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Ben Mason’s versatile, old-school game still has a place in the NFL

The former Wolverine has what teams are looking for from a player of his ilk.

NCAA Football: Michigan State at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Ben Mason was seen as grit-incarnate during his four-year career with the Michigan Wolverines, which saw him play a variety of roles. Fullback became his calling card after being recruited as a high school linebacker, but his time in a winged helmet also saw him getting some reps on the defensive line and special teams.

Mason now finds himself in search of a professional future after being a team captain in 2020 and suiting up in 45 games in his career in Ann Arbor. The first step in that process came in the form of the Senior Bowl, where director and draft analyst Jim Nagy saw a guy capable of bringing that versatility to the NFL.

“Ben Mason’s just a complete stud of a human being,” Nagy told Maize n Brew earlier this month. “There’s a reason why he was a captain there, just the way he handles himself, carries himself around the other guys. He’s physical. Extremely physical. I’m so happy for Ben. He could really show off what he could do in the passing game. Caught the ball really well all week.”

The concern with Mason’s outlook is the NFL’s continued shift to more spread principles with an emphasis on the passing game. Despite this, Nagy sees all of the traits that could make Mason a valuable member of a 53-man roster at the next level.

“It is a little bit of a dying breed position, but there are certainly teams that still like to use a fullback,” Nagy said. “San Francisco does a great job, Baltimore (and) Seattle, also. I still think there’s a home for those guys. But the key thing for fullbacks is can they play on special teams? They have to. In my last couple of years in Seattle, we were averaging a true fullback role in the backfield may be seven or eight snaps a game. So you can’t just you can’t dress a guy on your 46-man active roster on Sunday if he’s only playing eight snaps.

“So you have got to contribute to special teams, which is really going to help Ben. Not only has he done it at Michigan, he’s done it at a really high level. I think one of my first tweets ever was Ben running down on a kickoff and blowing up like three dudes before he made the tackle. But you have got to be able to catch the ball and you just can’t be a hammerhead, either. I mean, you got to be a leak out of the backfield, catch it and provide versatility.

“Where Ben is concerned, he did play some defensive line at Michigan. I think I think you have to be open-minded with having a three-way player that way. I think Patrick Ricard in Baltimore is a perfect example. They get reps out of a fullback, defensive line and special teams, so you can really save yourself a roster spot if you have a guy that can do all that stuff. So, Ben, being a captain in Michigan — and I’m sure he interviewed great down here with the teams — with our interactions and people I know in Ann Arbor that have been around him, he’s going to add any locker room.”

More from our conversation with Nagy, including why running back Chris Evans might be set up to be a sleeper in this class and how Michigan’s pro prospects are viewed can be found from our podcast with Nagy.

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