clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Will Fuller drafted by Texans at No. 21 after trade up

The fastest receiver in this year's draft class averaged more than 20 yards per catch last season at Notre Dame.

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

The Houston Texans added a blazing-fast offensive weapon to their roster by taking former Notre Dame wide receiver Will Fuller with the No. 21 pick in the 2016 NFL Draft after trading up with Washington.

Fuller was the Fighting Irish's team MVP in 2015, hauling in 62 catches for 1,258 yards and 14 touchdowns. Most impressively, he was among the best big-play wideouts in the nation as a junior last year. His 15 receptions of 30-plus yards and his yards-per-catch average of 20.3 both ranked second among Power 5 players with at least 50 catches.

His playmaking skills also set him apart from other receiver prospects. Fuller's 14 receiving touchdowns were tied for the fifth-most in FBS last year, and he totaled a staggering 30 touchdowns in 29 career starts at Notre Dame. His ability to get behind a defense and create separation in the secondary makes him a threat to reach the end zone on any play.

Fuller vs USC

First and foremost, Fuller is a legitimate and dynamic deep-ball receiver because of his elite speed. His 4.32 40-yard-dash time at the combine was easily the best among his peers and the eighth-fastest at his position since 2003. Fuller also posted top-10 marks in the 60-yard shuttle run and the broad jump, showing off his excellent change-of-direction skills and explosive power.

Not only does he possess the quickness to beat his defender downfield, but he also finds the ball well in flight and displays excellent timing and focus in making contested catches along the boundary with bodies all around him. Fuller had the nation's fifth-highest catch rate (58.6 percent) on passes traveling at least 20 yards through the air, according to Pro Football Focus, and broke the hearts of Michigan fans everywhere with this incredible play.

Fuller vs Michigan

He does his best work on vertical routes but also is a weapon in the screen game because of his after-the-catch acceleration and short-area agility. A guy that you don't want to see running free in the open field, Fuller excels at turning a short pass into a long gain.

Fuller vs Ohio St

While Fuller shows an underrated ability to locate and adjust to the ball in the air, his game tape is also filled with too many plays when his fingers seem to be coated with butter. He dropped 10 of 72 catchable passes in 2015 for a 13.9 percent drop rate that ranked 88th of 96 qualifiers at wide receiver, per Pro Football Focus.

The issue with Fuller is that he is what scouts call a "body catcher," which means that he tends to trap the ball with his chest instead of grabbing it with his hands. Those poor fundamentals, combined with the smallest hand size of any receiver in this year's class (8 1/4 inches), represent a huge red flag for Fuller and cast doubt on his ceiling as a pro.

Most draft gurus compare him to Ted Ginn Jr. or Troy Williamson because of his breathtaking speed and brick hands, though its worth noting that plenty of receivers struggled with drops early in their careers. Terrell Owens notoriously was plagued by drops during his first few seasons, while last year's top rookie receiver, Amari Cooper, was among the league leaders in dropped passes.

Fuller's below-average hands and inconsistent ball skills likely won't be a fatal flaw at the next level, however. The NFL is trending toward a league dominated by the vertical passing game and speedy, deep threats like Fuller are a hot commodity.

He might not ever develop into a true No. 1 receiver, but he certainly has the upside and talent to be a complimentary target in any offense. Given his ability to stretch the field, beat coverages off the top and gain chunk yardage, he should be able to contribute immediately as a rookie.