When Kyle Fuller was picked by the Chicago Bears at 14th overall it raised a few eyebrows. Some were surprised he was selected that high, while others were surprised the Bears passed on a safety. I fell in the second group, because the top two safeties on the board were both there for the taking and I viewed safety as a higher priority than corner.
I also viewed defensive tackle as a higher priority, but once DT Aaron Donald went at 13, my mind immediately raced to Chicago GM Phil Emery picking a safety.
I quickly came around on Fuller because he was in the handful of top corner prospects available. Where he ranked varied throughout the numerous scouting reports I read on the position. Fuller's physicality and length really stood out for me and that was a big sticking point for the Bear scouts too. Fuller may not have the gaudy numbers of some of the other prospects, or the blazing 40 time, but he was a really good football player at Virginia Tech that did everything very well. He should be a very good player for the Bears.
The coaches are throwing the rookie right into the mix at defensive back. It was reported early on that Fuller will come in with the nickel package to play outside while starting corner Tim Jennings kicks inside to nickel. I wonder if this will change at all if teams bring out a taller slot receiver. Fuller has four inches on the 5'8" Jennings.
Fuller played all over the field in college, so it wouldn't be new for him to cover a slot receiver. For more on Fuller's versatility you can check out this piece I wrote back in May after the Bears drafted him.
You may pooh-pooh the notion of a rookie being one of the ten most important Bears this season, but we're talking about a rookie that was drafted to play immediately. This isn't a Shea McClellin situation where he's picked to develop while backing up, this was a need situation.
Kyle Fuller, even if he only plays during nickel packages, will be on the field for about half the defensive snaps. Playing in a division with top flight passing offenses like the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions adds to the nickelback's importance. Even the Minnesota Vikings may be more pass happy under new offensive coordinator Norv Turner.
Getting better production from the 3rd corner is a must for 2014. Last year's nickel Isaiah Frey played in all 16 games and he didn't register an interception, a fumble recovery or a forced fumble. He also only had one pass defended according to NFL.com.
Then there's the Charles Tillman question. Hopefully last year's injury plagued season was an anomaly but, if his body is breaking down, then Fuller could be pressed into a starting role.
What are you expecting from Kyle Fuller in 2014?