Virginia Tech CB Kyle Fuller Deserves To Be The Steelers First-Round Draft Pick

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.

PLAYERHGTWGTARMSHANDS40225VJBJ20S3C
Dennard, Darqueze510719930 1/494.511536.011’2″4.186.83
Fuller, Kyle511619032 7/89 3/84.491238.510’8″4.196.90
Gilbert, Justin600120233 1/88 5/84.372035.510’6″N/A6.91

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.

http://www.rotoworld.com/articles/cfb/46190/349/peshek-cb-metrics-10
http://www.rotoworld.com/articles/cfb/46242/351/peshek-cb-metrics-20

Peshek: CB Metrics For Dennard, Gilbert & Fuller

Trinity Stats
PlayerPD RateSnaps/TargetSIP Burn %
Dennard4.255.7327.45%
Gilbert3.936.2444.07%
Fuller3.005.0324.24%
Target Area
Player1-5YDS6-10 YDS11-20 YDS20+ YDS
Dennard25.49%7.84%19.61%47.06%
Gilbert13.33%26.67%33.33%26.67%
Fuller18.92%18.92%37.84%24.32%
Completion %
Player1-5YDS6-10 YDS11-20 YDS20+ YDS
Dennard53.85%50.00%30.00%8.33%
Gilbert75.00%50.00%45.00%18.75%
Fuller100.00%28.75%7.14%22.22%
Coverage Type
Player1-5YDS6-10 YDSPressPress-Bail
Dennard30.77%13.99%26.92%28.32%
Gilbert38.95%38.40%10.77%11.88%
Fuller21.21%56.97%10.91%10.91%

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.

Kyle Fuller
STATSGPGSTKSOASFRFCINTTFLPBUSACKBK
201014732221001004.0-08600.0-000
2011141465461411214.5-58504.5-392
201213135244801203.0-10500.0-000
2013982417701202.0-061000.0-001
TOTAL50421731294414623.5-822604.5-393
Darqueze Dennard
STATSGPGSTKSOASFRFCINTTFLPBUSACKBK
201062118311002.0-0401.0-020
2011111142301200301.0-0530.0-001
2012131352341800303.5-0570.0-000
2013141462332902403.5-08100.0-000
TOTAL444016710562131010.0-22201.0-021
Justin Gilbert
STATSGPGSTKSOASFRFCINTTFLPBUSACKBK
20101201816201000.0-00100.0-000
2011131359481110501.0-041000.0-000
201213136356701002.0-03900.0-000
201313134237500700.0-00700.0-001
TOTAL513918215725121203.0-072700.0-001

I am, I'm me. 40 something, retired and a life long Steelers fan.
  • Zach

    I totally agree — I hope Fuller is not grabbed by Tennessee.

  • Aric Brown

    Im a bit concerned about that 20+ completion rate on deep balls.. but he seems like he measures up very comparable with the consensus top 2… I dont mind the selection I just prefer Dennard

  • Paddy

    OSU and MSU play better schedules that VTU and that is something that can’t be ignored.

  • joed32

    Any one of those 3 corners and I’m happy.

  • Aric Brown

    None of the conferences are real strong but I’d def rate VTU behind the other 2

  • ApexSteel

    I’ll take him, but I don’t want him at 15.

  • Big White

    Agreed, this draft has the Steelers moving down every time I look at it. He’s a guy they can probably get 20-22, maybe even at 28-32. A player at that pick would also be at a considerable less price than at 15. We could use all the help we can get with the cap and still get a real good player. This draft is super deep.

  • Geoff Cordner

    I don’t know which is worse.. me endlessly reading all this pre-draft speculation and analysis… or the amount of pre-draft speculation and analysis. JUST DRAFT ALREADY! OMG. Will it ever end? Why can’t I stop myself from reading it? I wish the Saints had sent ME to Vegas so I could forget about it for the weekend.

  • Tullydew

    I’ve been beating the drum for Fuller for awhile. I could also live with Dennard but have no interest in Gilbert. Gilbert is allergic to tackling. (Looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane)

  • 20Stoney

    Fuller is the best match. Gilbert is the worst.

  • Randy Neff

    The Steelers need a secondary that can take the ball away. If the Steelers take a CB @15, he better have exceptional hands and ball skills.

  • ApexSteel

    You copy and paste that comment a lot…

  • blackandgoldBullion

    I was really excited about this guy months ago when he was projected to go to second round. Now that he’s moved way up the draft board I am hoping he provides fodder for a trade own scenario. Frisco on speed dial.

