Journey From Virginia Tech to the NFL So Far
A talented and highly consistent man coverage cornerback is hard to come by in the NFL. Former Virginia Tech Hokie Kyle Fuller is looking to get back to his high-caliber Pro Bowl setting with his new team in the Denver Broncos in the upcoming 2021 NFL season.
Fuller didn’t always start as one of the most dominant corners in the nation. He was originally a three-star recruit and the 88th best cornerback in the recruiting class of 2010 according to 247Sports. Fuller was an immediate contributor for the Hokies as he started seven games at the nickelback position in each of his two seasons. In his sophomore season in 2011, Fuller accounted for 65 total tackles, 46 solo tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, five pass deflections, and two interceptions as he was named a second-team All-ACC selection.
He became a full-time starter as one of the main cornerbacks in 2012 as he played and started all 13 games. He was one of the prominent man coverage corners in the entire ACC. Despite having to miss the final four games of his senior season in 2013, Fuller had a strong season as he was named third-team All-ACC. He accounted for 24 total tackles, 17 solo tackles, 10 pass deflections, and 10 pass deflections, and two interceptions. He finished his Hokies career with 173 total tackles, 129 solo tackles, 23.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, 21 pass breakups, six interceptions, and three forced fumbles.
He was selected 14th overall by the Chicago Bears in the 2014 NFL Draft. This made him the tenth-ever Hokie to be selected in the first round of the NFL Draft. He became an instant impact player and starter for the Bears’ secondary. From 2014 to 2020 (excluding the 2016 season due to injury), Fuller has played in all 16 regular games while starting in all but two in his rookie season.
After several seasons of being left out of the Pro Bowl, Fuller was finally named to his first Pro Bowl in the 2018 NFL season. That season, Fuller accounted for 55 total tackles, 21 pass deflections, and seven interceptions. He was given an overall grade of 83 by Pro Football Focus for his stellar season. The following season, Fuller was named to his second Pro Bowl as a replacement to the injured Jalen Ramsey.
What to Expect from Kyle Fuller in 2021
After not providing the same amount of impact with the Chicago Bears this past season, the Bears released Fuller on the last year of his four-year, $56 million contract. He was set to make $12 million this season from the Bears this upcoming season in an offseason where the salary cap was lower than expected. On March 23rd, three days after being released from Chicago, the Denver Broncos signed Fuller to a one-year, $9.5 million contract.
The Broncos needed a more reliable defense as they are looking to make a push for their first NFL Playoff appearance since 2015. Last season, the Broncos’ defense ranked 16th in the league in passing yards allowed per game (237.9) and 25th in points allowed per game (27.9). They allowed 201 passing first downs and a completion percentage of 66%.
It was clear the Broncos needed a reliable man coverage cornerback and a leader in the secondary in Fuller. His ability to read the quarterback’s eyes while staying close to his receiver makes him one of the toughest defensive backs to beat. He is rarely beaten in route running as he is highly athletic in the way he can flip his hips and match the speed of his receiver.
Fuller will have another role this season as the Broncos ensured they would be more efficient in defending against the passing game by selecting Alabama Crimson Tide cornerback Patrick Surtain II with the ninth overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft. In just two quick moves, the Broncos will have one of the most feared cornerback units in the NFL as Fuller will be an excellent mentor to Surtain. This is could the season where Fuller could be back in the Pro Bowl as he and outside linebacker Von Miller, who missed the 2020 season with a dislocated peroneal tendon, will attempt to bring this Broncos defense back to an elite caliber unit.