2020 NFL Draft: SEC Summer Seniors – LSU CB Kristian Fulton

The dog days of summer are upon us. What better time to jump into some film and evaluate the senior 2020 NFL Draft prospects of the SEC.

The LSU Tigers have an identity when it comes to producing top-tier NFL talent. Ask anyone involved in draft circles or the league, and they will tell you that LSU is home of DBU. Some of the best defensive backs in the entire NFL have come from Baton Rouge. Guys like Patrick Peterson, Jamal Adams, Tre White, Tyrann Mathieu, and Eric Reid are veterans in the league that once wore the purple and gold.

Two years ago Donte Jackson joined that list after being selected in the second round by the Carolina Panthers and excelling as a rookie. Heading into the 2019 NFL Draft, Greedy Williams was in the running for the top defensive back. Williams ultimately landed with the Cleveland Browns, aka LSU-north, where he has the chance to blossom into a star in his own right.

Meet Kristian Fulton

Next in that long line of NFL success is the player who was opposite Williams a year ago, cornerback Kristian Fulton. The former five-star recruit was the third-ranked corner in the entire 2016 class when he committed to LSU. Unfortunately, he was suspended for the entire 2017 season due to tampering with a drug test sample. Fulton was spared a second year when the NCAA ruled, shortly before the season, that the fact that Fulton ultimately failed a test for non-PEDs, he would only receive a one year sentence.

Fulton had a successful 2018 season. In fact, many thought it was good enough to allow him to jump into the NFL like his heralded teammate. A late-season ankle injury likely derailed that plans more than his play. Fulton decided to return to school and keep proving himself in preparation for the 2020 NFL Draft where he should be ranked towards the top of his position.

Before his injury, Fulton ranked second on the Tigers with 10 passes defended. According to Pro Football Focus, he allowed a measly 18 catches. The same service ranked Fulton as the top returning corner in the entire SEC.

Fulton will be the third prospect in the SEC Summer Seniors Series that appears on the PFN NFL Draft page. Last week the focus was on Vanderbilt running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn. Prior to that Alabama defensive lineman Raekwon Davis was in the spotlight. This series will look at strengths, weaknesses, and an initial summary based on the knowledge we have entering the 2019-20 college football season.

Attributes

Height:6’0″

Weight: 192 lbs

Strengths

Kristian Fulton, like many of the LSU defensive back’s before him, has all the traits you want in a top-tier corner in the NFL. He carries weight on his frame well and showcases long arms for a player that is 6-feet tall.

The first attribute that stands out for Fulton is how quick and fluid he is. There are times on film where the receiver beats him off the line but Fulton is able to recover to mirror the receiver even without getting his hands on him. Not only is he quick in and out of breaks laterally but has the ability to time it well to break up passes. Look at him nearly pick this ball off on what otherwise was a well-timed route/throw by Ole Miss.

Speed is an enormous part of playing corner as well. Fulton’s got that part of the game down pat. In the loaded SEC, Fulton frequently saw speedy receivers come on his side of the field. Yet not once during his evaluation was he beaten over the top. He continuously was step-for-step with top-flight receivers like Jerry Jeudy or Van Jefferson. The combination of size/speed is going to have NFL scouts drooling.

A factor that caused Fulton’s teammate Greedy Williams to fall in the 2019 NFL Draft was his lack of interest in playing the run. It was rare, if not non-existent, to see Williams come up and make a play on a running back. That is not the case with Fulton. He’s shown the ability to disengage from stalk blocks from receivers and at least get his nose in the scuffle. Here is a play from the Arkansas game, before he got hurt, that highlights the difference between the two.

My favorite part of Fulton’s game is his nuance as a man cover player. He’s constantly in good positions, whether it’s trailing crossing routes or sticking to the inside hip on deeper routes. He uses those quick feet to throw routes off before they even start. Look at this play below where Fulton steers the receiver to the sideline and uses that sideline to his advantage.

Weaknesses

Like many corners who have impressive physical traits, they can sometimes lead to sloppy techniques. This is the biggest concern for Kristian Fulton going forward. He knows he’s got the game-changing speed that can make up for him getting beat off the line. That leads to times where he doesn’t get his hands on a receiver and can be leveraged into a bad situation.

A game that will be marked on calendars for a variety of reasons is against the rival Alabama Crimson Tide. Fulton will draw a potential top-50 pick no matter who lines up across him. Any time he is matched up with Jerry Jeudy, it will be a battle between what could become the top receiver and corner in the 2020 NFL Draft. The entire Tide’s receiving corps will require a locked-in Fulton.

Something that Fulton should try to improve is his ability to high point balls. There were not many opportunities for him on tape but it did seem like he struggled there. He excels at breaking and undercutting routes, which is an extremely valuable skill but to be a top-flight corner in the NFL. But he needs to show a propensity for making plays on the ball when it is up in the air in 50-50 situations.

Summary

Kristian Fulton will likely be another top-50 pick defensive back coming from LSU. He’s got the skills, and size, to be the first corner taken off the board. The only thing preventing him from being the first defensive back off the board is his teammate Grant Delpit (who has a case for best player in the entire 2020 NFL Draft).

After a 2019 class that had very little consensus on corners, and only one corner was selected in the first round in DeAndre Baker at 30th overall to the New York Giants, Fulton has a path to the first round. All he needs to do is come out, prove that he is healthy, perform well against the top-flight competition like Alabama, and Florida, and continue to dominate as he has. Fulton coming back is big for the LSU secondary and should be an exciting watch for any NFL teams looking for corners in the 2020 NFL Draft.

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