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
– 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
– 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
– 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
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.
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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