LAKE FOREST — For the first time since 1996, the Bears selected a cornerback in the first round of the draft.
With their 14th pick, the Bears drafted Virginia Tech’s Kyle Fuller, a 6-0, 190-pound corner with 32 7/8-inch arms, a 4.49 40-yard dash and a 38.5-inch vertical leap.
"Extremely happy to have Kyle Fuller be a new Bears. This is a player that is universally loved in our building," said general manager Phil Emery. "Very high-level grade on him at corner."
Fuller had only 12 reps on the bench press, but he is considered a hardworking, physical corner with the length to potentially play safety as well. In college, Fuller played some nickel back and linebacker.
"I was at a game, live, that I got to watch Kyle. I knew that day that's the type of player I wanted to represent the Chicago Bears," Emery said. "He was playing Georgia Tech that day and they line him up as an inverted safety and ran him through the A-gap against an option team to crash the mesh point between the quarterback and fullback, and he repetitively did that.
"This is one tough football player. This is a player with length, skill, athleticism, versatility, productivity and, beyond that, he's even a great person. He's a great representative of the Chicago Bears."
On a conference call with reporters, Fuller said the Bears haven't told him exactly what he would play, but that he has the versatility to play nickel, corner or safety. Emery said that Fuller is a cornerback. "That's how we see him."
Emery lauded Fuller's tackling abilities and how he tackles in run support, especially for a 190-pound player.
"Definitely being a tough, physical player," Fuller said about his strengths. "I have a good knowledge of the game."
As for Fuller's position versatility, Emery focused on what Fuller could do for the Bears in coverage from corner, as opposed to what he could potentially do at safety.
"We see him as a guy that has a lot of versatility in terms of coverage, in terms of covering different types of athletes. That's where his length really helps him," Emery said. "You could see him on tape covering the North Carolina tight end (Eric) Ebron. You see him cover inside slots or bigger receivers, you see him cover outside. That versatility of coverage is a big attraction for Kyle."
Emery said the Bears expect Fuller to contribute in his rookie season, and pointed out all the multiple-wide receiver and tight end sets that Fuller could find his way on the field often, and that he could eventually be a starter on the outside.
Fuller, whose brothers Corey and Vincent have NFL experience, knows the type of corners he will be playing with by joining the Bears.
"Charles Tillman and Tim Jennings are two Pro Bowl corners," Fuller said. "I'm definitely looking forward to coming in and learning from those guys."
Here’s Fuller’s scouting report from the Chicago Football Draft Preview magazine:
Fuller has good size and speed to go with excellent bloodlines. His brothers Vincent and Corey both have been NFL players. Fuller plays well above the rim as his 38˝ inch vertical leap suggests. He is more than happy to stick his nose in against the run, and he has extensive special teams experience in college. He gained significant experience in school earning a starting spot about halfway through his true freshman season and keeping it through three more years in the program.
The last time the Bears drafted a cornerback in the first round was 1996 when they selected Walt Harris. They hadn't drafted a corner in the first three rounds since Charles Tillman in 2003.