When the Bears selected Kyle Fuller with the 14th overall pick, I wasn’t exactly stunned. He’d been to Chicago to visit with the team, and there were various reports that noted the Bears had put him through a private workout while visiting Virginia Tech’s pro day. So the idea that the Bears would select Fuller wasn’t farfetched.
But thanks to how the draft board played out, it struck some people as odd that the Bears would select a cornerback, given their glaring need at safety. In my recent ranking of the Bears needs, I had cornerback ranked 6th, while safety was the top need for the team. But when the Bears were placed on the clock, both of the draft’s top safety prospects, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (later chosen by the Packers, naturally) and Calvin Pryor (now a Jet) were still available. Shouldn’t the Bears have addressed the hole at the position of need?
Well, not necessarily. Obviously Phil Emery considers Fuller a grade above Clinton-Dix and Pryor, but I think it goes beyond that. As I noted in my intro to the positional needs list, Charles Tillman is not going to be able to play forever. He’s also coming off of a fairly severe injury. It’s quite possible that cornerback would have become just as big of a need as safety going forward, so it made a lot of sense to address the position with a player they obviously like very much.
So, how good of a prospect is Fuller? The reviews on him seem to be fairly positive; he was ranked second among cornerback prospects by ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr., as well as ESPN’s Scouts, Inc. NFL Network’s Mike Mayock had him ranked as the top cornerback in the draft, and called him the “most NFL-ready corner (he) saw on tape…Fuller can play nickel corner on Day 1.” He ran in the 4.4s at the NFL Combine, he’s got good size (a shade under 6 feet) and length, and his ball skills and run support ability received top of the line “Exceptional” grades from ESPN’s scouting profile. (Insider-only.) He’s a legitimately talented player, by all objective and most subjective measures. The Bears defense needs as many of those as possible.
He’ll likely be asked to play as the nickelback, at least to start. Isaiah Frey has not exactly overwhelmed with his performance in the role, and with some very high-powered offenses in the NFC North, the nickel package is going to see the field often for the Bears.
I think it’s a bit foolish to attempt to grade selections on the day of the draft, although I understand the impulse. What I think is reasonable, though, is to look at who the Bears drafted relative to their needs and the other players available at the time. Had Aaron Donald still been on the board at 14, I think the Bears would have had a much more difficult decision on their hands, but once St. Louis took the disruptive defender, Fuller made a lot of sense for the Bears. It seems to me that the Bears did exactly what I’d hoped they’d do: take the best available player on their board, with a lean toward defenders.
I’m certainly not going to complain about that.
Oh, and if you want to get excited, here’s a nice highlight reel. (Thanks to Twitter follower @yessmiss for sending that along.)
I, for one, cannot wait for football season.