There have been few players I've ever seen live like Will Fuller V. Every single Sunday, I am fortunate in that I get to see the best and most explosive athletes on the face of the earth right in front of me. On those Sundays (or Thursday or Monday or whatever), Fuller V consistently makes those athletes look like they're running in concrete. As I write, the images of Fuller completely embarrassing some of those magnificent athletes are flooding my brain.
2019 v. Indianapolis on a Thursday night.
There are many others too that have left an impression too. Back in 2016, when Fuller V was a potential first round prospect, it was clear that the Texans needed some help at the receiver position. So, prior to the 2016 NFL Draft, I sat down and did a deep dive on a few of the receivers that the Texans might consider at No. 22 in the 2016 draft. Fuller V was one of the two or three Prospect of the Day articles that I did back in 2016. Fuller eventually was selected at No. 21 in the Draft...thankfully, the Texans moved up one spot to draft the Notre Dame star.
I went into the way back machine to review what I thought about Fuller V then and how it's turned out, so to speak. Let's do a little Draft Throwback on one of the most important Texans in 2020 - Will Fuller V.
Notre Dame WR Will Fuller
6-0, 186 lb.
Played his HS football at Roman Catholic, Philadelphia, PA
1st team AAAA All-State football selection
Member of the Rivals 250 list
MVP of the Philadelphia Catholic League (AAAA)
Played for East squad in Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl
6th in the nation in touchdown receptions (13 in regular season, 14 in total)
Biletnikoff Award Semifinalist
2nd team All-American (Phil Steele, TSN, FWAA, AP, CBS Sports, Athlon, SI, USA Today)
29 total touchdowns in two seasons.
Notre Dame MVP
(Tied) 1st All-time in touchdown receptions in a season (15 in 2014)
2nd All-time in touchdown receptions for a career (29)
Combine/Pro Day Measurements
Arms: 30 ¾"
Hand: 8 ¼"
40-yard dash: 4.32 secs
Bench (reps of 225): 10
Broad Jump: 10'6"
Vertical Jump: 33.5"
3-cone: 6.93 secs
Short Shuttle: 4.27 secs
60 yard shuttle: 11.44 secs
After the 2014 season, I was completely convinced that Fuller was one of the most dynamic players in college football with the ball in his hands. I don't know how many times I said something to the extent of…
"Just throw him a quick screen and get out of his way."
I can't even remember how many quick screens Notre Dame threw his way and heeded my advice 100% of the time. He turned in a 76 catch, 15 TD season, tying a Notre Dame season record.
But, Fuller, as a one trick catch-and-run pony, ended early into the 2015 season opener against Texas. On Notre Dame's first scoring drive of the game, Fuller ran a post into quarters coverage and caught a dime from his QB Malik Zaire to give Notre Dame an early lead. Later in the game, he roared past a Texas cornerback on the nine route and caught another touchdown in Notre Dame's 38-0 win.
The next week, though, against Virginia, Fuller turned into an entirely different sort of receiving weapon. Zaire was injured in the third quarter and Virginia had just re-taken the lead 27-26. DeShone Kizer, Zaire's backup, didn't have much time to construct a game winning drive.
But, he did have Fuller. As the clock wound down late in the 4th quarter…
...Kizer had one bullet left in the chamber and he took a shot deep down the field. Fuller sped past senior Virginia CB Maurice Canady and cradled the moon shot from Kizer and stepped across the goal line for the game winning touchdown.
The Irish offense lost a starting running back, a starting tight end and a starting quarterback, yet because Fuller never missed a snap, the Irish offense had a chance every single Saturday. He's a downfield threat. He's a catch-and-run receiver. He averaged over 20 yards per catch, 15th in the nation.
*"(Fuller) is very good. He's fast and he runs his routes. He has a way of finding the ball and manipulating his body against a defender to get the ball in his hands" - Notre Dame QB DeShone Kizer
What to like
--The Juice - 4.32 juice
--Gets from 0 to 60 in a hurry
--Catch and run ability on short screens, slants or hitches
--Suddenness to get in and out of his breaks
--Precise route runner
--Tracks the ball over his shoulder well on deep throws outside the numbers.
--Beat some of the best corners deep down the field repeatedly.
What needs some work
--Will body catch when he doesn't trust his hands
--As such, average hands, but not not bad hands
--Still slight build
--Can be robotic on intermediate routes or double moves
--Physical corners, like Clemson CB Mackensie Alexander, roughed him up in press coverage
--Needs work on interior, intermediate routes.
At the Combine, I happened to be standing immediately to Fuller's right as he was answering questions from the assembled media. A media member went around to each table asking prospects the same question.
"So, how fast are you going to run the 40?"
Every time I heard him ask that question, a player answered with a bold proclamation about what he was going to do. One player said "oh, 4.2 for sure". He ran in the 4.4s. He wasn't the only one to be wrong.
So, when Fuller got the same question, I was curious myself.
He ended up being wrong too, just not in the same way as the others.
He found his interviewer, looked him in the eye and assuredly made a prediction.
"4.35. That's what I've been doing in training, so that should work," Fuller noted.
He ran 4.32 two days later and the NFL Draft community was abuzz immediately. That speed shines through in everything he does on the field but that 40 time put everyone on notice. It also stamped a first round grade on Fuller and put him in play for teams looking for a speedy offensive weapon down the field. Sure, he doesn't have DeAndre Hopkins-like hands, but he has a different gear than anyone in the 2016 NFL Draft class, regardless of offensive position.