2016 NFL Draft Player Profiles: Virginia Tech CB Kendall Fuller

As we delve into the Pittsburgh Steelers offseason, our attention has now shifted to the 2016 NFL Draft as it relates to the prospects. From now until the draft takes place, we hope to profile as many draft prospects as we possibly can for you. Most of these player profiles will be centered around prospects the Steelers are likely to have interest in.

A look at Virginia Tech cornerback Kendall Fuller.

#11 Kendall Fuller/CB Virginia Tech — 6’0”, 196

The Good

– Able to stick in hip pocket of receiver when in press coverage
– Above-average hand-eye coordination when playing the receiver and the football in the air
– Quick to diagnose plays when in off-coverage
– Lets instincts go to work in coverage
– Very good ball skills for a defensive back
– Baits QBs into throws they shouldn’t make has impressive explosion/closing speed to cover ground quickly
– Closes quickly when he allows separation at the top of the stem
– Used a lot as a blitzer under Bud Foster at VT
– Good at reading QBs eyes and has a good feel for surroundings when in zone coverage
– Limits production after the catch; is a sound tackler
– Utilizes his length and frame to break up plays

The Bad

– Doesn’t always get his head around to find the football on deep throws
– Can be handled by WRs on the edge against run; fails to get off blocks in a timely fashion
– Appears to have heavy feet at times for a CB when trying to mirror receiver
– Plays through heels in man-coverage; leads to loss of balance on quick cuts
– Gets turned around often by receivers off the line if not in press
– Has issues at times with poor routes to ball carrier in space
– Can be overaggressive in coverage; is susceptible to double-moves
– Stiff lower half gives him trouble in man-coverage
– Slow to flip hips; not as fluid as other corners are
– Can get caught guessing in coverage

Bio

– Missed a majority of ’15 with a torn meniscus that required surgery
– 2013 Freshman All-American
– 2013 Second Team All-ACC
– 2014 First Team All-ACC
– 2014 Second Team All-American
– Recorded 54 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, two interceptions, 15 pass breakups and a forced fumble in 2014
– Recorded 58 tackles and six interceptions during freshman year in ‘13
– Maryland Gatorade State Player of the Year at Our Lady of Good Counsel
– U.S. Army All-American Defensive Player of the Year during senior season of high school
– Played wide receiver and cornerback in high school
– Brothers Vincent (7th round pick, played for San Diego Chargers and Detroit Lions), Corey (3rd round pick, plays for Detroit Lions) and Kyle (1st round pick, plays for Chicago Bears) were all drafted out of Virginia Tech
– Turns 21 years old on February 13

Tape Breakdown

Right off the bat I knew that watching Kendall Fuller at Virginia Tech was going to have a lot of ups and downs.

Don’t get me wrong:  he’s well worth the hype the deeper you dive into film, but watching his tape from 2014 against Ohio State, PITT, North Carolina and Cincinnati (Military Bowl) I wasn’t overly impressed.

Let’s start with the Ohio State game in 2014. In that game Fuller went up against Corey Smith and Michael Thomas —who will be starting receivers in the NFL in no time.

During that game I saw Fuller play through his heels in coverage, get lost in man-coverage at times because he seemed to be guessing what routes guys were running instead of reacting, and he struggled to get his head around to find the football a lot.

Take a look at this clip here against Thomas in 2014.  Thomas gets in and out of his cuts quickly against Fuller, who has a lot of his weight on his heels. This happened quite a bit against the Buckeyes in ’14 where Fuller would lose his balance in coverage.

He plays through his heels a lot and that concerns me at the next level. As athletic as he is in the open field, Fuller really struggles in man-to-man coverage when he isn’t able to get his hands on the receiver at the line, pushing him off of his route.

Later in the same game Fuller turns in one of the best reps of seen from him through seven games. Take a look at this play against Thomas once again in 2014.

