With the loss of Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown to the Oakland Raiders and another knuckle headed move-- no pun intended-- from Chris Culliver it is obvious that the 49ers need another cornerback. Luckily this year's draft is loaded with talented corners that could become impact players from day 1.
In my opinion Virginia Tech's Kyle Fuller is the man for the job with his solid blend of athleticism, coverage skills and tackling. Let's look at his strengths and weaknesses to see how he would fit in with the 49ers defense.
A lengthy physical corner Kyle Fuller was a perfect fit in Bud Foster's aggressive Virginia Tech defense. Fuller made his presence felt as a third corner during his freshman year and displayed a ton of potential with his quick feet and feisty demeanor. That potential became reality as he continued to improve over his four years in Blacksburg that culminated with a very impressive senior season that was unfortunately cut short by a sports hernia injury.
Fuller has been on NFL team's radar for a while but his senior season help catapult him from a mid day pick to a likely 1st round selection. NFL teams see him as an off man corner due to his ability to burst of of his backpedal, good route awareness and physical tackling style.
Size/Athleticism: Good height with longer arms, slender build but wiry strong, great leaping ability, plays faster than his 4.49 40, good not great top end speed, quick feet and overall good body control.
Off Man Corner: Played primarily as an off man corner at VT, has the instincts to break on routes before the receiver does, has the quickness to mirror receivers, has the size/leaping ability to win at the point of the catch and makes receivers pay on quick routes with big hits.
Solid Against the Run: Attacks the ball carrier, shoots the gaps very well, fights off blocks with his long arms, looks for the big hit at the expense of technique and is extremely effective against bubble screens.
Versatile: Played cornerback, linebacker and free safety at times, bought into Beamer Ball on special teams as a gunner and blocked a punt, has the potential to play both inside and outside corner in the NFL, could become hybrid linebacker/safety in nickel/dime situations, solid blitzer and is effective in goal line situations.
Zone/Press Coverage: Struggled in limited reps as a press or zone corner, doesn't have the strength to effective jam or the spatial awareness to play zone, limits the teams that could draft him and his versatility in coverage.
Too Aggressive at Times: Can get over aggressive on both run and pass plays, often looking for the big play, loses contain too often, can get caught watching the quarterback and will have to tone it down a bit in the NFL.
Overall: From DeAngelo Hall to Brandon Flowers and Kam Chancellor, there is a long list of great defensive backs that have come out of Frank Beamer's Hookies. While there is no certainty Fuller can reach those heights he does possess multiple similarities to those NFL players with his aggressive demeanor and physicality.
With those strengths it is no surprise Fuller thrives in an off man technique. The space between him and the receiver allows for Fuller to do what he does best, diagnose the play, break on the ball and punish the receiver. Given that off man coverage is the most common coverage scheme in the NFL, Fuller's skill set appeals to a lot of teams.
But like all prospect Fuller has some areas that need improvement, mainly his tendency to get out of position attempting to make a big play. Luckily, that is a common weakness for corners entering the NFL and Fuller with his NFL bloodlines-- both his older brothers were drafted into the NFL-- should be able to reign in his aggressiveness.
With his skills and successful college career under a great defensive mind Kyle Fuller will likely scooped up somewhere between the 20th pick and the end of the 1st round.
As for the 49ers needs Fuller fits them all. He is best in as as off man corner, he has the size/arm length, he can play a variety of position including slot corner-- something the 49ers need with the loss of Rogers-- or punt gunner and Fuller is a solid tackling corner that provides good run support off the edge. Additionally, Fuller will likely be available near the 30th pick so the 49ers shouldn't have to trade up to secure his services.
Other 2014 Cornerback Scouting Reports:
While I like all of these other prospects there are issues with all of them being drafted by the 49ers; Gilbert will be long gone so the 49ers would have to trade up drastically and he is soft against the run something the 49ers defense prides themselves on, Verrett is tempting but Baalke seems to value size so he is off the table, Roby is raw and was just charged with OVI so the 49ers will hopefully look to avoid bringing on more potential off the field baggage and Dennard would require the 49ers moving up 8-12 spots for a player that I feel is equal at best to Fuller.