Right now, the Atlanta Falcons have four tight ends on the roster, but one of them could fill a role well beyond that position if the offense can figure out how to use him.
Luke Stocker came to Atlanta this offseason as a free agent and since his arrival, head coach Dan Quinn has indicated that he hopes to use Stocker at both tight end and fullback.
That’s a plan they hope will put some confusion into their opponents this season.
“When Luke is in the game with another tight end you have the ability to run your ‘12’ personnel plays and your ‘21’ personnel plays,” offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter told the Falcons website.
“Most defenses, they have certain calls when they know you have two backs in the game and certain calls against ‘12’ personnel.”
The “12” personnel features one running back and two tight ends, whereas the “21” grouping involves two tight ends and one back. Defenses line up on given plays in anticipation of facing one or the other, but if an offense can conceal which they are running, that gives them a distinct advantage.
That’s where Stocker can come in handy.
“If the defense has a hard time understanding what my role is they don’t know how to call the play,” Stocker said. “They don’t know what personnel to put it, they don’t know if I’m in the game are we going to be in a two back run system or a two tight end system. That can cause problems for them.”
Most NFL offenses have been trending away from using the fullback position as the league embraces a more wide open, passing oriented offensive system, but there are those teams that believe having that extra blocker is an advantage, and the Falcons are one of those teams.
It seems unlikely the Falcons would retain four players at the position, unless they can find a specific role for each. Hooper is their primary receiving option here, Paulsen was a reliable blocker, and Saubert is a capable specialist, playing 66 percent of special teams snaps last season.
If Stocker can prove himself as a legitimate fullback candidate in camp this summer, then Atlanta may consider keeping all four players for this coming season.
Originally a fourth round draft pick by Tampa Bay eight years ago, the 6 foot 5, 253 pound Stocker was most recently with the Tennessee Titans.
In his eight year NFL career, Stocker has 58 catches for 577 yards and five touchdowns.
Stocker’s addition represents another Dirk Koetter connection after the two worked together when they were with the Buccaneers organization prior to Koetter accepting the Falcons’ offensive coordinator position. Atlanta briefly pursued offensive tackle Kevin Pamphile, another Bucs player, before he signed with Tennessee.
Stocker also has working experience with Falcons tight end Mike Mularkey, who was with the Titans from 2014 to 2017, initially as tight ends coach and then has head coach.
Going forward, he could play a dual role to help the Falcons get back to the playoffs.