At the snap Fuller is able to get his long arms into Thomas and stick to his hip on the route. Fuller is able to feel Thomas breaking down for the curl route, which allows the VT corner to get his head around to find the football.

This is a great job of staying with the receiver while being able to reach around Thomas and break up the pass.

Unfortunately, Thomas gets the best of him one year later.

Fuller is very susceptible to double-moves when he tries to guess the route or gets overaggressive when trying to jump the route. That’s what happens here against Thomas in ’15.

It’s a simple stutter-and-go by Thomas, but Fuller bites hard and then gets off balance as Thomas accelerates past him. This was one of the ugliest plays I watched from Fuller through two years worth of tape.

While I like the way Fuller plays the CB position when he’s able to use the press technique, I’m much more high on his ability to diagnose plays and use his instincts in off-man coverage where he can let his ball-hawking abilities take over.

Due to that I think Fuller would be best served with a move to free safety in the NFL.

Disagree with me? Take a look at this play against Furman in 2015.

Fuller is lined up in a traditional free safety role for the Hokies where he is about 15 yards off the ball.

At the snap Fuller is able to read the QB and covers a lot of ground from the far numbers to the near hash marks for the interception. Not only does he allow his instincts and athleticism to take over on this play, but look at the ball skills in the air.

He does a great job of high-pointing the football on this play and even shows some play-making ability after the pick in the open field.

Another play that really stands out to me is his physicality and willingness to fly downhill against the run. Against North Carolina in ’14 Fuller comes flying downhill to make a play on the Tar Heels’ running back.

He has great closing speed and his long strides allow him to make up a ton of ground with minimal effort.

Although he doesn’t take the greatest routes at times to the ball, he’s physical enough to come up against the run and athletic enough to play the centerfield role as single-high safety at the next level.

You can teach someone how to take proper routes to the football, but you can’t teach someone to be willing to stick his nose into the pile against the run.

Fuller comes from a long line of NFL products as his three brothers have NFL experience, so he’ll be the next in line from the Fuller family to turn into a solid NFL player, whether that’s at cornerback or safety.

Should a team draft him as a corner, they need to be patient and not reach in the first round. I really like him in the middle of the second round who has the ball skills, instincts and athleticism in off-man coverage to excel at the next level. Just don’t ask him to mirror at the next level without utilizing his ability to bump receivers off their routes in press coverage.

Projection:  Mid-2nd

Games Watched:  at Ohio State ’14, at North Carolina ’14, at PITT ’14, vs. Cincinnati ’14, vs. Ohio State ’15, vs. Furman ’15, at Purdue ‘15

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  • Jeremy McClurg

    I like him as a steal in the 2nd if he gets there. Don’t know about the 25th pick though. He played okay before he got hurt in 2015. 2014 he was fantastic.
    Can you do Maurice Canady from Virginia sometime next? He’s a very underrated corner in my opinion. He’s close to 6’2″, very long, and incredibly fast. I mean blistering speed.

  • falconsaftey43

    I like the idea of him as a FS. He just struggles so much trying to stay with WRs, like you said, he’s off balance a lot and gives up a lot of separation.

  • Alexander Sebastian Heath

    The only corner back that will be available for us for which that I truly like is William Jackson III and the rest look really aggressive or perhaps better in man on man coverage only. I thought this class would be a better class than last year and I was wrong.

  • Kenneth Wilt

    I think we take CB in the 2nd. In fact, I see TE or S in 1. CB in 2. DE in 3.

  • 4130steeler

    like to see one of these for karl joseph safety out of west virginia. One of my favorite players in the draft.

  • John

    Interesting and extremely well done. Sounds like he is a corner for teams that play press man generally. The free safety option is intriguing. Of course, we don’t know if he thinks so, nor do we know if he can hit and otherwise play the formations a safety would have to play. As a pure centerfielder, he looks great though.

