Zach Fulton: An In-Depth Look At The Kansas City Chiefs Next Right Guard

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ArmchairAddict1

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.

Physical Build:

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.

Playing Experience:

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.

Mental Make-Up:

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.

Strengths:

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.

Weaknesses:

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.

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  • Stacy D. Smith

    Great work, Graversen!

    Hopefully he’ll better with blocking a defender on the move in a hurry. If he does get the starting gig, he’ll need to do an effective job of picking up the blitz as well as finding someone to block on the second level (in the run game).

  • Hawthorne

    I feel pretty good about our starting line, outside of injury concerns with Fischer, but our depth has definitely taken a hit. Hopefully LDT can develop quickly to be a viable backup, I think Webb is underrated at this point because expectations for him were so high, but Linkenbauch is not very good.

  • berttheclock

    Funny thing mentioning Nowacki in that when I posted before the draft that Nowacki had said Gabe Jackson had problems digging in his heels to not be bull rushed, you responded by saying you didn’t pay much attention to Nowacki.

    However, I still remember several writing about Fulton being very coachable and I thought at the time Andy Heck was going to enjoy coaching him.

    • Lyle Graversen

      Bert,

      You’re right that I’m a Nawrocki sceptic. If I was just going to look at one scouting report to base my opinion on a player, it wouldn’t be his. However, when trying to get a fair evaluation on a player I like to get as many different viewpoints as I can find. If they all see similar strengths and weaknesses I feel pretty confident in that scouting report. If there is a discrepancy in their reports that’s when my first choice is to watch for myself, if I don’t have time then I go with the sources who’s opinion I trust most. Nawrocki wouldn’t be at the top of that list.

      Side note: I still think Gabe Jackson is going to be a beast in the NFL and HATE that the Raiders got him.

      • berttheclock

        Just having a little fun, this fine AM only nine plus days before St Joe, but, then, who is counting, eh?

    • jimfromkcj

      While he may be the starter, I view it quite differently from most. I think he would be the best of a poor batch of players vying for the job. just because he is the starter doesn’t mean he is good. I remember all the oohing and aawing over Asamoah when he was the starter and I was never sold on him and all it took was to get a good player to compete with him to show that he wasn’t as good as everyone thought. We have the same thing going on at center and LG. Neither one of those guys have a serious contender for competition. They are pedestrian at best. You can’t just go out and sign a bunch of bodies and call it depth.

      • berttheclock

        jim, I agree with your concerns about the interior of the O-line. I saw Asamoah bull rushed and flattened by defensive players enroute to sacks. For several years now, the interior of the line has been one of the worst places in the NFL to run effectively. The middle had no great push. However, this is really Hudson’s second year. The jury awaits the work of Bentley concerning Allen and RG, including Fulton is still in question. However, I place a great deal of trust in the abilities of Andy Heck to help solve the problems, but, as you say correctly, he needs the horses to work with as just stopping by Goodwill isn’t going to get you very far. Yes, we may, unfortunately, still be a year or two away from seeing any dominance. However, the drafting of both Fulton and LDT looks, so far, to be a glimmer of hope. Pioli’s biggest problem was never adding any depth to the team at any position.

        • mnelson52

          Although LDT was drafted as a tackle, I think he will give Allen competition at LG, but not this year. I think Reid and Dorsey will have a very good O-line in time, but it takes a while to develop young players. I’ve never had a lot of confidence in Allen. He hasn’t played bad, but not great either. Hopefully the school he and Stephenson went to in the off season has improved them both. We really have questions all across this O-line except for maybe Hudson. I think Hudson will do very well in his second year at center. I do wish he had a little more weight though. I do think our coaching staff will bring out the best in each player to their ability, but only time will tell what their abilities are. I honestly think our O-line will play well, but like last year, not gel that well till the second half. I hope I’m wrong.

      • KCMikeG

        Four of the five starters this year played a significant amount of snaps last year on the NFL’s 10th ranked rushing offense for yards/game and total yards who were also #5 in yards/attempt and in TD’s so that is hardly a poor batch of pedestrian players. Having Fisher healthy and back at his natural position will be the key to our OL’s success.

  • berttheclock

    One point about being coachable. Look at Alex Boone of the Niners. Undrafted after being touted to go fairly high in the 2009 draft. Issues with drinking, plus, scouts said he lacked speed, kept his arms in and could be pushed around and he had a bad bowl game against Orakpo. Pioli passed on him as did the rest of the league. He ended up being a walk on with the Niners and through hard work and an excellent offensive line coaching staff has become a dominant guard.

  • ladner morse

    Great job Lyle. Loved the read! I once thought it would be Rishaw but now believe it will… or should be… Fulton.

    • mnelson52

      I think ZF doesn’t necessarily have to outplay RJ to get the starting job. If their play is very close, and they feel ZF has the most upside, he will get the job. Unfortunately, I can’t watch them practice to make up my own mind, so I have to rely on the reports from you guys. If ZF continues to impress when the pads go on, I like his chances. I also think he would have to be a good player to win the job, because RJ played well in his limited time.

  • Merlin_Arrowhead_Addict

    It doesn’t count until the pads go on. Remember Jesse Haynes!

  • micah stephenson

    Sounds like a promising prospect. I hope he does well.

  • Stan Colbert

    Nice research! When I think about Rishaw I always recall JC touchdown against SD where he pulls around and whiffs on about three players. Sounds like they both have similar weaknesses. He does have a nice list of opponents dealt with so shouldn’t feel intimidated about playing NFL competition.

  • Andy

    This was a great piece of work.
    I am so pulling for this guy. A good friend of mine called this pick. He died in May.