The first round of the 2016 NFL Draft was one of the most bizarre in history for many reasons, including significant investments by the Rams and Eagles to move up to select their new quarterbacks in Jared Goff and Carson Wentz respectively. It also included a very untimely social media gaffe just moments before the draft started that caused an unexpected free-fall for offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil, who ended up being selected thirteenth overall by the Miami Dolphins.
The Cleveland Browns destroyed nearly every mock draft of the last few months when they selected Corey Coleman with the fifteenth overall selection. This obviously caused Houston some angst, as the Texans traded up in the first round--the first time in franchise history--to select Will Fuller with the twenty first overall pick; a move that immediately resulted in two more consecutive selections of wide receivers. It was a historic run on receivers, resulting in Washington grabbing Josh Doctson and Minnesota securing Laquon Treadwell.
Talk about your scouting report for WR Will Fuller.
Rick Smith: "He’s fast. He can run. That’s his greatest attribute, obviously. I think he had, if not the fastest, one of the fastest 40-yard dash times at the combine. I think if you go back to our conversation a couple days ago at the press conference, we talked about the two types of speed that we look for. Not only is he straight-line, 40-yard dash fast. This guy plays extremely fast and quick. Adding that element to our offense, we all just felt would really enhance what we do offensively. With the creativity that these guys have on our offensive staff, I think he’ll be an excellent addition to our football team."
How do you plan on using WR Will Fuller?
Bill O’Brien: "We feel good about the diversity at that position now. Obviously with DeAndre Hopkins, 111 catches, all the things that he can do on the outside, on the inside, being able to move him around and how much better he’s gotten every year. He allows us to be able to go out there and go get a guy like this. Will will come in and start on the outside, but he does a number of different things. He’ll start off as an outside receiver, but as he learns and he gets better every day, we’ll begin to move him around and do different things with him."
Did you think that another team was going to jump ahead so you decided to move up?
Rick Smith: "If you look at what ended up happening, I think three wide receivers, maybe for the first time, went in a row. We felt like there may be a run on the position. He was a guy that we felt strongly about. We didn’t want to take a chance on not getting him. We were aggressive. We went and made the move."
You recruited Will Fuller at Penn State and were the first school to offer him a scholarship. What do you remember about him?
Bill O’Brien: "I’ve known him for a while. He came to our camp when I was at Penn State. I don’t know if we were the first to offer him, but I know we saw this guy at our high school camp when I was the head coach there. We offered him right away there when we saw him run around and do some of the things he was doing in high school. Yeah, I’ve known him for a while. He’s a guy that is a bright guy. He comes from a good family. He’s a very hard working guy. He comes highly recommended from Brian Kelly. I’ve spoken to Brian Kelly about him. Rick (Smith) has also. This guy is a guy that a lot of people think very highly of. We’re excited to get him here and start working with him."
Is there any concern with a player coming from a spread offense?
Bill O’Brien: "That’s an interesting question. I would tell you that when you watch film of this guy, he runs a lot of different types of routes. There’s all different kinds of versions of the spread offense in college with Baylor and Texas Tech and then you have Notre Dame’s type of offense that they run. They run a lot of similar routes as to what we do. He has some experience with some of the things we do. We were able to, Rick (Smith) and I, put that vision together and see what he can do for us. Like I said, we’re just excited to get him here and start working with him."
How have you seen him develop from when you first met him?
Bill O’Brien: "Again, I think that was 2012. He went to Notre Dame then obviously picking back up with him when I started watching film of him here and then seeing him at the combine. Again, talking to his coaches about him. He’s obviously grown up a lot as a player. He does many more things than what he did in high school. He’s a stronger guy. His football experience has really grown. He’s learned a lot at Notre Dame. One of the things that we like about him is he’s eager to learn. We’re excited about getting him here and getting going with him."
Does he figure at all in the return game?
Bill O’Brien: "That’s another good question. The way that (Special Teams Coordinator) Larry Izzo and I are approaching that this spring is we’re going to put a lot of guys out there and see who fields the ball the best and can return the best, whether it’s kickoff return or punt return. I would say that Will will definitely be somebody that we will look at that position."
Was his big play ability something that really drew you to him?
Bill O’Brien: "I think one of the things that we looked at definitely was his ability to be a vertical threat. I think his career average per catch is 17 yards per catch, which is really good when you think about playing three years in college. I think one of the things he does well is he tracks the deep ball very well. He makes over the shoulder catches, he tracks the deep ball very well, so that was definitely one of the things that we liked about him."
How much of a concern was his tendency to drop some balls?
