High School/College Performance
Aaron Fuller largely flew under the radar coming out of high school. Despite growing up just north of the Dallas/Fort Worth area he didn’t see much attention from the major in-state programs. Fuller averaged 78 catches for 1,287 yards and 18 TDs in his junior and senior seasons but never got an offer from Texas, Texas A&M, TCU, or Baylor. Rather than going to Houston or leaving for Big 10 programs like Iowa or Northwestern he instead took an offer to head to Washington.
Fuller was the lowest rated non-specialist scholarship player in that 2016 class for the Huskies with a 0.8311 247 sports composite rating. Listed at 5’11 and 175 pounds with good speed he seemed most likely to emerge as a capable slot receiver. Washington had both John Ross and Dante Pettis at the position in Fuller’s first season and Pettis was still the #1 option when Fuller was a sophomore.
As a junior though Fuller had a breakout stretch and looked like he was poised to take over where that pair of future early NFL draft picks left off. Fuller started out the 2018 season with 35 catches for 574 yards in the first 6 games which included 135 yards against Auburn and 108 yards at Utah. But after that torrid start things slowed way down and Fuller caught 2 or fewer balls in 5 of the next 7 contests and wound up with 58 catches for 874 yards with 4 TDs.
He once again took over as the #1 option as a senior and started out with a pair of TDs against Eastern Washington including a highlight one-handed grab.
There were a few other highlights during the course of the season but he struggled with efficiency as Fuller reeled in just 63.7% of targets and finished with 5 drops including 4 in the 4th quarter of one score games the Huskies would go on to lose. The overall numbers were a tad worse than his junior totals with 59 catches for 702 yards and 6 TDs. Although Fuller did show more promise as a punt returner during his senior campaign with 22 returns for 250 yards and one 88 yard TD despite some perplexing fair catch decisions inside the 10 yard line.
Fuller had an underwhelming NFL combine from a physical perspective as he finished in no better than the 34th percentile among wide receivers in any particular drill per Mockdraftable. It was obvious that at a relatively slight 5’11 that Fuller was not going to make jaws drop but he compounded that with short arms (4th percentile) and small hands (12th percentile) that might help explain his troubles with drops.
The speed and agility look better on the field than they did at the combine with a 4.59 second time in the 40 yard dash and an 18th percentile 3-cone drill. Fuller was at his best showing off his leaping ability with respectable marks for someone his size including a 34 inch vertical leap. There wasn’t necessarily a single component of Fuller’s measurements that should automatically take him off a team’s draft board but every drill was a little bit worse than you would have hoped for a player fighting to get drafted.
On the Field Analysis
Fuller caught a lot of criticism during his time at Washington but he was mostly miscast as a lead receiver on a team without much talent around him during his final two seasons. He was reminiscent of former Husky Jermaine Kearse in his tendency to make the spectacular play but often fail to make the routine one.
Fuller is at his best working against zone coverage when able to make a catch outside of traffic, assess where the defenders are, and use his punt return experience to get past them. When weaving through tight spaces Fuller can do well but he doesn’t have the strength to outright break tackles. He forced a missed tackle on just 2.2% of catches as a senior which helps explain his average of just over 4 yards after the catch.
That lack of strength combined with short arms made Fuller especially vulnerable against aggressive press man coverage. If a talented defender gets in his space before Fuller is into his route then he doesn’t have the set of skills necessary to recover and get open. In the Rose Bowl against Ohio State as a junior Fuller was repeatedly dominated by future NFL level defenders like Jeff Okudah. A tendency to round his cuts gives defenders a chance to get back in the picture even if beaten initially. Fuller can make catches with arms extended but his short wingspan gives lengthy corners a chance to poke the ball away.
As mentioned earlier in the article, Fuller does show a penchant for making the spectacular play especially when the ball is in the air. He knows how to high point the ball and make up for generally being at best as tall as the defender if not being at a significant disadvantage. However, throwing your 5’11 receiver jump balls is probably not the best way to have an efficient offense in the NFL.
In college Fuller was an underwhelming #1 option, solid #2 option, and very good #3 option. His final two seasons he was forced to be the primary target on the outside and defenses were able to focus on him if they wanted to without worrying about the receiver on the other side for the most part.
In the NFL it’s tough to see how Fuller will be able to find a great deal of success. He’s clearly an intelligent player who was constantly relied upon by coach Chris Petersen and kept on the field over younger players who were more physically talented. Both Jake Browning and Jacob Eason were comfortable repeatedly trusting him to make a play in high leverage situations to mixed results.
Fuller projects as a potential depth wide receiver in the NFL who it would be surprising to see ever develop into a starter but who could easily play his way onto a roster. For a team that wants to add a young player who can act like a veteran from day one and add a strong work ethic to their receiver room he’s a great choice. But he does not have the physical talent that would suggest high upside and is a low ceiling, high floor option.
Draft Projection: UDFA with a chance at a 6-7th round pick.