The Bears bolstered their secondary Thursday night by selecting Virginia Tech cornerback Kyle Fuller with the 14th pick in the first round of the NFL Draft.
A productive four-year starter for the Hokies, Fuller recorded 173 tackles, six interceptions, 23.5 tackles-for-loss, 26 pass breakups and 4.5 sacks while appearing in 50 games with 42 starts. The 6-foot, 190-pounder is a physical tackler who provides versatility in coverage and solid run support.
"We're extremely happy to have Kyle Fuller be a new Bear," said general manager Phil Emery. "This is a player that is universally loved in our building. Coaches loved him when they [evaluated] him; very high-level grade on him at corner. Our scouting staff worked extremely hard on him.
See select photos of CB Kyle Fuller, the Bears' first-round pick (14 overall) in the 2014 NFL Draft.
"This is one tough football player. This is a player with length, skill, athleticism, versatility, productivity, and beyond that the better part of him is he's even a great person."
Fuller blossomed as a sophomore in 2011, recording 65 tackles, seven pass breakups, two interceptions, a team-high 14.5 tackles-for-loss and 4.5 sacks while also recovering a blocked punt in the end zone for a touchdown against Appalachian State.
As a senior in 2013, Fuller was named first-team All-ACC from the league's coaches despite missing four games with a groin injury that required surgery.
Scouting Fuller in person last season at Georgia Tech, Emery marveled at how the cornerback was so willing to disrupt running plays by penetrating inside between the center and guards.
"I knew that day that that's the type of player that I wanted to represent the Chicago Bears," Emery said. "They lined him up as an inverted safety and ran him through the 'A' gap against an option team. He was crashing through gaps, which means he had to go through offensive linemen to get to the ball, and he did that repetitively.
"That's very impressive. You don't see too many 190-pound guys willing to do that. That just tells you a lot about him as a football player and giving it up for his team."
While Fuller mentioned during his introductory conference call Thursday night that he could play safety if asked, the Bears plan to keep him at cornerback.
"That's how we see him," Emery said. "And we see him as a guy that has a lot of versatility in terms of covering different types of athletes. That's where his length really helps him. You see him on tape covering the North Carolina tight end [Eric] Ebron, you see him cover inside slots or bigger receivers, you see him cover outside. So that versatility of coverage is a big attraction for Kyle."
The Bears had Fuller ranked as the top cornerback in the draft and one of the best special teams players. He excelled in that aspect of the game at Virginia Tech, blocking three kicks and lining up as a gunner.
Emery is confident that Fuller will play on both defense and special teams as a rookie.
"Obviously a player picked this high we expect him to contribute his first year," Emery said. "With the number of multiple wideout sets that you face and multiple receivers, we expect him to come in and contribute right away, and as time permits—our roster will change over time as all do—to [eventually] be a starter on the outside."
Emery said that three of the six players the Bears had targeted were still on the board when they picked. They selected Fuller one spot after Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald was chosen by the St. Louis Rams.
"Donald's a great player, a player that we liked," Emery said. "I'm happy for St. Louis, happy for him, happy for any player that's picked that high and gets an opportunity to compete in this great game. So hats off to St. Louis. But we're extremely happy that we got Kyle Fuller.
"That's a really good player, with a lot of versatility in his coverage. He's got run support toughness. There wasn't any reason not to take Kyle Fuller."