Two months ago the Kansas City Chiefs used the first of their two sixth round draft picks to select Zach Fulton an offensive guard out of Tennessee. At the time of the selection most KC fans were happy with the pick, not because they expected Fulton to come in and start right away, but because he provided depth at a position of need. Only true draft die hards (and Tennessee fans) had even heard of Fulton and he was universally viewed as the third best offensive line prospect on his own team (behind tackles Ja’Wuan James and Antonio “Tiny” Richardson). However, despite the lack of pre-draft fanfare, Fulton has a legit chance to win the starting right guard spot on the Chiefs offensive line this season. In fact, the Chiefs were already giving him a shot there in OTAs.
The position is wide open entering training camp and the only guys standing between Fulton and the starting job are a second year undrafted player (Rishaw Johnson) and an unspectacular NFL journeyman (Jeff Linkenbach). In this post I’ll give you a look at what kind of player Zach Fulton is and show you why I think he’ll be the next starting right guard for the Kansas City Chiefs.
In order to give you the best evaluation of Fulton possible I’m going to break this post into two parts. The first will be a summary of his scouting reports from some national draft experts. The second half will be my own observations from watching actual game footage of Fulton from college.
For the scouting report summary I’ll be using three sources: Dane Brugler’s 2014 Draft Guide, Mike Loyko’s 2014 Draft Guide, and NFL.com’s draft profile written by Nolan Nawrocki. I’ve broken the summary into five sections: Physical Build, Playing Experience, Mental Make-Up, Strengths, and Weaknesses. For each section I’ll provide a quote from each of the three sources. Let’s get started.
Built well for the NFL with sufficient frame and bulk. -Dane Bruglar
Impressive size for the position……built to play in (a) phone-booth. -Mike Loyko
Physically impressive…..looks the part with good overall size and mass. -Nolan Nawrocki
So all three scouting reports are in agreement that Fulton has the physical build desired for a right guard in the NFL. We’re off to a good start.
Good starting experience as a four-year starter in the SEC (40 career starts). -Dane Brugler
Experienced and battle tested…..held his own against some of the best interior pass rushers over last 4 years. -Mike Loyko
Has experience locking horns with NFL-caliber defensive tackles. -Nolan Nawrocki
So again all three scouting reports are in agreement. In terms of college experience you can’t get much better than being a four year starter in the best football conference in the country and facing numerous NFL prospects on the opposing defensive lines. Fulton is now two for two.
Enjoys contact…..tough-minded approach and physical temperament. -Dane Brugler
Exhibits patience…..attentive and aware. -Mike Loyko
Coachable pleaser and will appeal to offensive line coaches. Good teammate. A soldier’s attitude. -Nolan Nawrocki
While each of the scouting reports touched on slightly different aspects of Fulton’s make-up, they’re all positive. There wasn’t a single mention of any discipline issues, off the field problems, or work ethic concerns of any kind. Fulton is now three for three.
Solid foot quickness and keeps his feet moving at contact, generating explosive movement in the run game with his aggressive motor…..physical and strong at the POA and welcomes contact with an anchor to rarely get bullied…..alert competitor with the peripheral vision and smarts to handle what defenders throw at him. -Dane Brugler
He shows good power and gets movement when drive blocking. Effective combination blocker, working in tandem with his OC/OT and sliding off to pick up the linebacker. Flashes hip snap and power in his hands to gain advantage on the DL. Fulton has good mobility and can seal defenders from run lanes with positioning. -Mike Loyko
Strong enough to anchor in pass protection. Flashes thump on contact and ability to down block and seal run lanes. -Nolan Nawrocki
Obviously, the category of “strengths” is going to come out looking pretty good for Fulton. All three scouting reports point out his physical strength but there were also several different positives pointed out in each of these quotes. If we were to just stop after these four categories it would sound like Fulton is ready to go and probably should have been drafted much earlier than the sixth round. However, we still have “weaknesses” to go, so let’s take a look at what the experts think Fulton could do better. There were a few different smaller things that were mentioned but there was also a unanimous agreement on some things. Listen to how similar some of these critiques sound.
Doesn’t consistently land his jabs and will get caught overextended and hunched over at the waist late…..needs to do a better job controlling and sustaining blocks without getting flagged for holding…..inconsistent in space and needs to do a better job breaking down on the move. -Dane Brugler
Slides off blocks too fast…..Bends at the waist and loses his leverage after first contact…..Struggles when adjusting his block or resetting on the move. -Mike Loyko
Is a soft puncher and tends to overextend…..Needs to improve grip strength and sustain…..Struggles to connect with moving targets. -Nolan Nawrocki
Again, there were other things listed, but those were the three main complaints that all three reports had. First, he doesn’t always sustain his blocks as long as you’d like. Second, he sometimes bends at the waist and overextends causing himself to lose his leverage. Finally, that he struggles to engage defenders on the move. The nice thing about those problems is that they are largely technique issues. When you factor in that all three scouting reports described him as having the physical tools needed along with being called “coachable” it seems to me that there is definitely potential for improvement in Zach Fulton.
Armed with the knowledge provided in these scouting reports I decided to take a look at Fulton for myself. Click over to the next page for a summary of what I saw.