Despite Skepticism, Fuller a Good Fit for Bears at Cornerback

Dennard may have been more highly touted, but Fuller's skillset is a good fit

The Chicago Bears have made it a habit of drafting some unexpected players in the first round of the draft during Phil Emery’s tenure as general manager of the team. In 2012, the Bears drafted Shea McClellin, a linebacker from a 3-4 system at Boise State, and tried to convert him to defensive end (the experiment didn’t work). In 2013, it was Kyle Long who was taken in the first round, while he was projected to be an early-to-mid second round pick.

This time around, the Bears ended up going cornerback, but they didn’t go with the one that was expected. Rather than take Darqueze Dennard, who was arguably the top cornerback in the draft according to some draft experts, the Bears ended up going for Kyle Fuller, a corner of similar size and ability to Dennard that many had graded as a lower-tier first round pick (we had him in the 24th position in our mock draft).

Initially, the pick evoked some skepticism, but upon further inspection (including from us), it seems as though the Bears may have ended up making a good decision. Sure, Fuller may have been available a little bit later in the draft, but one of the teams that could have potentially moved up in the first round, the Arizona Cardinals, ended up moving back in the first round, while a slew of other teams who could have potentially gone after Johnny Manziel or Teddy Bridgewater decided to hold back until the Cleveland Browns moved up to number 22 in the first round to grab Johnny Football.

With a weak trade market that was seemingly uninterested in going after Manziel or Bridgewater, the Bears had no choice but to make their pick, and Emery got the guy with the versatility that he so often touts when discussing prospects. Fuller has experience playing nickel cornerback, and he can also play in the safety position. The Bears likely will use him in the former position with Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings still in the fold, but once Tillman leaves at the end of the 2014 or 2015 season, Fuller will likely step in as the top corner on the team.

The question then is a simple one: was Fuller the right pick for the Bears? After all, both of the draft’s top safeties, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Calvin Pryor, were still available at 14, as was Dennard. Aaron Donald did go with the 13th pick to the St. Louis Rams, and the Cleveland Browns traded up in the first round to get Justin Gilbert with the eighth overall pick. Those two guys both were likely on Phil Emery’s draft board, and there is a strong possibility that Eric Ebron, the tight end that went to the Detroit Lions with the tenth pick, was as well.

Even with all of those guys available, Emery and his team went with the guy that they felt was the top cornerback on the board, and that ultimately is what matters. At least in terms of offensive players, the Bears have made it a habit of deviating from the script a bit, and the picks have ultimately paid off. Whether or not the same will hold true of the defense remains to be seen, but if you’re judging off how Emery did with last year’s class, he has to be given the benefit of the doubt on this one.

While a guy like Dennard may have the better skillset, and may end up being a better overall cornerback, there wouldn’t be a ton of use for him since the Bears are in a win-now mode with their roster. He wouldn’t be starting over Tillman or Jennings, and moving one of the three corners into a nickel role would be a waste of time since none of the three are as well-suited to the position as Fuller. Both as a win-now guy and a future piece on the outside, Fuller was a good selection, and he should fit in well with what the Bears are doing.

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