(Continuing a month-long series analyzing players who are on the roster bubble and where they may potentially fit in 2012.)
NAME: Spencer Larsen
2011 STATS: 16 games (6 starts), 14 rushes (44 yards), 9 catches (76 yards), 5 tackles -- with Broncos
INJURY STATUS: No known injuries
CHANCE OF MAKING 53-MAN ROSTER: 70%
WHY HE SHOULD MAKE IT: When Josh McDaniels departed the Patriots following the 2008 season, so did the fullback position from New England's offense. While the Patriots added Larsen and Tony Fiammetta this offseason, there is no guarantee either player will make the roster. At a news conference during minicamp, head coach Bill Belichick explained that who sticks among Larsen, Fiammetta, and Eric Kettani, the three fullbacks on the roster, "will be [those] players' values relative to the running backs, the tight ends, the linebackers and the kicking game and how big of a role those other players would have offensively or defensively." If there is a spot to be had at fullback, Larsen appears to have the inside track, due to his value added on special teams. In minicamp, Larsen was a member of the top kickoff return unit.
WHY HE SHOULD NOT MAKE IT: What seems evident from Belichick's comments is that the team is unlikely to keep a fullback on the roster if that player is exclusively a fullback. While McDaniels may use the position more in the offense this season, it may not be enough to justify a full-time player to fill that role. If a linebacker such as Niko Koutouvides or Jeff Tarpinian offers more of a value from a special teams standpoint, neither Larsen or Fiammetta's prowess on offense may be enough to overcome that gap. If the fullback position takes on a greater-than-expected role in the Patriots' offense, then the focus of the Larsen vs. Fiammetta battle shifts more towards their abilities as blockers, runners, and pass-catchers.
CLOSEST COMPETITION: FB Tony Fiammetta, FB Eric Kettani, LB Niko Koutouvides, LB Jeff Tarpinian