  • Birdman

    You’ll be lucky if he falls that far. He’s a top 20 pick. And his tape shows it

  • chris ward

    With 5 days till the draft I’m leaning toward the Steelers picking Fuller. Fuller I think fits perfect with what the Steelers want to do. I think he is the most complete CB of the top 3, he’s physical against the run and he has good coverage skills. I think all 3 CB’s are good players, I just really like watching Fuller on film and could see him in a Steelers uniform.

  • Randy Neff

    The Steelers have been near the bottom of the league in picks the last three years. The Steelers were near the top when Troy had big INT production. And those were the years the Steelers went to the SB.

  • dgh57

    To many things can happen in this draft to get to excited about any one player so Fuller, Dennard and last and least Gilbert and in that order works for me.

  • dennisdoubleday

    If Fuller plays off enough to allow 100% completions in the 1-5 range, he will fit right in in Pittsburgh

  • tone bone

    honestly I want to ask everyone a question which would u rather have a corner who is an very good cover man that covers anyone and who’s lengthy tho gets 5 turnovers a year who shys away from contact, or a decent cover man who doesn’t have great speed that cant cover #1 with speed, kind of short, who gets 2-3 turnovers and a great cb tackler?

  • Tullydew

    I just believe it. Yes, I have said the same thing for months. I’m a big fan of Fuller and don’t think Gilbert is the type of player the Steelers will draft.
    Do I think Gilbert will do well in the NFL……yes. But I don’t want an Antonio Cromartie clone playing for the Steelers D and I think the Steelers think the same.

  • tone bone

    to me if a corner is tackling anybody else then the guy he’s covering that means someone else isn’t doin there job. I want a corner who can cover and cause turnovers. you know what you call a corner with average cover skills and decent speed and a good tackler? It’s called a safety…

  • Tullydew

    It’s not about who YOU or I want.

    It’s about what type of corner will the Steelers want. They play a certain way and draft accordingly. Just like 4-3 DE don’t fit or get drafted by the Steeelers. You or I might like a 4-3 DE but he doesn’t fit the Lebeau defensive scheme.

  • Big White

    Hey, TCU corner Jason Varrett may be hanging out right there at there 2nd round pick in the late 40’s. Most of the “experts” have him as being the best pure cover guy in the draft. What’s up with all this use the #15 overall pick on the 3rd best corner prospect. C’mon people.

  • CW

    Those were also the years when Aaron Smith, Hoke, Kimo, and Big Snack to name a few were also with the teams helping turn everybody else into a mostly one dimensional passing threat.

    I’ll be happy if the Steelers find a either a shutdown corner or find the next great defensive lineman to close down running lanes and put pressure on the quarterback.

    Because the team needs an influx of elite defensive talent at different levels, not just in the secondary.

  • pkeats86

    There are plenty of teams that need cb help. Det, tenn, stl, chicago are all ahead of us and almost every team right behind us can use a cb. Mock drafts mean diddly. I can definitely see 2 going before the Steelers pick and think it’s not bright to think that Rex isn’t thinking the same things we are about Fuller in NY. I’d be okay with moving down to 19 to let Miami come up for a tackle but, only if guaranteed that Fuller would be there. There is no guarantee of that happening.

  • pkeats86

    That guy who is allergic to tackling also has the most tackles and solo tackles of all 3 corners being compared here. I like Gilbert and Fuller and don’t think that Dennard’s grabbing and holding will be allowed in the NFL like it was in the physical big10. And we also don’t play press.

  • pittsburghjoe

    Then should we just push K. Mack into about the 4th round then?

  • dave

    I will take Pryor over any of the 3 corners.

  • joed32

    I think all 3 have good ball skills and hands. I like Dennard best because he covers tight. He can learn what he can get away with and what he can’t. Taylor plays or at least used to play a lot of man to man and that’s where Dennard fits in . I like Gilbert second and Fuller 3rd but I just hope we can get one, they may all be gone.

  • 20Stoney

    I want a corner that can cover, cause turnovers and come up in run support.

  • Kevin Gobleck

    I think if it weren’t for injury, Fuller would have the most tackles of the three

  • Aric Brown

    Level of competition matters… i look like a pretty damn good linebacker playin with the kids in the back yard… thats not to say that those types of guys cant produce, but it cant be completely forgotten

  • Aric Brown

    I know hes not the first person to say that about Gilbert but looking at the TFL it appears Gilbert and dennard to a lesser extent arent big on crashing the run

  • Lewis

    CAn we get a breakdown of these guys vs some top WR draft prospects?

  • pkeats86

    I understand that but, that is something that can be taught and instilled. 7 interceptions and multiple Special teams touchdowns are not. Not saying I don’t like Fuller, I do. But, our defense is running short on play makers and stocked full of guys who are “technically sound”. Being physical and crashing the run can be taught. Especially to the guy who put up 8 more reps than the other 2. My rankings are still 1. Gilbert 2. Fuller and………….way over here at 3. Dennard < basically due to scheme.

