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updated: 5/8/2014 10:54 PM

Bears draft VaTech cornerback Fuller

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  • The Bears on Thursday night drafted Virginia Tech cornerback Kyle Fuller.

      The Bears on Thursday night drafted Virginia Tech cornerback Kyle Fuller.
    Associated Press

 
 

It seemed too good to be true that Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald would land in the Bears' laps at No. 14 and, in the end, it was.

The highly decorated 3-technique tackle would have fit like a glove on the Bears' defensive line. But he was grabbed by the St. Louis Rams at 13, just one pick ahead of the Bears, who still need a replacement for Henry Melton after he signed with the Cowboys in March during free agency.

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But Bears general manager Phil Emery was hardly disappointed Thursday night. He addressed another area of concern when he selected 5-foot-11¾-inch, 190-pound Virginia Tech cornerback Kyle Fuller, "a player that was universally loved in our building," Emery said, "and the highest- rated corner on our draft board."

Corner is not an immediate need because the Bears have Pro Bowlers Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings. But Tillman is 33 and missed half of the 2013 season with a triceps injury.

The Bears' defense, which last year was one of the worst in franchise history, also needs help at safety, and Emery left the top two on the board -- Alabama's Ha Ha Clinton Dix and Louisville's Calvin Pryor.

But with good reason, the Bears GM said.

"We see (Fuller) as a guy that has a lot of versatility in terms of covering different types of athletes," Emery said. "That's where his length really helped him. You can see him on tape covering the North Carolina tight end (Eric) Ebron (who went 10th overall to the Lions).

"You see him cover inside slot receivers, bigger receivers, you see him cover outside and inside, so that versatility of coverage is a big factor."

Fuller has 4.49 speed and started 41 games for the Hokies but just eight last season when he was sidelined by a sports hernia that required surgery in November. He has since been medically cleared.

In Nolan Nawrocki's NFL Draft 2014 Preview, Fuller was the 31st-ranked player overall, the fourth-best corner and sixth-best defensive back.

Fuller is "narrow-framed, confident, competitive off-man/zone corner with nice length, field speed and awareness," according to Nawrocki. "He) is capable of contributing early on special teams and in sub packages."

NFL Network's Mike Mayock said Fuller is "the most NFL-ready (cornerback) with good length and can play inside or outside."

Although Tillman and Jennings will be the Bears' starters next season, Fuller is expected to contribute immediately. He should win the nickel cornerback position, which is more and more critical in the current NFL that emphasizes throwing the ball more frequently and utilizing more wide receivers.

"They know I can play cornerback and nickel back," Fuller said of his discussions with the Bears, which began with a formal meeting at the NFL Scouting Combine in February. "I'm versatile. I'm looking forward to coming in and learning from Tillman and Jennings."

Asked about his strengths, Fuller said: "My overall ability to make plays. (I'm) a tough, versatile corner with the ability to play in the slot."

Because of superb instincts and anticipation, Fuller plays faster than his 40-time, which is slightly above average. He also has excellent explosion, which he demonstrated with a 38½-inch vertical jump and a 10-foot, 8-inch broad jump.

He will need to get stronger, though, after repping 225 pounds just 12 times on the bench press.

But Emery pointed out multiple times that Fuller's toughness is a plus, and it was evident in his 173 career tackles, including 123 solos.

"(It's) all-out effort, willingness, physicalness, just toughness to get the job done," Emery said. "He's crashing through gaps, going through offensive linemen to get to the ball. He did it repetitively.

"That's very impressive. You don't see many 190-pound guys willing to do that. That tells you a lot about him as a football player. Giving it up for his team. (He's) a player that will do anything and everything for his team to help them win."

The Bears were hoping for a run on offensive players early in the draft, leaving as many talented defensive players as possible for them to choose among. Emery had said he had six players targeted, and three were left at No. 14.

"Once the Giants turned their pick in (at No. 12), we knew we were going to get a really good football player," Emery said. "This is one tough football player. A player with length, skill, athleticism, versatility, productivity and beyond that, is a great person."

rlegere@dailyherald.com

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