Dynasty Draft Profile: Will Fuller
March 10, 2016 | Rich Hribar
|21.7||72||186||30 3/4||8 1/4|
*MSYD = % of Team Receiving Yardage
When looking at wide receiver production profiles at the collegiate level I’m really drawn to players that have multiple seasons of production, but also continue to improve throughout their careers entering the league. Will Fuller checks those boxes as he closed college with back to back seasons with over 1,000 yards receiving and double digit touchdowns, the first Notre Dame receiver to do that since Golden Tate in 2008 and 2009.
In 2015, Fuller saw 20 fewer targets overall than the previous season, but played a much larger role in producing yardage for the Irish offense as he accounted for nearly 40 percent of the team total in receiving yardage and 56 percent of their passing touchdowns.
Fuller’s efficiency is something to note given the type of targets he receives and issues he has with self-inflicted mistakes. His back to back seasons of catching 60 plus percent of his targets is impressive enough given those two things and only Corey Coleman has caught more touchdowns (31) than Fuller over the past two seasons. His 13.2 yards per target in 2015 are the third highest total any receiver with 90 or more targets has posted in a season since 2004 and leads that group in yards per reception.
|2013||Mike Evans||Texas A&M||99||69||1394||69.7%||14.1||20.2|
|2014||Rashard Higgins||Colorado State||131||96||1750||73.3%||13.4||18.2|
|2015||Will Fuller||Notre Dame||95||62||1258||65.3%||13.2||20.3|
|2010||Vincent Brown||San Diego State||105||69||1352||65.7%||12.9||19.6|
|2015||Taywan Taylor||Western Kentucky||115||86||1467||74.8%||12.8||17.1|
|2013||Odell Beckham Jr.||LSU||90||59||1152||65.6%||12.8||19.5|
|2006||Adarius Bowman||Oklahoma State||93||60||1181||64.5%||12.7||19.7|
|2015||Mike Thomas||Southern Miss||112||71||1391||63.4%||12.4||19.6|
The list is littered with big play hits and misses at the next level and that’s what Fuller is, a splash play creator for an offense. Per Pro Football Focus he was second in the NCAA with 10 receiving touchdowns on targets over 20 yards downfield in 2015. His straight line speed is unparalleled in this class as he recorded the fastest 40-yard dash time of all receivers at the combine.
Pulling up his objective set of athletic and final season production comparisons, we also get another list filled with volatile producers at the NFL level.
|Santonio Holmes||Ohio State||2006||25||21.8||70||188||4.35||38||126||4.26||6.82||4.4||81.4||0.9|
|Kyle Williams||Arizona State||2010||206||21.5||70||188||4.40||33||118||4.19||7.00||5.2||74.1||0.7|
|T.Y. Hilton||Florida International||2012||92||22.1||70||183||4.37||35.5||119||4.36||7.03||5.5||79.8||0.5|
|Will Fuller||Notre Dame||2016||TBD||21.7||72||186||4.32||33.5||126||4.27||6.93||4.2||73.9||0.9|
There’s quite a range of outcomes from this group of cohorts as Holmes and Hilton each have produced multiple fantasy relevant seasons while Stills is the middle ground to the floor results from Williams. The invested draft capital used for this group of similar profiles is also all over the place, but given Fuller’s high profile production and combine performance coupled with current draft buzz, his stock will likely be closer to the higher end.
The most subjective comparison that you often hear for Fuller is Devin Smith, the 37th overall pick from last season’s draft. I also profiled Smith entering the league and while both offer similar tactical variance for an offense in attacking a certain area of the field and defense, both do so in a different fashion.
Where Smith won vertically with Ken Griffey-like ball tracking and ball skills, Fuller’s game is built of raw speed and using that in his stem. Fuller is also far superior with the football in hands than Smith ever was and his YAC ability is another staple in aiding him being a consistent touchdown creator.
As his lean profile suggests, where Fuller struggles is in areas of required strength. In Matt Harmon’s breakdown of this receiver class, Fuller had the least amount of success when facing press coverage of all of the receivers charted. His speed and NFL position that will have him lining up off the ball will afford him a natural cushion in coverage more often than not in the NFL, but defenders have success rerouting his thin frame when they get their hands on him. When he faces more defensive backs that can run with him at the NFL level, that’s problematic. When they come to the line of scrimmage and don’t put their hands on him however, they are almost immediately in pursuit mode.
The other area where Fuller’s frame likely limits his NFL ceiling from ever manifesting into more than lid popping flanker is that he has extremely short arms and small hands for his height. While small hands/short arms correlation to NFL results is largely disparate, these things show up in Fuller’s game. He’s far more comfortable letting the ball get deep on his body and per Pro Football Focus, his 21 drops over the past two seasons are the most for any college receiver.
When forced to actually go play the ball, he’s proven capable to make plays, but it’s just not an area of comfort for him on routine plays, which is where those pass catching problems often occur. While we don’t get enough moments like these, his ability to make plays on the football are present in flashes when he doesn’t appear to compartmentalize the play.
While his limitations as a technical pass catcher likely prevent him from ever being a 80 plus catch player at the NFL level, Fuller has shown that it’s not a hindrance in his ability to do the things that are the main crutch of his game. He may not ever catch 80 passes in a season, but he’s the type of player that can do a lot of damage on 60-65 receptions. The bottom line is that he’s someone you’re willing to take on the bad with because the good he brings to the table in terms of stretching the field and producing scoring opportunities is really good.
If he’s a first rounder in the real draft, that’s likely an over payment by an NFL team. In terms of future fantasy production, Fuller is a pretty clear cut and dry case in my opinion. He’s going to be porridge player, one who some owners simply don’t want a part of because the weekly production is going to be volatile. His ceiling is likely being an overall seasonal WR2 that performs best as the WR3 in your weekly lineup since there is potential for low moments.
I’m personally drawn to these types for fantasy if I have two established receivers that inherently carry high floors and high ceilings, something Dynasty allows you to build easier than regular seasonal drafting. Fuller is best suited as a weekly grave digger on those types of rosters, where his weekly ceiling is far more relevant than his floor because you’re closing victories out with him rather than relying on them in creating a cushion.
I don’t want to pair this type of volatile production with low ceiling, high floor types, though, because his ceiling is far more necessary and you’re damaged to a greater degree by his floor.
That floor will still justly keep him in the middle to back portion of the first round of rookie drafts post draft and if you’re an owner banking on getting stable production from a pick in that area, then he won’t be for you, but in the former scenario, he’s someone I’d rather swing away on rather than make a play for Tyler Boyd type in a similar area.