NFL coaches love cliches.
One of the more common ones you’ll hear is: That guy’s just a football player.
It’s coach speak for: He always knows what he’s doing out there. He’s willing to fill a variety of roles. That’s someone I’ll take on my team any day of the week.
When it comes to first-round prospects on the defensive side of the ball, perhaps no one fits that particular description better than Virginia Tech CB Kyle Fuller.
The 6-foot, 190-pounder is one of four brothers to play his college ball in Blacksburg, Va. And the Hokies used him in a variety of roles: outside corner, nickel, special teams. One of Chip Kelly’s favorite words applies strongly to Fuller.
“I think he’s a very versatile player,” said Greg Cosell of NFL Films during a recent appearance on the Ross Tucker Football Podcast. “He can play in the slot as well, which maybe increases his value. He’s not ‘just’ a slot guy but he can play in the slot.
“I think he can play press, I think he can play off, I think he can play man, and I think he can play zone. He can do a lot of different things depending on what you want to do defensively.”
His college defensive backs coach Torrian Gray would seem to agree.
“Kyle’s a smart, cerebral player,” Gray said, via the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “He’s a tackling corner. He’s a gym rat. He’s going to study, he does a lot of extra things. He prepares like a pro.
“He’s tough. A physical corner. He’s not just out there trying to cover guys. He’ll mix it up. Versatile, if I had to describe him in one word. …Kyle’s versatile enough to where he can play anywhere back there.”
NFL Network’s Mike Mayock recently rated Fuller as his top corner in the draft. Here’s how he stacks up from a measurables standpoint:
In addition to the above-average height, Fuller has long arms (32 7/8 inches). The graph shows him running a 4.40. That was his unofficial time. It was actually a 4.49.
But there’s a lot to like about Fuller. Most notably, he does a tremendous job of getting his hands on the football. According to Rotoworld, he broke up or intercepted one out of every three passes thrown his way. That ranked second in the class to only TCU’s Jason Verrett.
Here’s an example against Alabama. Fuller lines up in press coverage, sticks with the receiver and breaks up the pass:
Here’s another one. Fuller is in man coverage on the outside, plays the fade and gets his arm up at the perfect time to break up the pass:
This is an art in the NFL. Billy Davis teaches his players to watch the eyes of the receiver when face-guarding. The key is to get their arm in between the pass-catcher’s hands. If corners look back at the wrong time, they get burned. If they play it too aggressively, they get flagged.
Fuller seems to already have this skill down.
And then there’s the versatility. Here, Fuller lines up in the slot against Alabama:
I love how he avoids the possibility of pass interference but still does a great job making a play on the ball.
I’m really intrigued by Fuller as a player who can match up with tight ends. He has the size and leaping ability. And unlike some other corners his size, Fuller seems to have no trouble at all moving inside. Here he is against a tight end in the North Carolina game:
Against the run, Fuller is more than willing to mix it up. He’s a physical player. There is nothing soft at all about Fuller’s game:
And just because I know this crowd enjoys a good hit:
Fuller initially gets beat on special teams, but finishes the play by leveling the Alabama player.
In case you can’t tell, I think Fuller makes a lot of sense for the Eagles. From a size/length perspective, he fits their measurables. And from a versatility standpoint, there doesn’t seem to be another corner in this class who possesses his skill set. Fuller would have a great shot at starting right away on the outside. But he could also spend time against tight ends and would provide insurance for Brandon Boykin on the inside.
Take this with a grain of salt, but the Eagles have shown some level of interest:
Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis all over Kyle Fuller/CB/Virginia Tech at pro-day….
— Tony Pauline (@TonyPauline) March 19, 2014
Fuller could be off the board at No. 22, but because his 40 time wasn’t off the charts, there’s a chance he slips. Scheme is a factor too. Teams looking for purely press corners might not value Fuller as much as the Eagles probably do.
If I had to come up with a list of the five most likeliest players the Eagles might end up with at No. 22, Fuller would be on the list.