  • wdhammer

    If Matthews is there no brainer

  • wdhammer

    Gilbert is a smoke screen

  • Iron Cadet

    why?

  • Big White

    I’m also fine with the Steelers taking this cat if they believe he’s the best corner and it works out. If it don’t work out, someone’s head has to roll. I’ll keep with my C.J. Mosely analysis. If the Steelers pass on a perrinial pro bowler who started for 3 years under Nick Saban, for perhaps the 3rd best corner, someone has to go, It can’t happen and it can’t happen to a team that has gone 8-8 two years in a row.

  • Weiss Chad

    Interesting that Gilbert had no int in two of his years and 12 in other two

  • Randy Neff

    There should’ve been many more picks during that era. Last in 07, middle of the pack in 03, and 05. Over those years it only graded out as average.

    Yeah there are other positions of need on the D for sure. But whenever they get around to taking a CB, I want one with some serious ball skills. That’s the main reason I didn’t care if Lewis left.

  • ApexSteel

    Verrett won’t be there in the 40s I’d be surprised if he made it out of the first. It’s not even about his position ranking, it’s how much the team values him.

  • ApexSteel

    An “Antonio Cromartie Clone” would give us something that we haven’t had consistently in years which is turnovers. He had 37 solo tackles last year so it’s not like he just won’t do it that whole “he won’t tackle” point is so overstated. And I hope the Steelers don’t feel the same because I see Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, and Andrew Luck on the schedule and I would like to have someone who could potentially get the ball back.

  • ApexSteel

    You’d take someone at a position we don’t need over players we do?

  • Rob

    I’d prefer a trade bsck and Varrett to reaching at 15… In fact, if Dennard, Barr, Donald, or Evans isn’t there, that’s ideal

  • ApexSteel

    Woodley and Woirlds were both 4-3 D-ends…

  • joed32

    Gilbert will be gone.

  • Big White

    Yep, until the league allows defenses to play defense again, corners that can COVER are at a premium, or the ones who are really good at getting away with holding.

  • JAMESH

    Seems like it is a given that we will hear Mosley’s name mentioned during weekly highlights until at least 2025.

  • Louis Goetz

    I agree with you on Dennard. I think he’s the best overall DB in this draft class. I don’t think there’s a better short yardage guy in the draft than Fuller. The guy’s up on the line, he’s run blitzing, he’s jumping the snap count. The kid always knows where the marker is and makes you pay for getting near it. His run defense is second to none. In moderate to deep coverage, however, his skills are just adequate. It’s there where the bigger, strong, Dennard pulls away and separates himself from the rest of the field. I’d be happy with either guy, because each guy brings a lot to the table; I just think Dennard is the best.

  • Travis Gunn

    I say we trade back to the Cardinals and get him at 20. It wouldn’t be a reach at 15 but mine as well get some picks if we can and still get him.

  • Michael Pearce

    First we were talking about Mike Evans, then when we found out he would’nt be there we went with Dennard for best CB for the Steelers, now its Fuller. I’m beginning to hope we just trade down and get another pick to compensate for what we wont be getting at 15.

  • Addison

    I wouldn’t mind a CB..,But I want to see that pocket collapse. I want the other team O-line feel out matched the QB shaking, nervous, seeing ghost. No more Tom Brady having time to write love letters to Gisele before he passes. Shazier, Barr, Tuitt, Crichton. Fear creates turnovers! Or take Literally LITERALLY! Take the best player available no matter if it’s not a need. Steelers aren’t one player away from the Super Bowl.

  • dave

    Best defensive player in the draft. Plays both safety spots and knocks people out. Flies all over the field and fits the steelers defense perfectly. May have to move up to get him but I would.

  • dave

    Safeties are the money on the steelers defense. Corners are not expected to make the splash plays and they can be drafted a little later. I am not comfortable at all with the safeties on the team and I don’t think the steelers are either.

  • ApexSteel

    That’s so not true that it literally makes my head hurt. So do you want him to take the spot at free safety from the man we just payed 5 mil a year to or Strong safety so we can get our leader on defense off the field? Either way it’s a bad idea but I’m curious.

  • Birdman

    How the rest of the Alabama prospects doing in the NFL??
    He has tons of injury issues and would be just another player just like the rest of the Alabama prospects. PASS!!

  • John Newman

    Bird man….BINGO

  • Zach

    I agree. If Pryor and the 3 CB (Dennard, fuller, gilbert) are still around, I think the steelers would give serious consideration to Pryor. The best would be to trade down to the 20-23 spot though, preferentially ahead of the Eagles at 22. However, everyone in the 15-23 range would probably like to move down as well…Would love to see a post this coming days about possible trade down scenarios. I only see realistic trades with Arizona, Cleveland, SF, and Denver.

