— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) May 1, 2014
The Hokies finished at 8-5 last season. One might make the argument however that with a healthy Kyle Fuller anchoring the secondary that the Hokies might have finished 10-3 or even 11-2. They certainly would have won the Coastal and played FSU (the term played being used very loosely as you can imagine) in the ACC title game. The losses to Duke, BC, and MD were all avoidable, and Kyle was injured or missed a lot of time in those games. Along with Jack Tyler and a stellar front four, the Hokie defense was on pace to rank among the greatest Bud Foster ever produced in Blacksburg.
But sour grapes are not why we're here today. Today we examine the buzz surrounding the NFL draft, and by all accounts Kyle Fuller is going to wear the belt, and be selected first out of all the draft-eligible Hokies. At present, it appears that four Hokies are going to be drafted in the top five rounds, with several others contending for the back of the draft. Of the four, only Kyle is a certainty to go first day, regardless of the buzz surrounding Logan Thomas, which we'll cover at greater length in our next installment.
How Much Did The Combine Move The Dial On Kyle's Prospects?
Since I didn't have an opportunity to get a combine piece up on Kyle back in February, here are some of the results he posted in Indianapolis (per NFL.com):
40 yard dash: 4.49 seconds (11th among CBs, but would have placed 3rd among Safeties)
225 lb bench press: 12 reps (Not notable)
Vertical Jump: 38.5 inches (places 6th amongst CBs, but it would have been 1st among Safeties)
Broad Jump: 10'8" (placed 3rd among CBs, but again would have been 1st among Safeties)
3 cone drill: 6.90 seconds (Would have tied for 1st as a safety, but not a good performance as a CB)
20 yard shuttle: 4.19 seconds (not a good time in any regard)
OK, But What Do These Numbers Mean?
Fuller played all over the place at VT, just like his older brother Vincent, who played for VT in the early 00's. He played Safety, he locked down both Corners, and he even moved up and played some WHIP as a senior. His football IQ couldn't be measured in the drills at the combine, but the film won't lie as it is indicative of his instincts. By all accounts he was a great interview and with the family lineage, he was likely extremely well-prepared for that segment.
What is intriguing is that Kyle can get up in the slot and hit like a safety if need be, and that his measurables all indicate that he could make an impact there....if he were larger. And in that decision lies the Catch-22. Does he add bulk to lay the hammer down as a Safety, or does he work on his skills at the Corner? One of the teams rumored to have a lot of interest, Philadelphia (who has the #22 pick) also drafted a VT CB back in Victor "Macho" Harris back in the 5th round of the 2009 draft. Harris was shuffled back and forth, and never had the size to hit like a safety, nor the speed to keep up with WRs at the NFL level. To his credit, he still earns a living playing for Saskatchewan in the CFL, but that didn't help the Eagles. With them the first team out of many prognosticator's mouths as pertains to Fuller, do they like his malleability or will they have learned from the Harris situation?
At present, most teams still like him at CB, and he has steadily moved up the mock drafts to where it would likely now be a surprise if he were to fall out of the first round at all. And in many circles, he is expected to be the top CB taken in this year's draft.
There are three other highly regarded cornerbacks in this draft:
Amazingly enough, all four are within an inch and 8 lbs of one another. There are no discernible physical advantages in that regard. So here is where the family pedigree, Tech's identity with D-Block, and his actual body of work at VT come in to play. All of those "intangibles" have melded together and created a teflon resume.
Hokies History In the First Round
Fuller would be the 10th first round pick the Hokies have sent to the NFL, and the 2nd DB of that group, joining Washington's DeAngelo Hall. The Hokies have also had Jayron Hosley and Jimmy Williams just miss being drafted in the first round (35th and 37th respectively) out of the VT defensive backfield.
The last Hokie to be drafted in the first round was David Wilson in 2012. Here is a complete list of 1st round NFL Hokies:
- Bruuuuuuuce, Bills, #1 1985 (Hall of Famer, father of current OL Alston)
- Michael Vick, Falcons, #1 2001 (Fight promoter, failed venture capitalist)
- DeAngelo Hall, Falcons #8 2004 (3 Outcome DLo: Burn, Pick, or 15 yard flag)
- Eugene Chung, Patriots #13 1992 (the best of a bad era, father of incoming DL Kyle Chung)
- Mike Johnson, Browns #18 1984 (supplemental pick due to the USFL, VT's best pro LB to date Coach Foster, let's work on that!)
- Duane Brown, Texans #26 2008 (the first Dr Beamerstein experiment to pay off in the draft, Logan Thomas will kinda be second, though at way too high a cost to the program)
- Jim Druckenmiller, 49ers #26, 1997 (roundly regarded as a Top-10 draft bust, we still scratch our heads at a West Coast offense drafting a pro-style QB)
- Kevin Jones, Lions #30, 2003 (the first elite RB to get squeezed out by the NFL's new mentality that RBs are the most expendable players. Lions proved right as injuries got the better of him far too soon. Or was it the Lions porous OL that led to the injuries? Chicken/Egg conundrum here.)
- David Wilson Giants #32, 2012 (had to have some serious surgery in the off-season, not sure if he'll play this year or (gulp!) ever again)
So What Are The Pundits Saying?
Things have gotten crazy enough to where ESPN's Todd McShay thought there might be interest at Pittsburgh's #15 selection, but then McShay had the Bengals taking him at #24 in his latest mock draft. To me, that sounds as though he's solidly in the first round.
The San Diego Chargers and Philadelphia Eagles both have dire situations in their secondary, but both also need Safeties and might be looking to move up and try to draft one of the top safeties.The Eagles pick at #22, and the Chargers at #25.
I firmly expect Kyle to be chosen between 15 and 28, but the dance card varies from rumor to rumor, and it will largely depend on how much trading down in the top 10 occurs.
Utter Nonsense from NFL.com
NFL.com had Fuller rated as a 5.97 on their futures scale, which are complete garbage under most circumstances. The range that 5.97 falls under indicates: Potential Future NFL starter. But with that number being predetermined, and not regularly adjusted, the figure appears to be obsolete. If you are drafted in the first round, you are likely expected to start from Day One. To be fair, 6.00 is should become instant starter. Nitpicky, I know, but we look out for own where we can!
This draft's first round is going to be nuts. Nobody wants to pay the top-rated picks what their slot will call for. There will be a ton of movement in terms of attempting to trade down. The question then for NFL teams is: Do you want to overpay to trade up in a draft that seems to be lukewarm on "elite" talent.
The one thing that comes across in all of the news about Fuller, is that EVERYONE would be happy to add him to their club. Because after all, when has anyone ONCE said, "Boy that 17 is really struggling out there today."
No, this is what they say: (everyone in chorus now!) "He really gets after ya." We should expect nothing different going forward, we just cross our fingers that he can remain healthy after his injury-shortened 2013 campaign. But having seen Vinny, and having had the pleasure of watching Kyle for four years, the last thing anyone is ever concerned about on the roster is whether a Fuller will be prepared, or if he has come to play. Best of luck to the Fuller family, may your wait for the call to the podium be a short one.
We will back with more previews on the NFL draft this week. Thanks for stopping in, enjoy the highlight reel below.