Kristian Fluton

Kristian Fulton: Tennessee’s potential missing piece

  • Jerry Jeudy
  • Kevin Byard
  • Kristian Fulton
  • Logan Ryan
  • Mike Vrabel
  • Tennessee Titans
By Shaun Calderon August 30, 2020 0 Comment
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Tennessee Titans’ rookie Kristian Fulton’s skill set may provide an immediate upgrade at the most important aspect of the cornerback position.

Kristian Fulton developed quite the on-field reputation as a local five-star recruit for the LSU Tigers back in 2016. That reputation carried over to the college level. His prolific coverage skills led to him being one of the most feared defensive backs in the entire SEC. His major knock, which likely contributed to him falling to the 61st pick, came off the field. Fulton’s off the field actions ended up severely limiting his time on the field. Back in 2017, he attempted to use someone else’s urine in hopes of passing an official NCAA drug test and was caught and he ended up being suspended for two seasons. However, he only served half of the suspension.

Skills

Whenever the talented corner was on the field at LSU, he was fundamentally sound in both man and zone concepts. He also consistently displayed excellent patience and balance against a plethora of quality receivers. Fulton did well when leveraging routes and was able to cognitively manipulate receivers into vulnerable positions.

The LSU product has blazing speed. He will need to use that acceleration in order to stand a chance against NFL offenses. One of the things that stood out most about Fulton was his ability to avoid making the same mistake during his time in Baton Rouge. Once Fulton develops the necessary experience, his spatial awareness skills will give him a chance to hold his own against anyone at the next level. Even when he gets high in his backpedal, has a false step, or concedes leverage to some of the better route runners, Fulton remains calm and recovers wonderfully as he displayed multiple times against eventual NFL receivers.

College career

Last season, Fulton allowed a combined three catches for 39 yards and zero touchdowns on 11 targets against eventual top 33 Picks: Henry Ruggs III, Tee Higgins, and Jerry Jeudy. He also successfully executed three pass breakups within those 11 targets.

Fulton may not have had a ton of takeaways during his time in the SEC, but you can make a valid argument that not many corners would blanket their receiver as well as the LSU product did on a consistent basis. According to Pro Football Focus (PFF), the LSU corner forced an incompletion on 29% of the passes thrown into his coverage since 2018 – Best in college football in in that time.

Big shoes to fill for Kristian Fulton

To say that Kristian Fulton will be able to immediately replace everything that free agent defensive back Logan Ryan provided for the Titans’ defense, would be a real stretch. Ryan was a true Swiss Army knife for Tennessee’s defense during his tenure. He seemingly did everything well as he was one of the best tacklers, blitzers, and leaders on the team. Unfortunately for Ryan, being a coverage liability as a cornerback ultimately supersedes everything else that he does extremely well. Despite filling up the stat sheet in seemingly every category, he was also torched a ton anytime he faced a competent quarterback and receiver combination.

 

According to PFF, the former Rutgers product allowed more yards than any other slot corner in the NFL. Ryan was also the most targeted defender in 2019 (114). Those circumstances subsequently led to him allowing the most receptions out of anyone last season (80). To add more context: Quarterbacks completed approximately 67% of their throws on him, he allowed over

900 yards, and gave up five touchdown passes. 

Logan Ryan’s deficiencies

Logan Ryan is a fantastic football player, but he likely made the right move for himself by switching to safety as that is better suited for everything he provides to a defense. With that said, the Titans also made the right choice by deciding to go with a young rookie instead. Fulton may never be the all-around talent that Ryan was, but considering Fulton’s skill-set, Tennessee’s rookie corner will likely provide an immediate upgrade in the coverage aspect of his position.

Ryan was often exposed when asked to cover the vertical routes against the faster receivers. Fulton’s 4.4 speed is much more suited for today’s NFL speed. Fulton is also athletic and agile enough to hold his own against the swift horizontal routes as well. Having the ability to defend both vertically and horizontally is something that Mike Vrabel consistently preached about wanting in his next nickel back, and Fulton seemingly fits that bill.

Knocks on his game

The LSU product will need to clean up some technique and anticipation issues. He often made up for those at the college level with his natural athleticism. There are occasional times when a receiver will seemingly appear to test him vertically and he will prematurely fully commit to the route leaving him susceptible to any in/out breaking routes against the craftier route runners at the next level.

Advantages

There are far more things to be excited about with Kristian Fulton than there are to be concerned with. Especially now that he will be around NFL coaching on a full-time basis and has the opportunity to pick the brains of Kevin Byard, Kenny Vaccaro, Malcolm Butler, Adoree’ Jackson, and Johnathan Joseph.

 

Everything Fulton does is natural and he’s comfortable in every situation regardless of the stage, opponent, or moment. The LSU product has smooth feet, fluid hips, along with refined and constantly improving technique. Fulton displays tremendous awareness, instincts, and the physicality needed to provide an immediate upgrade for 2020. He also has the potential to eventually become a true shutdown corner in today’s NFL.

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