ESPN ranks the NRL fullbacks ahead of the 2020 season

James Tedesco of the Roosters had another exceptional season. Matt King/Getty Images

When Latrell Mitchell made it clear that he wanted to leave the Roosters to pursue his goal of playing fullback, it set in motion a chain of events. The Tigers, Cowboys and Bulldogs all initially expressed an interest in signing Mitchell, but the Bulldogs stood behind their recent acquisition Dallin Watene-Zelezniak telling Mitchell's management that he would have to be play centre for the blue and whites.

The Cowboys used an interest in Mitchell to hurry along the signing of Valentine Holmes, who was returning to rugby league to play in his favoured fullback position. The Tigers were prepared to let Mitchell play fullback, but grew sick of waiting for an answer from his management.

It surprised no one when, following the release from the Roosters, Mitchell signed with the Rabbitohs. It did put Adam Doueihi's nose out of joint as he fancied a career in the Rabbitohs No.1 jersey himself. Doueihi asked for a release, was granted one and promptly signed with the Tigers.

With the fullback musical chairs settled, we thought it was the right time to rank the custodians for the 2020 NRL season.

16. AJ Brimson - Titans

Predominantly a half, Brimson found himself in the fullback position for the struggling Titans as they searched for answers on the way to a coach sacking. With Michael Gordan moving from a playing to a coaching role, Brimson will have a fine mentor as he develops his fullback skills. The Titans can only go up from their 2019 wooden spoon and Brimson will need to play a key role in that improvement.

15. Dylan Edwards - Panthers

Edwards has struggled for consistency after returning from a shoulder injury that ended his 2018 season, finding himself in and out of first grade as the Panthers adjusted to new coach Ivan Cleary. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak departed for the Bulldogs in the middle of 2019, opening the fullback position up to Edwards, but he'll need to find form early as the Panthers' nursery is always producing quality young backs.

14. Jamayne Isaako - Broncos

The Broncos fullback position has been a poison chalice in recent years with Darius Boyd and Anthony Milford having limited success in the position. Coach Anthony Seibold has confirmed that Isaako will have first shot at the No. 1 jersey in 2020 and the pressure will be on the hard-running Kiwi and Tonga international.

13. Matt Moylan - Sharks

Moylan has battled injury and form issues since arriving at the Sharks at the beginning of 2018, initially playing in the halves at his new club. With uncertainty still surrounding Moylan's best position, he will slot into fullback with Josh Dugan waiting to pounce.

12. Zac Lomax - Dragons

With Corey Norman settling in the halves for the Dragons and Gareth Widdop back in England, Zac Lomax has his chance in the famous Big Red V No. 1 jersey. Lomax has played mostly on the wing, but possesses the all round game needed at fullback. If he doesn't make the position his own, the Dragons have options with Matt Dufty and Tristan Sailor both capable of playing up back.

11. Adam Doueihi - Tigers

When South Sydney signed Latrell Mitchell as their new fullback, the writing was on the wall as far as Doueihi was concerned. The young Tigers junior had played in the halves and on the wing during his time at the Bunnies, but felt his best position is fullback. He'll replace Corey Thompson who was one of the Tigers' best players last season, so he'll be under pressure early.

10. Dallin Watene-Zelezniak - Bulldogs

Dallin joined the Bulldogs halfway through the 2019 season and really grabbed the fullback position with both hands. He was instrumental in the Bulldogs having a strong finish to the year, with his hard running efforts from the back lifting the side when it was most needed.

9. Clint Gutherson - Eels

The Eels bounced back from a wooden spoon in 2018 to take part in the finals last year and Gutherson was a key part of that turnaround. Having settled into the fullback role for the entire season, he was able to lead the Eels from the back..

8. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad - Raiders

Nicoll-Klokstad was a big part of a successful 2019 season for the Raiders. His hard, incisive running saw him average 175 metres per game on his way to scoring 11 tries. It was his first year at the club after coming across from the Warriors and the 24-year-old Kiwi will be looking to help the Raiders go one better in 2020.

7. Ryan Papenhuyzen - Storm

When Billy Slater retired, Ryan Papenhuyzen was barely on the list of potential replacements at the Storm. Given his chance during the season, he excelled, adding a Slater-like spark to the Storm's backline movements. Building on his success last season and with a full pre-season in the role, it would seem that Papenhuyzen can only improve.

6. Valentine Holmes - Cowboys

The Cowboys feigned interest in Latrell Mitchell, but they always had their eyes firmly set on the big prize of Valentine Holmes. Even before he left Cronulla to pursue an unlikely career in the NFL, Holmes had been linked to a return to his home state. After a very ordinary season last year, the Cowboys will be looking for plenty of spark from Holmes.

5. Latrell Mitchell - Rabbitohs

On rugby league talent alone Latrell Mitchell ranks high among the 2020 list of fullbacks. He doesn't make it higher on the list as there are still big questions over his fitness levels and ability to be effective with the full 80 minutes of effort required of a custodian. If he can make the transition, he will be a constant danger for the Rabbitohs.

4. Kalyn Ponga - Knights

After a failed brief move to the halves, during what was a relatively ordinary 2019, Ponga will start 2020 in his preferred fullback position. Capable of popping up anywhere and causing headaches with his elusiveness and sharp passing game, Ponga is expected to be back to his very best as he competes with the returning Valentine Holmes for the Maroons No. 1 jersey.

3. Tom Trbojevic - Sea Eagles

Turbo Tom missed the back end of the 2019 season with injury, but will be back this year hoping to be part of a resurgent Des Hasler-coached Sea Eagles. A devastating runner of the ball, Trbojevic has become a try scoring machine since first donning the maroon and white No. 1 jersey. There is only one player standing between him and the fullback position at state and national level.

2. Roger Tuivasa Scheck - Warriors

RTS endures the frustration of playing behind a Warriors team which can seemingly beat anyone on their day, but can also lose the unloseable at any given time. Still, he remains one of the best attacking weapons in the NRL and is an inspirational leader at club and international level.

1. James Tedesco - Roosters

Clearly the premier fullback in the game, Tedesco has played a major role in back-to-back Roosters premierships and back-to-back State of Origin victories for New South Wales. Tedesco sets the benchmark for all custodians, both in attack and in fearless goal line defence.