In one of the more surprising picks of the night, the Houston Texans selected Notre Dame wide receiver Will Fuller 21st overall. While it wasn’t particularly surprising that Fuller was drafted in the first round, it was surprising to see him drafted ahead of both Laquon Treadwell and Josh Doctson.
I don’t think the pick should be particularly controversial. Fuller is a good WR prospect, and you can see that when you look at his comparable players.
I formed two comp groups for Fuller. The first is from the Box Score Scout, and was generated by inputting Fuller’s draft position, weight, some general production measures, and then forty yard dash and yards per reception because they seem particularly salient to a player with Fuller’s deep threat profile.
Note that the players are listed in order of similarity to Fuller. Let’s start with the successes. His most similar comp is Santonio Holmes, who had a solid career, peaking as the PPR WR14 in 2009. Brandin Cooks was the WR14 as a sophomore and looks to have a long career ahead of him. You don’t need me to tell you how incredible Odell Beckham has been. Santana Moss’ career was kind of erratic, but he had four 1,000 yard seasons, peaked as the WR6 in 2005, and had over 10,000 total career receiving yards. Mike Wallace finished as the WR9 twice, has had several other successful seasons, and may still have more success to come. Breshad Perriman has yet to play in the NFL, but he’s an incredible prospect in his own right.
Troy Williamson was a bust. So was Freddie Mitchell. Ashley Lelie had one good season, but even it was only worth a WR26 finish. Donnie Avery never topped 781 receiving yards and did not record a single catch in 2015. Donte Stallworth was a consistent contributor who once finished as the WR23. He wasn’t bad so much as a disappointment for a first round pick.
So those comps are favorable overall. And of the five players most similar to Fuller, you see the three biggest successes thus far in Beckham, Cooks, and Moss.1
Let’s move onto the second set of comps. I decided to form a group based on the same criteria (but with different cutoffs) that led to Laquon Treadwell’s incredible comps. For Fuller, I looked at:
- All WRs drafted in the first round from 2006 to 2016.
- Then narrowed it down to those who weighed 205 pounds or fewer.
- Then narrowed it down those who had a Phenom Index score of 1.50 or more, which measures age-adjusted production.
That gave me the following group:
Note that unlike the table above, these comps are not sorted by similarity. I’ll leave it to you to decide what players are most similar to Fuller.
Right off the bat, you’ll see a few repeat names. Those would be Beckham, Cooks, and Holmes. You’ll also see the first WR selected in this year’s draft, Corey Coleman.
You’ll also see two outright busts in A.J. Jenkins and Craig Davis. Nelson Agholor makes the cut and, while it’s too soon to call him a bust, he only had 283 receiving yards as a rookie.
We also gain two more positive comps in Jeremy Maclin and Percy Harvin. Maclin has been consistently productive since entering the league, peaking at WR9 in 2014. Harvin’s career has been (or was) marred by all sorts of issues, but he finished as the WR8 in 2011 and was WR8 in points per game in 2012.
While both comp groups include a few busts, overall Will Fuller looks a lot like some of the most successful smaller WRs of the last decade. My only real problem with the pick for Houston is that Treadwell was still available. But Texans fans should be optimistic, and as things stand now I think Fuller is worth a top six pick in rookie drafts.
- At least assuming Cooks continues to produce like he did last season. (back)