  • Daniel

    Yes sir..I hope we get Hunter Henrey to take over for Miller in 2017

  • LucasY59

    I agree try him at FS, he seems to play best when he sees and re-acts, I think he could be a really good playmaking Safety. He has average cover skills for a CB, but Above Avg for a S,

    Ramsey is the Guy I wish the Steelers could get the most (but It would take too much to trade up for him) getting Fuller in the 2nd would be a good consolation

  • PittsburghSports

    I think CBs switching to Safety is like Beachum switching to Guard. Less money. Can’t imagine the player would be that excited about it, especially one with a 1st-2nd rd projection. He plays press-man well, gets the jam in with the correct hand, which is better than any of our CBs do. We’ve seen Gay and Blake get beat by double moves just like he did in off-man coverage as well. I like Fuller. He can play everywhere. Outside, Slot, Off, Press, he’s physical, can tackle, blitz.

    One thing you didn’t mention is he’s been injured all year. Tried to play through the first 3 games and then called it a year, and had knee surgery.

  • falconsaftey43

    I don’t know, his footwork is just so off balance, he’s giving up tons of separation to WRs that aren’t exactly fleet footed great route runners. I think he has to play press or zone only, and even in zone, I think he has to play far off so he can keep it underneath and plant and drive on the ball. Also he is a rookie, so if a team drafts him to be a safety, he better start learning to play safety. It’s not like a FA who has other teams he can look at.

  • PittsburghSports

    Who’s not a great route runner? Michael Thomas, the Ohio St player above, is an excellent route runner and has great feet.

  • falconsaftey43

    Maybe route runner wasn’t the best choice of words. He’s not a quick twitch very sudden type of WR that should be causing Fuller to fall all over himself that way. And it wasn’t just Thomas that did that to him, it was consistent in all of his games, that he just does not have a very smooth transition and gives up a lot of separation to WRs that aren’t exactly explosive quick change of direction guys.

  • PittsburghSports

    Well I’ll agree that Fuller’s footwork isn’t great. Kinda clunky. Reminds you of Blake’s. Michael Thomas isn’t explosive or a burner, but his route running and footwork is top notch. He’ll probably get drafted before Fuller.

  • Phil Brenneman II

    So one of his best reps (the 2nd clip) was mugging the receiver which will be a PI call 9/10 times in the NFL? Lol.

  • Lil Smitty

    He doesn’t look as polished as his brother. What concerns me is that torn meniscus. How long will it take before his knee becomes chronic like Cortez’s

  • Birdman

    Dream scenario is him having a Tuitt like drop in round 2. Unlikely but always a chance.

  • Bill Sechrengost

    Thanks for the article, Josh. I’ve been waiting to see the review since there have been mock draft projecting Fuller to the Steelers. Looking forward to some safety player profiles. We have plenty of time to see a few of them like Keanu Neal Florida, Sean Davis Maryland, or Justin Simmons Boston College.

  • LucasY59

    I think the $ could end up being the same, I think he will be an avg starting CB, but could be a pro bowl FS, He would make more $ as a pro-bowl CB but i dthink he will struggle at times in coverage, and wont become that type of CB, with his cover skills as a S and playmaking ability he could easily make the PB at that position, if he gets about 5 or more INTS he is a very good Safety vs a good/avg CB (a Steeler CB getting more than 5 would be great!)

  • LucasY59

    I am quite interested in him as well (and dont know much about him other than his measurables so a profile/scouting report would be great)

  • PittsburghSports

    He looks a little stiff. In that 2nd rd area I’d much rather have the Notre Dame CB KeiVarae Russell.

  • Michael James

    I always thought he is a mid-to-late second round talent. No way we should use a first round pick on him.

  • Josh Carney

    That’s not mugging a receiver. Didn’t grab or turn the receiver around. You can have a hand on the receiver. He also didn’t touch him when breaking up the pass. Reached around Thomas to knock the ball away.

  • Josh Carney

    No, no you wouldn’t. Russell is a mid-5th round CB who is not very good.

