+Tougher than nails
+Crazy strength for size
+Gets himself into the backfield with incredible ease for a corner
+Good change of direction skills
+Excellent route recognition skills
+Awesome in zone coverage
-Poor long speed
-Struggles to cover deep routes
-Mediocre instincts when reading the receiver’s eyes
-Below average ball skills
Even before scouting Virginia Tech junior cornerback Kyle Fuller (remember, he is a junior so he might not enter the draft), I knew he was an underrated prospect (the film confirmed what I presumed). I am usually very reluctant to form an opinion of a player based on stats alone, but any corner that can get 14.5 TFL’s in a season in the ACC is something special. 14.5 TFL’s?! From a 5’11, 187lb corner?! Are you kidding me?! That’s nothing short of ridiculous. His film is no less impressive than those numbers. He deserves to be a first round pick in next year’s draft, even though he might not enter it.
Fuller has below average measurables. Admittedly, I’ve always had a thing for big corners, but for Fuller, I’ll make an exception. To be blunt; he plays much bigger than he is. He may not be huge, but he packs a lot of strength into his 5’11, 187lb frame. In fact, he packs enough strength into his frame that Virginia Tech trusted him to play OUTSIDE LINEBACKER against Georgia Tech. There aren’t a lot of players in college football who can hold their own at linebacker at his size, let alone against a team as powerful as Georgia Tech. On the downside, his speed is best described as mediocre at best. Virginia Tech has been known to produce some ridiculous 40 yard dash times over the years (Marcus Davis did not run a 4.44 at 6’4, 228lbs this spring; Eddie Whitley did not run a 4.39 at VT’s pro day last year). But, in spite of the added boost to 40 yard dash times that seem to come to players during pro days/spring workouts at Lane Stadium (I suspect Frank Beamer provides his players with special footwear), Kyle Fuller’s 40 is listed at 4.52, which is mediocre at any field for a 187lb corner. His speed doesn’t look much better on film either; he reaches top speed very quickly, but his long speed is an absolute joke. Fuller doesn’t exactly have eye popping measurables.
However, Fuller definitely has eye popping stats. Last year he got 65 tackles and 14.5 TFL’s, to go along with 2 interceptions. 14.5 TFL’s is unbelievable for a corner. He also got 4.5 sacks. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that 14.5 TFL’s was number 1 in the NCAA among all defensive backs. 65 tackles is also excellent for a corner, and it wasn’t just mistakes in coverage. He was a beast against the run all year. He also had 7 pass breakups. Overall, Fuller’s stats are amazing.
Fuller reaches new levels of production against the run never before achieved by cornerbacks. To start things off, there isn’t a player in the NCAA whom Kyle Fuller can’t tackle. I mean, if Fuller can go 5 for 5 (at least that’s what I counted) in tackle attempts against Lamar Miller, there really isn’t anybody in the NCAA he cannot tackle. Not too mention, his instincts are among the best of all corners in college football, and he can shed blocks with incredible ease (thanks to great fundamentals), even against offensive linemen. Those incredible attributes led to Virginia Tech deciding to start him at outside linebacker in the game against Georgia Tech. A 5’11, 187lb cornerback by trade starting at outside linebacker against one of the best rushing teams in the NCAA is truly amazing. And he held his own in the game. That’s how much Virginia Tech trusts him against the run. And that trust is justified.
