To get to know Detroit Lions sixth-round pick Corey Fuller, a wide receiver from Virginia Tech, I sent five questions to chicagomaroon from Gobbler Country, SB Nation's Hokies blog. Here's a look at what he had to say about Fuller:
1. Fuller originally joined Virginia Tech as a walk-on after being on the Kansas track team for a couple years, and his career really didn't take off until this past season. Before 2012, did Virginia Tech fans have a sense that Fuller could progress to the point of being drafted, or did he really come out of nowhere?
The answer to that question isn't necessarily black or white. Obviously, for those who follow Virginia Tech or know the Fuller name, it wouldn't be a surprise to learn that he possessed the athletic skills that he did. What am I referring to? Well, his older brother Vincent was a quality NFL backup/fringe starter for the greater part of the 2000s, his younger brother Kyle, a senior corner/nickelback, should be drafted next year and his youngest brother Kendall was the gem of the Hokies' 2013 recruiting class, listed by most as the nation's top cornerback. So the pedigree is certainly there. But as far as knowing what Tech had in Fuller, no one outside of the program knew for sure.
As you mentioned, prior to 2012, Fuller had all of 2 receptions for 19 yards. But looking back, that's not really an indemnification on him. Rather, the Hokies sported their deepest receiving core in school history in 2011, with current NFLers Jarrett Boykin and Danny Coale and current senior D.J. Coles and undrafted free agents Marcus Davis and Dyrell Roberts backing those two up. Though the idea is that none of those guys have proven a lot on the pro level, Davis and Roberts are both pro-level athletes, but Davis has first-round talent and an undrafted-level mind and Roberts experienced two season-ending injuries while at Tech. It even took a re-injury to D.J. Coles in the Hokies' 2012 opener that forced him to redshirt to spring Fuller from the third wideout slot into the starting lineup. But he didn't disappoint.
So you could say that Hokie fans didn't really get a good sense at all of what Fuller would be until four of the five receivers ahead of him in 2011 were out of the picture. In that sense, yes, absolutely he came out of nowhere.
2. Given that Fuller averaged 19 yards a catch in 2012, is it accurate to say that he has the ability to be a deep threat for the Lions?
I think he has the ability to go deep some, but the real strength that I saw from Fuller was his ability to turn a slant into six. He's that rare guy who will take a 5-10-yard slant or crossing route and beat every defender to the pylon before they can shut down the angle and force him to the sideline. That is just as dangerous as a deep threat in some respects, but I know you were hoping to hear that he was the vertical route burner that can just play throw it up and catch. To me, based on what I've seen, he's just not that guy right now.
3. Fuller has been described by the Lions as a raw player given that he was only eligible to play a couple seasons of college football. What do you think he needs to work on to take his game to the next level?
I think he's a guy who may be raw in terms of experience, but doesn't show it with the things that he does when he is on the field. He does the little things. He plays like a much more mature player than you would expect for someone who had played so little college ball. I attribute that to the fact that he is a much more mature person than the average player. So you won't be getting the headaches that some players bring or the off the field stuff with him. As for what I think Fuller needs to do at the next level, he definitely needs to get stronger to prevent being bumped at the line and to become a better blocker. He also needs to figure out how to make those deep routes work for him consistently, as I mentioned above. So while I don't think he'll be a star from day one, you will see a workmanlike effort every day from him.
4. One thing I've heard since the Lions took Fuller was that his numbers at Virginia Tech would have been even better if not for the inconsistent play of quarterback Logan Thomas. Is this an accurate assessment? Will he benefit from better quarterback play in the NFL?
Watching a tape of 2011 Logan Thomas and the 2012 version of him is like watching two entirely different players. I dare you to watch those two tapes and tell me otherwise. You're absolutely right that Thomas' play hurt Fuller's (as well as everyone else on the offense's) stats a year ago, but he wasn't the only one to blame. The offensive line as a unit was a mess as well and there was no running game to speak of. The good news for Fuller is that he was Thomas' bail-out receiver, so when he was going through his progressions and trying to extend a play or a play broke down, Fuller benefitted from being the guy Thomas would go to. That also means, however, that Fuller had to get open or create separation, something he does pretty well. So really that could go either way, but I would tend to agree, with a better version of Thomas, Fuller is a 1,000+-yard receiver in 2012.
5. How well does Fuller's speed translate to the football field?
All you'll ever hear is that Fuller is a "track guy" and that he ran a 4.43 at the combine, seventh among receivers. But he doesn't seem to play that fast. As for how his speed will translate, I am unsure, but you would have to think that some of those slants turned into touchdowns will be slants turned into first downs, as the average speed of an NFL defender is much greater and will therefore close the holes that would have been there in college. I think he definitely has NFL speed, and he will be able to hold his own and create separation just like the average NFL receiver can, but is unlikely to burn NFL defenders routinely.