When the Saints signed free agent and former Detroit Lions wide receiver Corey Fuller near the tail end of last season, the move hardly registered a "blip" on the radar screen.
However, in a fashion VERY similar to how the Saints were able to grab current #2 WR Willie Snead a few years ago, New Orleans now finds themselves with yet another NFL equivalent of a "used car" who could become a Cadillac Escalade in their Top 5 offense.
Now please allow me to make this clear before you read any further: the Saints New Network didn't hire me only just to write stories about the Saints, those of which I've written many of in the past few years.
They also hired me to give my analysis and opinions as a former Editor and columnist at previous sites covering the team; along with the fact that long before I ever became a sports Journalist, I also happen to be a New Orleans native who grew up following this team dating all the way back to my youth in the early 1970's --- a span of over 40 plus years and counting (I turn 50 later this year).
So when I give my opinion on something, you can rest assured that it comes from someone who's closely followed and covered Pro Football and the Saints specifically, for quite some time.
And with that in mind I give you this prediction with CERTAINTY, on today the final day of the month of May, with Saints Training Camp still nearly a two full months away:
Corey Fuller will be the #5 WR for the New Orleans Saints at the Minnesota Vikings on Monday Night, September 11th.
In fact, I don't even think the competition for the Saints #5 WR spot will even be close this year.
Why do I believe that?
It's pretty simple, and allow me to explain.
First and foremost, there's the fact that Fuller now has 3 years worth of NFL experience under his belt, which gives him a distinct advantage over the rest of the young men who will be vying for the 5th and final WR spot on the roster, who are:
UDFA rookie and local favorite and former LSU WR Travin Dural, 2nd year UDFA's Jake Lampman, Jordan Williams-Lambert, "project" player Justin Thomas, and of course Tommylee Lewis -- who was the team's #5 WR last season.
That means that for the past 3 years -- not counting the games he's missed due to injury -- Fuller's been catching passes from All-Pro QB Matt Stafford as part of the potent Detroit Lions offensive passing attack.
Fuller was originally taken in the 6th round out of Virginia Tech in the 2013 NFL Draft (171st overall) by the Lions, and has appeared in 18 games with two starts over his three-year NFL career, posting 288 yards and one touchdown (against the Saints ironically in 2014) on 16 receptions and five special teams tackles.
Now while those numbers won't necessarily overwhelm you, they don't account for the fact that he was relegated to the #5 WR role within their offense, because of the depth that Detroit had at their WR position. And since he's only just 26, Fuller provides New Orleans with a lot of "upside".
He joins the Saints after being sidelined for the majority of last season with a foot injury. Fuller spent the first two months of the 2016 season on the Lions Reserve/PUP list, before he was formally released and then re-signed to the Lions practice squad for a month until the Saints offered him a contract in late December.
Fuller's experience that he gained in 3 years spent with the Lions in Detroit was on full display last week during the opening round of Saints OTA's.
He was impressive and caught the eye of several observers in attendance, among them New Orleans Times-Picayune / NOLA.com columnist Jeff Duncan --- who said last week that Fuller could be a "sleeper" at the wide receiver position as the Saints press forward with their training and preparations for the upcoming 2017 NFL season.
Duncan made note of the fact that Fuller received a lot of prominent work with the first-team offense during that practice, and that he had made a great leaping catch in single coverage against starting cornerback Delvin Breaux.
Another advantage that Fuller could have is his "top-end" speed.
In his hometown of Baltimore, Fuller was a Nike indoor track All-American as a senior. He won first team all-state indoor and outdoor track honors, and additionally won a National Championship as a member of the Baltimore City AAU team during his final season as a senior in 2007.
Fuller's college path then took him first to the University of Kansas on a partial track scholarship, where he competed in several events that included the 100 meters, triple jump and long jump, during his two years with the Jayhawks track and field team.
He had a very successful freshman season in 2008, and he finished 2nd in the triple jump at both the Kansas and Drake Relays. He also placed within the Top 3 finishers in six of the eight indoor meets in which he competed in 2009, and recorded the team’s top triple jump in the outdoor season as a sophomore and the 3rd-best 100-meter time.
But he missed the sport of football as a high school star from his days at Baltimore's Woodlawn High School, where he actually made headlines as a quarterback. So he went back home to Baltimore before deciding to walk on at Virginia Tech, where he earned a scholarship after his redshirt 2010 season.
Fuller then made the transition from having played QB in high school to the wide receiver position, when the Hokies coaching staff convinced the 6-foot-2, 200 pound Fuller that he'd be better off playing WR to take advantage of his speed, clocked in the 40-yard dash at 4.43 seconds.
After recording only two receptions for 19 yards in 2011, Fuller eventually became a full-time starter in his final season.
He played in all 13 games, making eight starts, and recorded 43 receptions for 815 yards and six touchdowns as a senior, which while not an All-American performance by any means, was enough to catch the eyes of NFL scouts -- and good enough that the Lions plucked him in the 6th round of the previously-mentioned 2013 Draft.
And then perhaps last but not least, there' Fuller's "pedigree".
The Fuller Football Family is well-known in both college and Pro Football circles, and ALL THREE of his brothers starred at Virginia Tech. Additionally, all three of the "fabulous" Fuller Brothers have either previously played or still play in the NFL.
Corey's youngest brother Kyle is the starting CB for the Chicago Bears, who picked him with their #14 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. Additionally, youngest brother Kendall was drafted last year by the Redskins in the 3rd Round of the 2016 NFL Draft, and oldest brother Vincent II is a retired NFL safety who spent the majority of his career with the Tennessee Titans.
So why hasn't Fuller become an NFL star, you ask?
There are some deficiencies in his game to be sure, such as that he's not the greatest blocker; which he'll definitely have to get better at, given Sean Payton's prerequisite for all of his skill players to be able to adequately block defenders.
Then there's what held him back at Detroit besides injuries, which has been technique --- specifically route-running.
But with the "guru" of all position coaches in Saints WR coach Curtis "CJ" Johnson back in the fold as part of the team's coaching staff, no one player in the competition to be the team's #5 WR this year should benefit more from Johnson's presence than Fuller.
If Fuller is able to hone and refine his technique issues under the guidance of Johnson, one would presume he could use his speed and experience to become a "legitimate" deep-ball threat for the Saints offense.
If in fact Fuller makes the final roster in September, he might not make Saints fans forget about the departed Brandin Cooks anytime soon.
But what he could do is become yet another "under the radar" free-agent signing at the WR position that the Saints have made over the years, much in the very same manner that previous players such as the recently-retired Lance Moore and current #2 WR Willie Snead did and have, in their respective careers.
So with that, I'll "go out on a limb" and make this bold prediction:
Corey Fuller will become the #5 WR for the Saints this year --- and it won't even be close..........