I’ve never had as much difficulty scouting a corner on pass plays as I’ve had with Fuller. Why? Because Fuller never seems to be targeted. I have dedicated two games this off-season t scouting him and only him when VT is on defense (the first Clemson game and the Miami game), and, in those two games, I saw him get targeted a combined 3 times. It’s primarily because no corner does better than staying with his man on short to intermediate routes than Fuller. But still, it’s tough to get a read on him in coverage because broadcasted games don’t always give me great views of the cornerbacks. I often rely on replays after a particular receiver is targeted, since it will show in great detail why the receiver was targeted and whether or not the corner was successful in breaking up the pass, and for what reason, but when I’m scouting a guy like Fuller, I have to rely on all sorts of replays to get the information I need. In zone, Fuller appears to be absolutely flawless. Although his long speed is poor, that’s not critical for zone coverage. In zone coverage, a player needs quickness. He needs to be able to read the quarterback’s eyes, and, if he is successful in doing so, he needs to be able to reach top speed quickly in pursuit of the ball. This comes easily to Fuller. He has phenomenal instincts against the pass, he does an excellent job of reading the quarterback’s eyes, and, even though his top speed is mediocre, he reaches it so quickly that his short distance speed is fantastic and he has a lot of range in zone coverage. His agility and ability to deflect passes helps as well, and his tremendous strength allows him to jam receivers and reroute them off the line of scrimmage in zone coverage, which can help him dictate the direction of the play. Fuller is just about perfect in zone coverage.
Fuller is solid but unspectacular in man coverage. He rarely, if ever, allows a short completion (I’m yet to see him allow any), thanks to his incredible quickness and physicality in man coverage. He never gives receivers are large cushion to work with and his change of direction skills, instincts, and quickness mean that it’s tough to lose him on shorter routes. He also is very physical in man coverage and can be very strong in press man. However, once again, his straight line speed is poor, and the straighter the route the receiver runs, the more likely he is to allow a catch. He can’t really cover a go route and even the skinny post can give him fits. If a corner struggles to cover the deep ball, it’s often because of a lack of discipline in coverage (i.e., biting on pump fakes, etc.). But, in Fuller’s case, he is just not fast enough to stay with many receivers in man coverage. His change of direction skills can bail him out on shorter routes, but he’s a dead man walking in a race to the end zone. He uses respectable fundamentals covering the deep ball, but he lacks the physical ability to cover it effectively and consistently at the college (or NFL) level. As a result, at all levels, teams that use him in man coverage pretty much have to make sure there is a safety who will be covering a deep zone toward his side of the field. It’s not a problem of his that will be fatal in the NFL, but it will prevent him from ever becoming Darrelle Revis; you simply can’t trust Fuller on an island by himself in man coverage, because, in the event that a receiver runs a deep route, you are screwed. And the biggest problem is that the problem is physical, not mental. Fuller has virtually no chance to improve his ability to cover the deep ball since he isn’t going to gain speed anytime soon. There is a “Revis Island,” but there will never be a “Fuller Island.” Overall, Fuller is good in man coverage, but deeper routes will always be an issue for him.
Fuller has average ball skills. He has habit of playing the man more than the ball, which results in lots of incompletions but very few interceptions. He has average leaping ability for a corner, but, for a corner of his size, he has pretty long arms, which allows him to deflect a lot of passes on short routes. When he does get both of his hands on the ball, he usually catches it, but he isn’t much of an interception returner. Overall, Fuller has decent ball skills, but they are below average for a first round prospect.
There is no reason to believe Fuller has character issues. He plays with phenomenal on field intensity, he is tough and fearless when tackling the best backs in college football, and his coaches and teammates seem to have nothing but good things to say about his work ethic and toughness. There is no reason to believe his character is anything but good.
Overall, I love Fuller. I think he will be a great player in the NFL thanks to his tremendous toughness, ability to stop the run and rush the quarterback, and his quickness in both man and zone coverage. We must remember that he is a junior, and, barring an excellent junior season, he probably won’t enter the draft, but, regardless, Fuller should have a fine NFL career.
NFL Comparison: A bigger Antoine Winfield. Don’t get me wrong. Fuller isn’t big for a corner. Winfield is just small (5’9 180lbs). But they both pack a lot of strength into their tiny bodies, and there isn’t a corner in the NFL who can stop the run like Winfield. Winfield has had some injury issues in the past, but he has gotten at least 90 tackles in his last 5 seasons in which he played 16 games. You can expect Winfield like production against the run from Fuller.
Grade: 93 (worthy of a mid to late first round pick)
Projection: 81 (will be a late second to early third round pick)