Is Virginia Tech cornerback Kyle Fuller one of the top three at his position in the 2014 draft class? Is he better than both Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard and Oklahoma State’s Justin Gilbert? More importantly, is Fuller deserving to be the Pittsburgh Steelers first-round selection next Thursday night?
The obvious way to answer the above questions is to look at as much tape as you can of the three players. Assuming you have, you have probably come to conclusion that all three bring something different to the table and that all three have their fair share of strengths and weaknesses. In fact, I believe all three can be good cornerbacks at the NFL level if matched to the right system and coached properly.
Once we move past the tape, we can look at all three from a measurable and metrics standpoint and we’ll start with the former.
|Dennard, Darqueze||5107||199||30 1/4||9||4.51||15||36.0||11’2″||4.18||6.83|
|Fuller, Kyle||5116||190||32 7/8||9 3/8||4.49||12||38.5||10’8″||4.19||6.90|
|Gilbert, Justin||6001||202||33 1/8||8 5/8||4.37||20||35.5||10’6″||N/A||6.91|
As you can see, Fuller measures up nicely to both Dennard and Gilbert as far as physical characteristic and not only does he have longer arms of the three, he also has the largest hands.
When you look at their underwear Olympic measurables, you will also see that Fuller stacks up nicely to both Dennard and Fuller in those areas as well. While Fuller did do the fewest reps on the bench of the three, his vertical jump really makes up for that.
Now onto the coverage metrics and nobody covers that area independently like Greg Peshek of Second Round Stats does. If you have not viewed the articles on his site and on Rotoworld, you really are missing out on some great information. All of these metrics below were pulled from his Rotoworld articles and I highly suggest you go read them.
The four tables below should be self explanatory, but if they’re not, please follow the links below for a better understanding of them.
Peshek: CB Metrics For Dennard, Gilbert & Fuller
|Player||PD Rate||Snaps/Target||SIP Burn %|
|Player||1-5YDS||6-10 YDS||11-20 YDS||20+ YDS|
|Player||1-5YDS||6-10 YDS||11-20 YDS||20+ YDS|
As far as the Trinity Stats go on Dennard, Gilbert and Fuller, the Virginia Tech product not only has a lower burn rate of the three, he also has a better pass defensed rate. In case you’re curious, Fuller was credited with 10 pass break ups, 14 passes defensed and two interceptions in nine games played last season. Fuller, however, was the most targeted of these three players last season.
The target area and completion percentage numbers should also be pretty easy for you to decipher. While Fuller was the most targeted of the three from 11-20 yards down the field, his 7.14% completion percentage is quite impressive.
So what about the 100% completion percentage that Fuller allowed from the 1-5 yard area? Peshek addressed this in one of his post and believes it is a result of him playing so much off coverage as dictated by the defensive scheme. That certainly makes a ton of sense and the numbers in the last table bear that out.
What’s interesting is that Fuller and Gilbert both have similar percentages when it comes to playing press an press-bail. In the case of Dennard, you can clearly see that he played up tight quite a bit and if you’ve seen a lot of his tape, you already know that to be true.
I’m not going to get into these metrics too much further as Peshek has already done a great job of highlighting the main areas, so make sure you read his breakdowns.
The final important thing to look at is experience and all three of these cornerbacks have it at the college level. Fuller leads the trio in games started and that’s even with him missing four games last season due to his sports hernia.
I posted the career stats of each at the bottom so you can easily make comparisons. Make what you will of these numbers, but I will tell you that Fuller certainly isn’t afraid to tackle and he’s the best special teams player of the three, in my opinion. Gilbert of course can contribute as a kickoff returner, so that’s one feather in his cap that the other two really don’t have.
So, what conclusions should we draw from all of this? I believe that Fuller is indeed one of, if not, the best cornerbacks in this year’s draft class. I also believe that he is the most well-rounded of the three and think NFL Films Senior Producer Greg Cosell described him best in a recent video segment.
“I think Fuller can play press, he can play off, he can play in the slot – there’s a lot to like about Kyle Fuller’s game,” said Cosell. “I don’t think he’s necessarily outstanding in any one area, buts he’s very good in all areas. And because of that, it will be interesting to see where he gets drafted. He could start out his NFL career playing in the slot. He’s that versatile and he’s that good of a player.”
In closing, based on the defensive scheme that the Steelers use and what they normally seem to look for when it comes to cornerbacks, I believe that Fuller is a perfect match and thus well deserving of the 15th overall selection. The Steelers need a top-rated cornerback in this draft and Fuller’s college career, NFL bloodline, character and experience make him a natural fit. I really expect him to be the pick Thursday night.