Despite serving a one-year suspension at LSU for tampering with a drug test and also dealing with a serious injury as a junior, Kristian Fulton showed enough in his senior year to be the No. 61 overall pick in this year’s draft by Tennessee. Here are Fulton’s odds at Mybookie to win 2020 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year as well as the Titans’ over/under win total.
Fulton was a five-star recruit out of New Orleans who picked LSU over Florida and Arkansas. As a freshman at LSU, he played in just three games due to injury: vs. Missouri, Southern Miss and Louisville. He finished with two tackles.
After that 2016 campaign, Fulton was suspended by the NCAA for two seasons after he tampered with a drug test for performance enhancing drugs. He used another person’s urine during an NCAA PED test, thinking the test was for street drugs and was caught. Fulton appealed, arguing that he believed that the test was for recreational narcotics. The then-18-year-old had been smoking marijuana and thought the test would detect it.
The appeal was initially denied and Fulton sat the entire 2017 season, although he did practice daily. On the eve of the 2018 season, though, Fulton was reinstated by the NCAA.
“It made me extremely mentally tough dealing with that situation — that was the main thing — and holding myself accountable,” Fulton said. “Going through that, it taught me a lot about accountability and mental toughness. I thought I had it, according to my freshman self. I learned that I didn’t. There was another level I had to elevate myself to. I learned a lot about myself.”
That year, Fulton played and started 10 games, missing the final three due to injury. He finished with 25 tackles, 1.0 tackles for loss, nine pass breakups, an interception and a forced fumble and teamed with Greedy Williams to give LSU the best pair of starting cornerbacks in the college football.
Last year, Fulton stayed healthy and started all 15 games for the national champions. In that title game win over Clemson, he had a career-high six tackles, including a tackle for a 6-yard loss and broke up a pass. Fulton finished with 38 tackles and 15 passes defensed on the season with a pick and was named second-team All-SEC.
In the 2019 season, Pro Football Focus awarded Fulton an 84.3 grade in coverage versus deep passes, which was the highest grade among Power 5 cornerbacks in the 2020 NFL Draft. Not only was Fulton the highest-graded Power 5 player in this category, but he is also just one of two players to clear the 80.0 grade mark, with the other being Mississippi State’s Cameron Dantzler.
Fulton (6’0/197) is a lean, lanky cornerback who does his best work in press coverage down the sideline. He also measured in the top-five of PFF’s grading in other specific categories such as “contested-catch situations” and “vs passes that were thrown in three seconds or less.”
PFF ranked Fulton as No. 9 corner overall among 284 FBS qualifiers with 6.6 yards per target and the nation’s third-highest incompletion rate (29%) permitted. Fulton specializes in any man-to-man scheme where he can use his physicality, 97th-percentile (1.48 seconds) 10-yard split, and 4.46 40-time to match most receivers step for step.
Tennessee selected him with the 61st overall pick.
“They feel like I can bring versatility to their secondary, and they like my game,” Fulton said of the Titans.
They spoke to him about playing nickel when they met with him during the pre-draft process. Tennessee likes his aggressive, press coverage skills. Fulton has the ability to play nickel if need be, having lined up there at times in 2018. The loss of Logan Ryan in free agency opened up a need for a cornerback.
Fulton will be wearing No. 26 with the Titans. Why that? “It’s just a reminder for me every day that I had eight corners selected before me,” Fulton said “So, you add it up (2+6=8), and it’s a reminder for me every day.”