This Friday is the date by which NFL teams need to exercise the fifth year option on their draftees from the Draft Class of 2016. Most of the decisions are fairly obvious, and several teams had already made their decisions prior to this past week's 2019 NFL Draft. The Houston Texans joined that list over the weekend when they opted in on the fifth year of oft-injured, but super productive-when-healthy wide receiver Will Fuller.
Fuller's fifth year will be the 2020 season, as the 2019 season will be his fourth in the league. Fuller was on pace for a monster season in 2018 before tearing his ACL in the Thursday night game against the Miami Dolphins, averaging nearly 72 yards per game with four touchdowns in seven games. If he had stayed healthy for the rest of the season, Fuller may have sniffed his first Pro Bowl.
Here are a few Fuller related thoughts on this development:
Will Fuller is absolutely worth the 5th year option
When Fuller was drafted out of Notre Dame in 2016, he worked his way into the first round of the draft largely based on having the best 40 yard dash time at the NFL Combine that year. He was thought to be, by and large, a deep threat with so-so hands. Since 2016, though, Fuller has developed into a complete receiver. His rookie season saw him drop a half dozen passes, and in 2018, he was nearly perfect in that department. Also, Fuller is not just a "go deep" guy anymore, he has the whole route tree down pat, and is able to take advantage of the cushions defensive backs afford him because of his speed by adding some nice curl and crossing routes to his repertoire. Fuller is the real deal, except....
Will Fuller must stay healthy, though
.... yeah, health has been a major issue. In his three seasons in the league, Fuller has played in a total of 31 out of a possible 48 regular season games. Moreover, the injuries have hit nearly every part of the human anatomy. In his rookie hear, he had hamstring and knee problems. In his second year, he broke a clavicle in training camp, and then had a rib broken on a hit by LaMarcus Joyner. Then, in 2018, it was more hamstring issues, followed by the torn ACL. Fuller MUST stay healthy, for so many reasons, team-based and personal reasons for Fuller.
The Texans offense with Fuller and Deshaun Watson both healthy is scary
In the 11 games that they've played together, Deshaun Watson and Will Fuller have seen the Houston Texans put up a 7-4 record, with Fuller generating an eye popping 45 catches for 782 yards and 11 touchdowns. In 2018, Deshaun Watson's passer rating throwing the ball to Fuller was an astounding 147.2, second best combination in the league behind Russell Wilson and his Fuller-type threat Tyler Lockett. From a team perspective, the Texans averaged 31 points per game in the 11 games played by both Fuller and Watson. You could argue that, in some respects, Fuller is the second most valuable Texan behind Watson because of what his presence does for the Texans offense.
The 5th year option is no guarantee that Fuller will be here for a fifth year
The fifth year option is guaranteed for injury only, which I suppose is significant, given the litany of injuries Fuller has suffered. However, Kevin Johnson was last year's Texan to play a season prior to his fifth year option season, and the Texans cut ties with him before it became fully guaranteed, injury or no injury, in March. So if for some reason, Fuller isn't what the Texans are expecting in 2019, and it seems injury is the only thing that would cause that, the Texans can cut ties with him, like they did with Johnson.