Buccaneers Draft Profile: FB-Dan Vitale

Oct 24, 2015; Lincoln, NE, USA; Northwestern Wildcats teammates celebrate with Northwestern Wildcats fullback Dan Vitale (40) after a fourth quarter touchdown at Memorial Stadium. Northwestern defeated Nebraska 30-28. Mandatory Credit: Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 24, 2015; Lincoln, NE, USA; Northwestern Wildcats teammates celebrate with Northwestern Wildcats fullback Dan Vitale (40) after a fourth quarter touchdown at Memorial Stadium. Northwestern defeated Nebraska 30-28. Mandatory Credit: Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports /

The Buccaneers are in search of a fullback.  Could the answer be in the NFL draft?

The fullback answer has been up in the air ever since the gruesome leg injury Jorvorskie Lane suffered in the final game of the season.  Although Lane is rehabbing well, the team may turn to younger, healthier options in this year’s upcoming draft.  This became true as soon as the free agency dinner bell began ringing and Lane was left without a job. At the owners’ meetings this past week in Boca Raton, coach Dirk Koetter said, “We don’t have a fullback right now, and we are going to get one.  We just haven’t found him yet.”  Does this mean that the Buccaneers are sniffing this upcoming draft for a potential youth option in the backfield?

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Dan Vitale is an Illinois native who spent his last four years starting at Northwestern University as a superback.  When Vitale walked into the college football ranks, it did not take him long to make an impact.  He was pegged as the starter coming out of fall camp as a true freshman and never turned back.  Vitale’s versatility was bar none.  He was able to lineup in the backfield, in the slot, and even put his hand in the dirt like it was second nature.  His route running ability was the spark that set him apart from most backs, with some experts believing that his routes are crisp and even better than some wideouts in the upcoming draft.  Vitale is also known for his bruising blocking ability.  He is able to lead the charge and open up excellent holes, which will make one NFL team very happy in the upcoming month.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports /

Vitale’s talents became clear to scouts and coaches alike at the Reese’s Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama. His play and work ethic excelled that week and he impressed many. One drill that stood out was the one-on-one pass rushing drill and not one of Vitale’s competition was able to best him. One big name in the group of opponents was projected first round draft pick, Reggie Ragland. Ragland was stopped cold in his tracks by Vitale, who resonated his talents in blocking in this drill.

Soon after the Senior Bowl, Vitale was able to showcase his talents once more on a larger scale: the NFL combine. Vitale, being the “physical freak” that he is, excelled in the events.  He came into the combine at 6’1″ 239 pounds. His arm length was measured at 31 3/4 inches and his hands at 9 3/4 inches. What came at no surprise was Vitale participating in the event as a fullback, his ideal position going in the draft, and he blew away the competition.

Vitale was able to run a 4.60 second 40-yard dash and he was able to throw up 30 reps of the 225 pound bench press. If you look at the biggest name he is competing with, Glenn Gronkowski, there was an obvious winner in physicality. Gronkowski was only able to run a 4.71 second 40 and bench pressed only 17 reps of 225.  Vitale is a true workout warrior based upon his numbers and the overall form of his body. Here are some expert opinions on Vitale.


"Utilized at versatile “superback” position during his time at Northwestern. Has shown ability to line up in slot, from behind center and all points in ­between. Runs better routes than many of the wide outs in this draft. Able to catch throws in traffic and take the hit. Shows no hesitation to stick his nose in the hole and into his intended target as a blocker. Generally solid radar as a blocker. Consistently lands his strikes inside the framework of defender. Team-oriented and highly coachable leader."


"Might be considered a too small for teams looking for a classic lead blocker. Thickly muscled and maxed out frame with little room for additional, functional mass. Missing length and overall mass to get into defender and control him throughout the rep. Not a true thumper as iso ­blocker. Slows feet at point of contact rather than accelerating through his intended target with force. Lacking desired athleticism outside of his frame to sustain as move blocker. Despite his plus route running, doesn’t have quickness out of breaks to gain separation as a receiver."

NFL Comparison

James Casey

If you look at the tape of Vitale it is evident what type of player you are getting from the beginning.

Vitale’s versatility will make any coach happy to have him on an offense.  Being a fullback who can open up holes and be able to be a pass catching threat out of the backfield will make him a very valuable asset to have.  Vitale’s tape shows a tremendous upside to his potential, but there are also some question marks.  Will Vitale be able to separate himself as a pass catching threat out of the backfield at the higher level and is he able to be a consistent blocker?  These are two obvious questions a coach and general manager must think about before pulling the trigger in the draft.

Vitale has all the traits to be able to be a successful and versatile fullback in the NFL based upon his tape.  Jason Licht needs to continue bringing in youth that can help on both sides of the ball, especially loading the arsenal on offense with more weapons.  Vitale is not an early round selection, but for any team looking for a fullback in the mid to late rounds, he would be a great selection.

Vitale has separated himself as a premier fullback in this year’s upcoming draft while drawing interest from a multitude of teams, especially one team that has excelled for over the past decade, the New England Patriots.  Jason Licht has a background with this organization and it leads fans to wonder if they have a similar taste in players and talent. The Bucs are known to have had a scout at the recent Northwestern pro day, so Vitale may be on their radar.

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Last year the Bucs used a seventh round pick on a beefy back that they believed could bring some youth to the fullback position. Unfortunately Joey Iosefa never panned out and was cut by the team in the preseason. Iosefa eventually landed with the Patriots, leaving fans curious to whether the tastes both teams have are similar. Why not swing another late pick on another beefy back who has more versatility to him?