The 2015 college football bowl season is upon us. On Friday, January 1, we will continue the madness with the Fiesta Bowl, which will be fought out between Notre Dame (10-2) and Ohio State (11-1). A prospect worth watching in this contest is Notre Dame junior wide receiver Will Fuller.
Fuller has actually already stated that he will be returning for his senior season, but I think it is best to wait until after the game to see what he says. Should he declare, he is already seeing some quality draft buzz, coming in at WR13 in the RotoViz Scouting Index. I like Fuller’s potential; let’s dive into the numbers.
Should Fuller declare, he will be a shade past 22 come draft day. He was a Biletnikoff semi-finalist, and a second team All-American. Here’s what he has done in his three years at Notre Dame.
Fuller performed at an incredible level the last two seasons, posting a breakout season as a 20.7 year old sophomore. That puts him in play as a prospect depending on his draft position, as breakout age could be the skeleton key to prospect evaluation. However, it is important to note that 20.7 makes him older than 2015 draftees Amari Cooper and Devin Funchess. Those guys are young, so I’m not saying that it’s a detriment to Fuller, more as a statement that he probably isn’t a transcendent talent at the position despite strong numbers.
An interesting note on Fuller’s 2015 season is that he caught 20 fewer balls than he did in 2014 despite seeing an increase in yards. This was due to crazy 20.5 yards per reception and 13.2 yards per target per Football Study Hall. He also had Dominator Ratings of 0.475 and 0.41 in his final two collegiate seasons, exceptional numbers that peg him as a pick in the draft’s first two rounds should he declare. He profiles similarly to Nelson Agholor from the perspective of market share of receiving yards and age based on some great work done by Jon Moore. No matter how you slice it, Fuller has an impressive statistical profile.
The Physical Profile
This is where Fuller will have to prove himself. He is listed as just 6 feet and 184 pounds by the Notre Dame website, and that will put him on the smaller end of the spectrum as a prospect. Where Fuller needs to really show out is the 40 and agility drills. If he can show that he is a plus athlete in terms of long speed and short-area burst, that is sure to push him up draft boards even more.
For what it is worth, NFL Draft Scout lists his 40 time between 4.32 and 4.52. Falling somewhere in the middle of that with decent agility would probably profile him as a younger, more productive Devin Smith, who went with pick 37 overall last May. I think if Fuller declares he has a terrific shot at going off the board in the first two rounds.
Fuller has terrific numbers at a major program and would be coming out at an age that doesn’t hurt him if he declares this season. The one knock on him for me is that he doesn’t have much of a resume with respect to rushing and returning kicks, two things that matter a lot to me when evaluating smaller WRs. I think at this juncture his range of outcomes could be anything from Robert Woods to Agholor in terms of draft position and assumed skill-set.
Again, all of these players have more experience in the return game than Fuller, and I think that balances out a little bit with the production advantage the Notre Dame WR has. I included Cooks since he matches up to Fuller the most in terms of raw production and market share, but truly comparing the two probably isn’t fair with Cooks’ return and rushing resume and blazing fast 40 time.
Fuller is a player that could emerge as an elite deep threat in the right offense, recording nine TDs of 30 or more yards this season. Should he return to Notre Dame, we are looking for him to improve upon his numbers even more, though a season similar to 2015 probably puts him right in line with Smith a year ago.