  • Josh Carney

    False, I did mention it. See: Other. And he did tear the meniscus in preseason camp, but he re-aggravated it against Purdue. Also, Steelers don’t really play press-man or ask to jam receivers at the line very often, so that makes Fuller’s strength something that the Steelers can’t utilize. Not the style of coverage they play. Doubt he can play slot because 1) struggles to mirror receivers and 2) rarely played there at VT. He’s a boundary corner or a safety.

  • PittsburghSports

    There’s a vid of him on draft breakdown.

  • Phil Brenneman II

    He grabbed his shoulder on the way to the route and grabbed him around the waist coming back on the ball. He was all over him and at the NFL level he is getting called all day on that.

  • Josh Carney

    You do know you’re allowed to make contact in the NFL, right? It’s a judgement call. That’s not getting called in the NFL. I’ve seen that play happen a ton and not get called. That’s a good play by a college CB, but to each his own.

  • Phil Brenneman II

    Yes within 5 yards and maybe a little hand fighting. Not mugging the guy all the way down the field. I think it was pretty clear here.

    And this is coming from someone who thinks the defense has it rough as it is. Clearly PI IMO.

  • thomas hmmmm

    Harlan Miller looked good in the Senior Bowl.. 6-2 175.. He is a little small weight wise, but I don’t think Southeastern Louisiana has a NFL caliber nutrition program. I like him and he can probably be had in the second. A lot of people here are saying Dieon Hall, but I would take Harlan-Miller before Hall

  • PittsburghSports

    Totally have a draft crush on Harlan Miller after Senior Bowl week. He’s only 6 ft though, but lanky. Hall looked stiff and a bit more like a mid round project.

  • PittsburghSports

    What games did you watch to judge him a 5th rounder? I don’t know a ton about him, but I watched the Texas and USC vids on draft breakdown and thought he looked great. I heard only thing holding him back was character concerns because of that academic deal.

  • PittsburghSports

    Ahh my bad. Missed it. I like Fuller. I didn’t say he’s a fit with Pitt though. Just think he’ll be able to play CB in the NFL.

  • Josh Carney

    I watched him this entire year. No thanks. Two games won’t make him a second-rounder.

  • Josh Carney

    I disagree. This happens a lot in the league. I don’t call that mugging a receiver. Just me though.

  • GoSteelerz

    If we get Byard in the 4th, then that could definitely work. Hunter Henry in round one, Harlan Miller in round two, pass rusher (LB/DE) in round three, Kevin Byard in round four. If we do this and re-sign Golden, our secondary, and defense in general, would look pretty good for 2016 and beyond.

  • Ike Evans

    I dont know much about this kid besides his reputation so ill take your word for it, Carney. Appreciate the write up.

  • Matt Manzo

    If he switched to Safety, would he make sense for us? I know he’d be a good FS but is he strong enough as a SS?

  • Phil Brenneman II

    I think you should take a closer look at the clip. From the beginning of the route he gets his hand into his shoulder. Which is okay early. But then at the top he locks onto the shoulder and holds partially hindering him from getting around though the receiver powers through it.

    After the receiver gets turned he immediately gets his hand into his chest and stomach area and is draped on him. There was literally never a time he wasn’t contacting the receiver that entire time.

    Viewed from another perspective, if an LB is coming in to break up a pass and makes contact early it is almost always PI. This time the CB was with him the whole time but the same PI contact was there the entire play.

    So call it pass interference, mugging etc…Either way if that is the best he has on tape I don’t want anywhere near this guy.

  • thomas hmmmm

    You know that’s funny about his height… I have been to about a dozen different sights and they all say something different. I have seen between 6′ and 6’2.. The weight also I have seen from about 170 to 180….So i guess we really have to wait until the combine..

    But he is a favorite of mine

  • PittsburghSports

    Yeah just going off the Senior Bowl measurements that were posted here.

  • PittsburghSports

    huh what about him don’t you like?

  • TrappenWeisseGuy ;

    Really grabby in that second gif.