seasons there were times when it seemed the Vols didn't have a fullback. Now it appears the NFL agrees with that opinion.