Notre Dame celebrated Team 127 last annual with the annual Echoes gala and while the night was highlighted by the myriad of awards Notre Dame hands out each year, the biggest news of the night came after the awards were all handed out. Speaking with reporters after the event, Will Fuller left open the door for leaving for the NFL after stating last month he fully intended to return for a senior season.
Will Fuller and C.J. Prosise said they're undecided about returning to Notre Dame in 2016.
— Andrew Owens (@_Andrew_Owens) December 12, 2015
Just last month Fuller said he was definitely coming back in the week leading up to Notre Dame’s senior week win over Wake Forest. At the time he mentioned coming back for his degree and seemed pretty definitive in his statements. All of his quotes from last evening, however, were anything but definitive.
Fuller, along with Jaylon Smith, Ronnie Stanley, CJ Prosise, and Keivarae Russell, submitted paperwork for a NFL evaluation last week. That does not mean that Fuller has entered his name into the draft though. It simply means that Fuller has requested the NFL provide him with an evaluation of where he would likely be drafted if he were to enter the 2016 NFL Draft. It’s a service offered by the NFL to help prevent underclassmen who won’t get draft or who will be late round picks from leaving school too early.
Aside from just telling the player where they will be drafted, the evaluation also breaks down their strengths and weaknesses in the eyes of NFL scouts giving the player an idea of what they need to improve on to improve their draft stock. In years past many Notre Dame players, such as Tyler Eifert, have submitted paperwork for NFL evaluations simply in order to know what they needed to work on in their final seasons.
In Fuller’s case, his pure speed and big play ability alone could very likely earn him a first round grade from the NFL advisory committee. You just can’t coach the speed Fuller brings to the table. At the same time, his evaluation could also highlight some of the weaknesses in Fuller’s game that were highlighted in Notre Dame’s narrow victory over Boston College and it’s loss to Clemson – his hands.
While Fuller has been absolutely brilliant in racking up 28 touchdowns the last two seasons, the one problem that has plagued him at times has been inconsistency with his hands. Fuller had crucial drops against both Clemson and Boston College. Improving in that department as a senior could push Fuller up to the top of the first round in 2017 should he return for a senior season. We’ll have a full breakdown of Fuller’s NFL decision this weekend just like we did for Jaylon Smith’s on Friday night.
It is important to note that Fuller didn’t say one way or another which way he was leaving, but he did leave the door open for an early exit on Friday night – a door that did appear closed just last month.
Earlier Friday night, Fuller was named Team MVP for Team 127 in a vote by his teammates and took home the most coveted award of the evening. In all, Notre Dame handed out awards to all of its big name players and put one quite a show for the two uncommitted recruits on campus for the weekend – defensive back Jordan Fuller and 5-star linebacker Caleb Kelly.
CJ Prosise and Jaylon Smith were both a little more vague about their intentions for the draft. Smith would seem like a no-brainer to leave early as a projected top 5 pick, but stranger things have happened. Matt Leinart immediately comes to mind as someone who would have been a potential #1 overall pick but choose to return for a final season at USC back in 2005 only to haunt the Irish. Leinart, like Smith now, seemingly had nothing to gain and everything to lose by coming back for a 5th year, but did any way so we will all have to wait and see.