After his game against Pittsburgh, many have called for the Broncos to explore a Kyle Fuller trade. Is that the right call?
When Kyle Fuller signed with the Broncos, there was plenty of buzz about his signing. That, coupled with the acquisition of Ronald Darby and Patrick Surtain II, had many calling this Broncos’ secondary the deepest in the league. Vic Fangio even said he looked the same as his 2018 All-Pro self under Fangio.
That wasn’t exactly evident last Sunday against the Steelers. He allowed a 23-yard long conversion to Chase Claypool that was followed up by a 50-yard touchdown to Diontae Johnson.
Later that game, Fuller got flagged for pass interference on a 3rd-and-17. That drive later led to a touchdown. As the Broncos lost by 8, it stands to reason that there’s a chance they win this game without that touchdown.
Poking around on social media and you’ll see posts about Fuller’s performance. Takes like “He better be unemployed tomorrow” and “The Bears didn’t make a mistake letting him go” are rather prevalent and echo a sentiment throughout many in Broncos Country.
Is trading him the right call now?
How Fuller’s really playing
Fuller’s time in Denver has been up-and-down. He was PFF’s lowest graded CB in Week 5 with a 26.4 and boasts an overall PFF grade of 44.5. Neither of those numbers are great. Or even good. Or average. Yet, PFF grades don’t often tell the full story and can be a bit finicky with coverage players that don’t make a ton of interceptions and pass breakups.
Kyle Fuller plays a significant portion of snaps on the “right” side of the field (relative to the quarterback). It’s not a coincidence that Denver ranks second in DVOA in passes going to that side of the field this season-including a league-leading -55.5% DVOA against short passes to the right. The concern of course is the 27th-ranked DVOA on “deep right” passes.
Granted, these numbers aren’t entirely on Fuller and there’s some missing context there fully. I’m interested to do a deeper dive on the deep passes moving forward. On the long touchdown to Diontae Johnson to start the game against Pittsburgh, it seems like he thought he’d have safety help over the top and that never came, but if I’m reading the coverage right, he’s got to stick with the receiver in any event.
He’s playing mostly everything well and justifying his role on the team. The one area of concern seems to be getting beat deep. Yet, we’ve seen Fuller in the past, and even this season, hang with fast receivers. Hopefully this is something he can correct, otherwise the Broncos will be facing a question about him staying on the team that they might not want to answer.
What could the Broncos get that would make it worth it?
Part of the appeal of Kyle Fuller is the fact that Denver can be multiple in the secondary and throw out a group of Fuller-Darby-Surtain-Callahan in dime and in any sort of combination. That kind of secondary is, quite frankly, excellent and presents a challenge to any offense (and that’s not counting the safety group).
So, what would be enough for Denver to give up on that? Quite frankly, that’s a scenario where it’s worst-case this season and the Broncos undergo a fire sale before the deadline. That kind of scenario is one that seems oddly endorsed by fans but really not fun to root for or follow.
The Broncos have already taken significant hits to depth along the entire roster this season. Even though they’ll get Michael Ojemudia back and Ronald Darby will be playing again soon, would the return be enough to justify losing even more depth at a critical position-especially a talented player like Kyle Fuller?
If they do wish to trade Fuller, I’d imagine the team will look at a long-term option at a position of need like perhaps a receiver or a right tackle or they’ll settle for draft picks. The problem with that theory is: You likely won’t pull in a receiver that completely changes the offense (i.e. no Superstars). Competent right tackles are tough to find, so the Broncos poaching one worth giving up Fuller for is likely not happening beyond some bizarre salary dump.
Draft picks are always nice, but what is the likelihood of the team getting a pick worth the tradeoff? The last corner to fetch a first-round price tag in a trade was Jalen Ramsey. Before him, it was Darrelle Revis in 2013. Marcus Peters fetched a 2018 4th rounder and 2019 2nd rounder in 2018, and before him, the last corner to fetch a 2nd-rounder was Antonio Cromartie in 2010. Bradley Roby just went for a 3rd and 6th round pick, and Darius Slay went for a 3rd and 5th.
That’s probably around the price for Fuller. It’s an added bonus that he’s on a one-year deal, so he could be seen as a rental for a contending team. Yet, that brings up its own conundrum.
Is a third-rounder plus some Day-3 change from a contending team worth it for Denver right now? Is a pick in the 90s or 100s plus a pick from 160 onward really worth losing out on that talented of a secondary and maintaining a critical depth piece? No, probably not.
This whole scenario is moot if Kyle Fuller’s overall play doesn’t take an uptick in perception. Stephon Gilmore just got dealt for a sixth-round pick, and he’s one of the best in the game period. That low of a pick isn’t worth it really at all for Denver, as they’d probably fetch a higher comp pick just letting Fuller walk at the end of the season.
Of course, this scenario changes if Denver begins to drop more and more games. In that scenario, perhaps GM George Paton would consider trying to get as many picks as possible before the deadline since this season would, in theory, be over with anyways.
Should the Broncos try and sell while they still can? Or should we trust in some rebound performances moving forward against a couple of tough passing offenses coming up on the schedule?