College: Notre Dame:
Hand Size: 8 ¼ inches
Forty-Yard Dash: 4.32 seconds
Three-Cone: 6.93 seconds
Vertical: 33.5 inches
Will Fuller is a two-year starter, that decided late in the pre-draft process to declare for the 2016 NFL Draft. Fuller combined for 138 catches 2,352 yard, 29 touchdowns, and averaged 20.05 yards per catch in his two years as a starter. Fuller was also a semi-finalist for the Biletnikoff Award and was a mid-season First Team All-American.
Fuller has been one of the tougher evaluations for me personally throughout the pre-draft process. His positives are very solid, but his negatives are very real and present. Sticking with the positives for now, Fuller has phenomenal straight-line speed and second gear acceleration. In this clip against Virginia, he completely burns the cornerback for a long touchdown. The cornerback knows about Fuller’s speed, but does not expect his second gear agility to be that fast, which results in an easy touchdown for Fuller.
Fuller’s speed is also on display in the open field. He is very elusive in the open field, consistently slipping one or two tackles in space. In this clip against North Carolina, he is able to shake defenders in the open field because of his lateral agility then separate with his second gear acceleration for the touchdown.
The junior receiver also has excellent footwork in his routes. In this clip against USC, Fuller uses a great fake to the outside with his feet, and then explodes off of his outside foot to burst inside for a long touchdown.
Fuller uses his footwork to his advantage to be beat press coverage. In this clip against Michigan, Fuller fakes inside then bursts off his inside foot to beat the slower Michigan corner for a beautiful touchdown grab.
One of the Biletnikoff Award Semi-finalist’s best attributes is the ability to track the deep ball. Fuller is primarily a deep threat receiver, so he has to be able to track the ball consistently. In this clip against Pitt you’ll see how Fuller tracks the deep ball very well. The mid-season First Team All-American tracks the ball in the air, and does a great job adjusting his route to bring down the catch for a touchdown.
The first and obvious negative is Fuller’s frame. He isn’t the tallest at six-foot and also lacks the ideal body weight at 186. Fuller has savvy footwork to beat press coverage at times, but against bigger NFL talent press-man corners he’ll have a hard time avoiding their punch. According to Matt Harmon of NFL Network and Inventor of Reception Perception, Will Fuller only succeeded against press coverage 42.4% of the time, where the average success rate for the 21 WR prospects he evaluated was 63.5%. Fuller will have to get stronger and bulk up to consistently beat press coverage at the NFL level.
The former Notre Dame wide receiver also needs to get stronger at the catch point of contested catches. You see on this play that he is not physical enough at the catch point and the pass is broken up by the defensive back. Fuller does not extend his arm to high point the ball, and he did not show the physicality to attack the ball, but tried to body catch it instead.
Body catching leads right into one of Fuller’s biggest weaknesses, his hands. Lapses in concentration continually hurt Fuller as a receiver. In these two clips, you see some of his drops across his career. One drop was an easy slant pattern without a defender near him. The second drop is more excusable, because of the difficulty of the catch, but it is one he will be asked to make at the NFL level.
What Others Are Saying:
Matt Harmon NFL.com/The Backyard Banter: “With tremendous speed, Will Fuller holds place in some evaluators’ top-five rankings. However, with the lowest score against press coverage among charted prospects, perhaps we have reason to question whether that is founded. Fuller needs to get more creative and advanced off the line of scrimmage if he wants to threaten defenses deep in the NFL on a regular basis. “
Daniel Jeremiah NFL Network: “His game is all about speed. He runs up on his toes and gets up to top speed immediately. Opponents usually give him a lot of cushion and he still eats it up and climbs on top of coverage repeatedly. He tracks the ball naturally down the field but his hands are very spotty.”
Grade/Round Projection: Third Round
Speed kills but to be earlier than a third round pick, Fuller needs to work on being a more complete player. Like I said earlier in the article, Fuller brings a lot of quality attributes as a receiver, but his negatives are very concerning to me. His lack of ability to beat coverage, which is evident on tape, should scare some teams away from him as a first round pick. His footwork holds an advantage in off-man/zone coverage, but he won’t be able to slither past NFL level corners in press without bulking up and adding more muscle to his upper half. I’m hesitant to place Fuller inside my top five receivers, even with the blazing straight-line speed. For now, he sits at WR7 in my rankings.