Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 5/31/12
Vonta Leach was Baltimore's most valuable acquisition of last season - yes that’s right, the fullback.

The Ravens had a lot of success in 2011, but like most other teams, had down moments as well. If you need your memory refreshed, the loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars should be all I have to mention.

One of the Ravens' consistently great players was Vonta Leach, and he can’t take enough credit. Not a single linebacker in the game looks forward to playing this guy.

Leach can plow open the run lanes or shut down pass rushers. Anything you ask this guy to do he does, and does great.

Why? The thing the Ravens' offense was missing the last few years was a dominant fullback.

If you put on that Week 1 tape of the Pittsburgh at Baltimore game you will see my point. The Ravens in the past had no answer for the Steelers' pass rush. The answer -- Leach put his guy on an island and blocked him like a tackle on passing downs. Leach has made a career out of blowing up the best linebackers in the game.

Standing six feet tall and weighing 255 pounds, he is a true fullback. Many fullbacks in today’s NFL turn into a running back or wide receiver. Vonta Leach knows his role as a fullback, but is also very effective in running and catching.

It’s never a bad thing to have an extra weapon on offense, but your fullback stats rushing and receiving should never come up when comparing the best at the position. The fullback stats are how many opportunities he gave his RB to make a play, how many times he saved his QB.

I think Vonta Leach was the driving force that took the Ravens a blown play away from the Super Bowl. I mentioned a few other guys below that came close but Leach takes this honor. The Ravens seem to have a way of getting the most from older players. Leach,  Ray Lewis and Ed Reed are all in their 30s and playing at a Pro Bowl level.

Honorable mentions

Lardarius Webb: A position thought to be this team's weakness coming into 2012; Webb put that thought to rest. Webb makes plays all over the field and the Baltimore fans must love him by now.

Torrey Smith: Smith had a breakout season, positing over 800 yards and 7 touchdowns, and that’s just his rookie year. Smith and Flacco should only get better over the years as they build chemistry. Smith has the speed the Ravens seriously lacked in years past at the position. Mason was a good WR, but playing in a run-heavy offense you essentially need a speedy WR for play-action passes. The Smith, Boldin and Rice combo give this team the offense they have lacked in years past.

Marshal Yanda: I don’t think anyone expected Yanda to play so well; the Ravens got a steal here. You can’t question his toughness after he played after a Week 17 surgery on his calf. Yanda was one of the quiet pieces that helped hold the Ravens together this year.

Feel free to leave me a comment and let me know what you think. 

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