There’s a reason Ohio State lays claim to the “DBU” accolade. This year is likely to be no different, with cornerback Jeff Okudah projected as the top defensive back in this year’s NFL Draft. Okudah will for all intents and purposes be a top-five - likely even top-three - pick in this weekend’s draft, just behind fellow Buckeye Chase Young. Okudah’s draft stock overshadows even the most recent high-profile defensive back from Ohio State - Denzel Ward, who was taken fourth overall by the Cleveland Browns in 2018.
But enough about Okudah. Because he’s not the only member of last year’s Silver Bullets to have a chance at a future in the NFL. Introducing, Jordan Fuller - a safety who likely doesn’t need an introduction because it feels like he’s been at Ohio State for what feels like forever.
A four-year player for the Buckeyes, Fuller played in all 13 games as a freshman in Columbus in 2016. Though initially listed as a co-starter for his sophomore campaign in 2017, Fuller ultimately earned the outright starting role that season - a spot he didn’t relinquish for his remaining time in Columbus.
Fuller likely won’t be the first or even the second defensive back off the board come time for the NFL Draft. The senior safety ran a 4.67-second 40-yard dash and 4.27-second 20-yard shuttle at the combine in February. He also recorded a 35.5-inch vertical jump and 122-inch broad jump during the event.
According to NFL.com, Fuller is the No. 21 safety on the board in the draft with a prospect grade of 5.62, which, according to the site, means Fuller has a chance to make the end of a roster or practice squad.
But just because he’s not a projected first-rounder like his teammate, Okudah, doesn’t mean Fuller doesn’t bring his fair share of talent to the table. A two-time team captain, Fuller brings veteran leadership to whatever team he lands on.
Frankly, Fuller just gets it done on the field. In his senior season, the safety was third on the team in total tackles with 62, and second in solo tackles with 42. He also had two picks which came in consecutive weeks against Nebraska and Michigan State.
While Fuller’s senior season was undoubtedly solid, earning him first-team All-Big Ten honors alongside Young, Okudah and linebacker Malik Harrison, his best statistical season came in his junior year, when Fuller led the Buckeyes in tackles with 81.
However, the obvious problem with the 2018 season is the fact the Buckeyes as a whole were somewhat abysmal at tackling that year, meaning Fuller had a lot of opportunity to clean up from his safety spot.
Unfortunately, the system under which Fuller thrived - a high safety, Cover-1 - isn’t a coverage normally found in NFL secondaries. As a result, a lot of teams might look past Fuller.
Still, Fuller brings other qualities which would make him a strong member of an NFL team. He’s a standup guy, and it’s hard not to root for him. Fuller was a finalist for the Campbell Trophy, also known as the academic Heisman, this past season. He has boasted a 3.6 GPA in business marketing, is a three-time Ohio State scholar athlete and a two-time Academic All-American. Fuller’s on-campus activities focused on educating student-athletes on sexual assault as well as providing a forum for black student-athletes.
Alas, Fuller likely won’t be the Buckeyes’ next first-round draft pick, but that doesn’t preclude the veteran player from a potential future role in the NFL. Analysts might not have considered Fuller a standout based on his performance in the combine or, perhaps, on film compared to his well-regarded teammates. However, Fuller has shown throughout his time at Ohio State that he can be an individual contributor on an outstanding defense - a team just has to give him a shot.