  • Zach

    I agree with dave. Pryor would best translate to a SS in the Steelers defense. He would sit behind Troy in year 1 and take over in year 2 (I see troy in a 1-year contract who did a favor to the team to spread his cap hit along 3 years). I assume that a 1st-round corner would sit behind Ike in year 1 as well. We could get a stud corner in rounds 2 or 3 who would take over next year. IMO, SS more valuable than CB in steelers defense (we don’t need a shut-down corner to have a #1 dominant defense).

  • Zach

    I agree, and that would clearly tell us that the steelers are not drafting for immediate need, otherwise they would pass him for a CB, assuming one of the top 3 are still available.

  • Jason

    LMAO. I complain every day about the endless analysis and speculation but as I’m complaining I’m googling 2014 NFL mock draft. It’s a compulsion!

  • Big White

    OK, let’s substitute Eric Ebron. Even though i agree that defense is a priority, how could you pass on a threat like Ebron at 15 for the 3rd best corner?

  • JAMESH

    For months, I’ve been a proponent of either Ebron or Mosley, particularly Ebron. The closer we get to the draft and the more I think of Cortez and Ike, the more I think bring on the CB. Barring a surprise or Cleveland and Oakland doing something that actually makes sense, I believe I will be happy with whomever we take.

  • ApexSteel

    First off, we didn’t trade a third round pick for Shamarko Thomas for him to sit on the bench. Shamarko already sat behind Polamalu for a year got a ton of reps and is looking to be the future at SS. We don’t have a future at Corner on the roster right now which is why we need to draft one.

    And there is no way strong Safety is more important than a shutdown corner. Look at how much the team has struggled since Ike has struggled. We were only able to be a number one defense before because Ike was shutdown and the other corner was always serviceable which allowed Polamalu to play instinctively.

  • Zach

    I respect your opinion, but I disagree in a few points. Regarding safety x corner, I still think that the front office will take BPA independent of need (look at how they handled the OL from 2005-2010, and we still got 2 SBs). In the scenario we are discussing, it comes down to whether the front office is more comfortable next year with Mitchell+Shamarko+Dennard(supposing he’s the one picked)+Cortez, or Mitchell+Pryor+our 2nd rounder (let’s say Jean-Baptiste)+Cortez. IMO, shamarko will be an OK starter and Pryor would be far superior.

    I don’t agree that we were a number one defense because Ike was shutdown — he never was IMO. If we look at his advanced stats (like from pro-football-reference), he’s never been close to being a shutdown CB like Revis or Patrick Peterson, and that has worked just fine for us! I don’t think we need a 1st round corner to be successful and have a #1 defense, Ike himself was a 4th rounder and never a pro-bowler. I wouldn’t mind having a stud though, like Patrick Peterson or Revis, but Dennard/Fuller/Gilbert are not projected to be Revis- quality (but we never know how they will pan out).

  • Zach

    I agree. We need our DL to come together though and production from the OLB spot. I wouldn’t mind they taking Barr at 15 and getting rid of Worilds in 2015. Excellent duo of OLBs for negligible cap hit.

  • Shane Mitchell

    Well than you must want a completely different scheme than the one LeBeau has used for years, in his scheme his cbs have to come up in support, that is why he doesnt use a lot of press coverage.

  • ApexSteel

    Let’s disregard the fact that pryor is a free safety for a second. So you believe that we would waste this year’s third on a player we didn’t see potential in? I find that extremely hard to believe. There is nothing that says that Shamarko has shown that points to him only being ok.

    When it comes to Ike obviously the difference between him, Revis, and Peterson are the facts that they played more man coverage and they can actually catch. And please don’t use pro bowls as a measure of how good a player is. It’s a popularity/best stats contest. You can’t use projections either because who really knows what a player will be? No one knew Richard Sherman would be who he is, but look at him now. Of course that’s not to say let’s just go strictly for mid to late round corners because production like Sherman’s is rare to find in those rounds which is why he’s praised for his play so much.

    We went 8-8 last year. not because of our Strong Safety play apart of that problem was our safety play. That’s why we should fix that in the first not a position that we actually have a good plan in place for.

  • Iron Cadet

    You think that Calvin Pryor is the best defensive player in the draft…

  • steelster

    Did you look at the scouting report that alex did on Pryor. The guy misses too many tackles, no thanks.

  • ApexSteel

    I have literally been arguing against picking Pryor for hours now…

  • steelster

    meant to reply to Zach sorry, and I’m right with you apexsteel.

  • csmith46

    Huge Steelers fan and a current Hokie, Fuller will be an above average to elite cb for 10 years

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    100% agree.