There haven’t been many stories like that of Kristian Fulton, LSU’s two-year starter at cornerback who was just picked up in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft by the Tennessee Titans.
A five-star recruit coming out of Rummel High School in 2016, Fulton was a top-25 player and top-three at his position upon his arrival at LSU. He was to be the next in line of a defensive back history that’s as rich as they come.
After appearing in two games as a freshman, instead of taking over at cornerback, Fulton was slapped with a two-year suspension by the NCAA for tampering with a urine sample.
He would only go on to serve one of those years, being reinstated right before LSU’s home opener in 2018 against Miami. It was an experience he grew and learned from as he soon turned himself into one of the lethal cornerbacks the SEC had to offer.
In two years as a starter, Fulton forced the highest incompletion rate (29.3%) of any cornerback in the best in college football.
Moving on to Tennessee, Fulton thinks he can be another great piece that can fit into a Titans team that was in the AFC Championship just five months ago.
“They feel like I can bring versatility to their secondary, and they like my game," Fulton said in a conference call after the pick. "I wanted to go to a coaching staff and an organization that believed in me and my talents.”
So where will Fulton’s talents be best utilized? AllTitans publisher David Boclair believes Fulton will most likely compete for the slot cornerback position as a rookie.
At the moment he was drafted Fulton became the Titans' No. 3 cornerback behind veterans Malcolm Butler and Adoreé Jackson. As such, he likely will be asked to do one thing -- be the slot corner in 2020 -- and then expand his role over the next year or two.
Tennessee's scheme does a lot with the slot guy, including the occasional blitz. Free agent Logan Ryan played there and over the last two seasons recorded eight and half sacks, 27 passes defensed, four interceptions and four forced fumbles. So, Fulton will have the opportunity to showcase his considerable physical gifts.
The slot will be a bit of an adjustment for Fulton, who played on the outside his two seasons as a starter for LSU. While he did play nickel a bit as a freshman in 2016, it’s been four years. However, coach Mike Vrabel nor Fulton think it will be a major adjustment as he possesses the tools to be effective on the inside.
"I think you have to be able to run at that position," Vrabel said. "I don't know where everybody is going to fit, but I certainly like (Fulton) and we'll start working with him as soon as we possibly can."
“I played nickel and played behind a great guy and I learned from him,” Fulton added. “I’m definitely excited to play inside if that’s where they want to put me at.”
While Fulton may start as the No. 3 corner, there’s a very real possibility he will shoot up the depth chart after his first season. Due to Butler’s age and Jackson being a free agent after this season, Fulton could find himself being a leader of the secondary as early as the 2022 season.
Butler is 30 years old and coming off a significant injury. Jackson, a first-round pick in 2017, is under contract through 2021 but looks like he is as good as he is going to be -- and he is a complementary corner, not a shut-down guy. That means Fulton could be Tennessee's No. 1 cornerback when the 2021 season arrives .. if not sooner.
The one thing that Fulton said he doesn't want to do is step on any toes. He understands how close the Titans are to being where LSU was just five months ago.
With Fulton added to the secondary, he feels Tennessee will be true threats in the AFC next season, with an elite defense to back it up.
“I want them to be able to use me, fill me into a spot, so I can come in and help elevate that defense to elite,” Fulton said. “I feel like that will give us a push to make another run.”