Kyle Fuller vs. Jason Verrett: Which Star CB Would Be the Better Pick for 49ers?

Joseph Akeley@@Jakeley_BRAnalyst IApril 22, 2014

Oct 5, 2013; Blacksburg, VA, USA; Virginia Tech Hokies cornerback Kyle Fuller (17) celebrates with safety Kyshoen Jarrett (34) after making an interception in the fourth quarter. The Hokies defeated the Tar Heels 27-17 at Lane Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The San Francisco 49ers are in need of another starting-caliber cornerback entering the 2014 NFL draft, and both Virginia Tech's Kyle Fuller and TCU's Jason Verrett fit the bill. 

They are projected to go in the mid-to-late first round by most NFL draft experts, including Bleacher Report's Matt Miller.

To secure one of the cornerbacks, the 49ers, who own the 30th pick, might have to trade up a few spots. With 11 picks in the draft, that should be no issue. 

Justin Gilbert is the other cornerback prospect worth spending a first-round pick on, but he's likely to be off the board early in Round 1. Both Darqueze Dennard and Bradley Roby are talented prospects, but they're not quite on the level of Fuller and Verrett. 

So, if it comes down to the TCU star and the Virginia Tech standout, who would be the better pick for the 49ers? Let's break down each prospect before coming to a conclusion. 


Kyle Fuller

Fuller's size and ability to both cover and tackle at a high level are the big reasons he is a top-five cornerback prospect in the 2014 draft. 

At 6'0" with a 38.5-inch vertical jump, Fuller has the ideal size and athleticism to defend receivers of all sizes in the NFL.

He's also an aggressive defender at the line of scrimmage. 

As a sophomore, Fuller totaled 14.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks. More so than any cornerback in this draft, he takes great angles to ball-carriers and wraps them up. 

Fuller's combine performance wasn't too shabby, either. 

A 4.49 40-yard dash is fast enough to stay with most receivers in the NFL, but it's his hip fluid movement and hip flexion that stand out. 

You can see from the video above that Fuller is quick to react to every route in the route tree. 

Whereas some faster corners will struggle with quick cuts, Fuller seems destined to mirror receiver movements as well as any corner in this draft class (except for Verrett, arguably). 

Fuller also shows the ability to play off his man, read the quarterback and break on the ball. The 49ers don't ask their outside cornerbacks to press too often, so they have to like his coverage instincts. CBS Sports' Dane Brugler had more on his strengths:

"Good route recognition and outstanding read-and-react quickness to mirror or plant-and-drive to attack. Above-average anticipation and cover instincts. Studies receivers and does his homework to know what to look for without hesitation."

Fuller was on his way to a huge senior season before he underwent hernia surgery in November that kept him out for the last two months of the year. With a lean frame, Fuller may be more prone to injury than Gilbert or Roby. 


Jason Verrett

Verrett paired big collegiate production with a fantastic NFL Scouting Combine performance to cement himself as a top-five cornerback prospect in the 2014 draft. 

In 2012, he led the NCAA with 22 pass breakups. He also had six interceptions and five tackles for loss. 

In 2013, he took home Big 12 Co-Defensive Player of the Year. Teams threw at him less, yet he still led the conference with 14 pass breakups and accumulated two interceptions. 

At the combine, he had the second-best time among cornerbacks with a 4.38-second 40-yard dash. He was also in the top three in vertical jump, three-cone drill and 20-yard shuttle. 

As you can see from the video above, Verrett's speed shows up when he's undercutting routes. His closing speed on digs and slants is second to none in this class. Brugler raved about his quickness:

Excellent short-area burst and flexibility to seamlessly redirect his footwork to mirror receivers in space. Very good feel on an island. Baits and drives on throws with burst and timing. Improved instincts and awareness, not afraid to come off his man to make a play. Excellent ballskills and confidence to undercut routes and finish with the interception.

The one consistent knock on Verrett is his height. At 5'9", he's going to have some trouble against tall wide receivers who can high-point the ball.

However, his 39-inch vertical jump helps him compete for balls in the air. Still, he's going to be more susceptible to getting beat by perfect throws, especially in the red zone where height is utilized the most. 

Keep in mind how ridiculous this sounds. Verrett's one true weakness is that he'll get "beat by perfect throws." In other words, he's an NFL cornerback.

Aside from that weakness, Verrett also missed some time in college with various injuries. 


Who Would Be the Better Pick for the 49ers?

Jim Cowsert

Verrett may end up being a lockdown cornerback from anywhere on the field in his NFL career, but his speed and agility combination make him an ideal slot defensive back for the 49ers. 

Against slot receivers, the Niners have predominantly used Carlos Rogers over the last three years. Vic Fangio prefers to have his cornerbacks jam inside receivers and mirror their movements. 

Both Verrett and Fuller are capable of doing this effectively, but it's the TCU star's speed that makes him a perfect fit there. 

Fuller immediately projects as an every-down cornerback due to his tackling ability. The 49ers, who played more nickel defense than 3-4 in 2013, demand their cornerbacks to help out in the run game more than most NFL teams. San Francisco can rely on Fuller to not lose contain and occasionally beat a wide receiver's block for a tackle for loss. 

Verrett is also a sure tackler, but as Brugler wrote, he "lacks ideal hand strength to consistently finish or easily shed blocks. Room to improve his tackling technique, especially in space, hitting too high and losing immediate leverage."

So Verrett projects as a better slot cornerback, whereas Fuller has a small edge defending bigger receivers and tackling. This means the 49ers should draft Fuller, right?

Yes...err, probably. 

If San Francisco is expecting a breakout season from Chris Culliver, it may value Verrett's slot potential more than Fuller's all-around ability. In this scenario, Tramaine Brock and Culliver would man the outside next year, and the 49ers would sign Culliver to a long-term extension during the season to lock up their cornerback trio for years to come. 

But I can't see the 49ers being 100 percent certain they'll keep Culliver long term, considering his recent hit-and-run incident. Which leads us back to Fuller, the more versatile option. 

The 49ers can't go wrong with Fuller or Verrett, but I'd give the Virginia Tech star the slight edge as the 49ers' top cornerback target on draft night. 


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