Bill O’Brien: "I think we look at everything. Obviously, I don’t think we think any of these guys are perfect, none of us are perfect. I think that some of the things that he has to improve on I’m sure he’ll come in here and improve on them, whether it’s route running or catching the ball in traffic more consistently, whatever it is. I believe he’s a hard worker and he’ll get better and better at that."
Did you consider TCU WR Josh Doctson?
Bill O’Brien: "I would say again that Rick (Smith) and I considered everybody that was available at that pick and every position. We think that Josh Docston is a hell of a player too, we just felt like Will fuller was the guy to help our team."
WR WILL FULLER
Did you think the Texans were going to pick you, and what was your involvement like with them before the draft?
"The only contact I had with Houston was at the combine. I met with their staff in a meeting, and I felt good about it because I knew they needed a receiver who could open the field up and I feel like I fit that mold perfectly. Everything went well at the combine and I think they fell in love with me there."
Are you excited about playing with Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins?
"Oh yeah I’m super excited to be playing with DeAndre Hopkins. I had a teammate on Notre Dame who’s from South Carolina, so that’s all we talked about was Hopkins. I’m very aware of how good he is and I can’t wait to play on the same team as him."
Could you describe what kind of player you are?
"Oh man, you know I’m going to be the hardest working guy day in and day out, and whatever that brings to the team, it’s going to bring, but all I want to do is win. Hard work is the first thing for me and getting in and learning that playbook as fast as possible and just trying to get in and help the team win."
You originally committed to Penn State with Bill O’Brien, what did you like about him?
"I loved the whole coaching staff. I loved everything about Penn State. It was close to my hometown, but Coach O’Brien, he already had coached us and his knowledge of the football game and what he did with the Patriots a couple years before, just his knowledge of the offense and how he could have put me in the best position to be the best. I feel bad that things didn’t hit because I feel like we would’ve had something special at Penn State."
Growing up in Philadelphia, how much was Marvin Harrison a role model or someone you tried to emulate?
"Growing up, and I actually never met Marvin Harrison, but I’m still looking forward to that, but he definitely was someone who I looked up to just being a young kid watching the game, he’s one of the best. I actually figured out he went out he went to the same high school as me and saw I broke one of his records, so that was pretty funny, but still looking forward to meeting Marvin Harrison."
Where are you right now?
"I’m in Philadelphia."
What is your best physical skill?
"Definitely being a deep threat, that’s the first thing that comes to my mind is being a deep threat and just getting the DBs off of me and opening things up for other teammates to have success."
Do you know Texans WR Jaelen Strong?
"Yeah I know Jaelen very well just being from the same area. Us Philadelphia guys have that tight bond. I was actually texting him throughout this whole process."
Were you guys talking already about the possibility of ending up together?
"Actually we were, I was asking him if anyone was talking about me around the facility. He’s keeping me updated and my names popping up here and there, but I wasn’t 100% confident that Houston was going to get me, but once that phone rang I jumped out of my seat and was the most excited person ever."
What’s Jaelen Strong told you about this coaching staff and the Texans?
"He hasn’t told me anything specific. I know Coach O’Brien from working with him when I was in high school, but he was telling me that we at Notre Dame ran some of the same plays that they did at Houston and that I would fit their scheme perfect with my deep threat abilities and opening things up for other players on the team."
What does it mean to you to be a first round pick?
"That’s a dream come true. My goal ever since I was seven and started playing football was to play in the National Football League, it was never to go in round one, round two or round three, but wherever I got picked I was going to be satisfied. I’m just happy I got this down the first day."
What do you say to people who criticize your hands?
"I’m very confident. I got over 140 catches in my career, I’m a football player, that’s what I like to tell people. It doesn’t matter if I catch the ball with my body or my hands, a catch is a catch. I’m going to work my hardest to make everything more fluent, but like I said I’m just coming in trying to help the team win."
At the combine you said you’d been using the jugs machine quite a bit, how much has that helped your hands?
"Jug machines is not a good simulation of in-game things, how I’ll think in the game, but just getting that repetition and catching the ball in my hands and extending my arms out has helped me a lot, especially at the combine I showed that I was catching everything with my hands and it’s more just looking it in with your eyes than anything."
What do you think about the opportunity to play with Texans QB Brock Osweiler?
"That’s great, man. You know he’s new, I’m new, I’m looking to grow with him just like I’m looking to grow with the whole Houston facility and the whole staff."
There are a lot of receivers in this draft, what separates you from the rest?
"I’m just different. I don’t compare myself to anyone else. I feel like I’m the best. I’m going to come in day in and day out and do everything. I love the game of football, so football is the only thing I’m going to do until I’m done. There’s going to be no off the field issues, I’m going to be locked in, and I’m going to be the best receiver in this draft class I believe."
There you have it. Chime in below with your thoughts and reactions to the latest first round pick for your Houston Texans.