Colin Kaepernick

Kyle Fuller, the next NFL defensive star

When the Chicago Bears selected cornerback Kyle Fuller out of Virginia Tech with the 14th overall pick in the NFL Draft, most people were stunned. 

The Bears passed on star safety prospects Haha Clinton-Dix out of Alabama and Calvin Pryor out of Louisville to draft a cornerback when the Bears already had two capable corners, Charles “Peanut” Tillman and Tim Jennings. It seemed Fuller was destined to be a backup, at least for his rookie season.

After Tillman went down in week two with a triceps injury, it was Fuller’s time and his impact was immediate. 

Fuller subbed in for the injured Tillman against the 49ers and intercepted quarterback Colin Kaepernick twice in the fourth quarter, keying the Bears’ victory. The next week, Fuller recorded another interception and forced two fumbles as the Bears beat the New York Jets 27-19.

Kyle Fuller’s impressive performance this season has put him on top of the NFL’s stats sheets as he currently leads the NFL with five turnovers and is tied for first with three interceptions. His performance through the first four games of the season earned him the honor of NFC defensive rookie for the month of September. Fuller however isn’t satisfied.

‘‘That’s a good honor,’’ Fuller said, ‘‘but still, I’m just trying to get better every week.’’ 

Fuller’s performance in October has been just as impressive. Two weeks ago against Carolina, Fuller faced off against the offensive rookie of the month, receiver Kelvin Benjamin. Fuller handled Benjamin with ease, allowing only three receptions for 38 yards on 11 targets. 

On Sunday against the Falcons, Fuller was at it again. He limited Julio Jones, a top-five wide receiver, to only four receptions for 68 receiving yards on 12 total targets. Fuller also forced a fumble on Jones but it was later recovered by the Falcons. 

Now mentored by Tillman, Fuller has adopted the injured Tillman’s aggressive style of play on both coverage assignments and forced fumbles. This includes the “Peanut Punch”, in which Tillman and now Fuller literally punch out footballs out of receiver’s hands at every possible opportunity, leading to a high number of forced fumbles.

Coming from a football family, Kyle Fuller knows what it takes to be a football player in the NFL. Kyle’s oldest brother, Vincent, is a retired safety and his older brother, Corey, is a wide receiver for the Detroit Lions. The youngest Fuller brother, Kendall, is presently playing cornerback for the Virginia Tech Hokies. 

Fuller doesn’t have the outspoken personality like star cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Patrick Peterson but has proven to have the same tendency for making big plays. Fuller doesn’t want the lime light that Sherman and Peterson receive. He just wants to play football. 

‘‘I’m just being myself,’’ he said. ‘‘I’m just low key, doing what I’ve got to do and staying out of trouble.’’ 

Kyle Fuller, the soft-spoken cornerback, is taking the NFL by storm and is quietly becoming one of the best defensive players in the league.

NFC Championship Game a Matchup of Youth, Inexperience

When the San Francisco 49ers and the Atlanta Falcons face off in Sunday’s NFC Championship game, there are bound to be some players with wide-eyed expressions on their faces.  That’s because neither team boasts many players with much playoff experience, as both Matt Ryan and Colin Kaepernick earned their first playoff victories last week.  With so much at stake, how these teams handle this unfamiliar territory will determine who moves on to the Super Bowl.  With that, here are a few storylines to keep in mind heading into Atlanta on Sunday:

1) Can the Falcons’ Offense Fly High?

Boasting a fearsome duo at the wide receiver position in Julio Jones and Roddy White, Atlanta posses some serious talent at its skill positions on offense.  Oh, and they also have Tony Gonzalez, who’s still playing at a hall of fame level despite his age.  However, the 49ers defense, lead by linebacker Patrick Willis and defensive end Aldon Smith, is a physical unit that is capable of pressuring opposing quarterbacks at will.  How Matt Ryan handles San Francisco’s blitzes will play a huge role in this game.

2) Slowing Down Kaepernick

If the Falcons want to stand a chance, it’s imperative that they slow down 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who amassed more than 400 total yards of offense against Green Bay last week, rushing for two touchdowns and passing for two more scores.  What makes Kaepernick most dangerous is his ability to get out of the pocket and throw on the run.  In order for Atlanta to be successful, they need to keep Kaepernick stationary and contain him when he runs the read-option.

3) Fool Me Once, Shame on You. Fool Me Twice….

The 49ers were that close to earning a Super Bowl appearance last year, when they lost at home to the eventual champion New York Giants in overtime, 20-17.  Here they are a year later in the same position, only this time they’re heading into the Georgia Dome, where the Falcons went 7-1 during the regular season.  Having gotten back to within one game of the Super Bowl for the second straight year, will San Francisco get over the hump, or will Matt Ryan earn his second straight playoff victory having none before 2012?  Either will be a hot topic come Monday morning.

Prediction:

Although the Falcons have been basically unbeatable in the Georgia dome over the past several years, history has shown that teams can challenge them there in the playoffs, as they lost to Green Bay in 2011 and narrowly escaping against the Seahawks last week.  Despite Colin Kaepernick’s inexperience, he will turn in a good enough performance to go along with a strong outing by the San Francisco defense, and the 49ers will be on their way to New Orleans for a long-awaited Super Bowl appearance.

Score: 38-24, San Francisco

Photo Credit: Cody Bubenik | Daily Texan Staff

Christmas music playing in every office and holiday commercials hitting us from every angle imaginable can only mean one thing: fantasy football playoffs are almost here. In fact, this is the last week of regular season play in most leagues. Whether you are in need of a big win to fuel your playoff push or want to end the season with your head held high, here’s some fantasy advice that is all but gift-wrapped:


START

1) Colin Kaepernick, QB
San Francisco 49ers


Kaepernick looks like the 49ers’ starter for the long haul after several impressive performances in place of QB Alex Smith, passing for three touchdowns and running for another in victories over Chicago and New Orleans. Amazingly, he is still available in the majority of fantasy football leagues. With his ability to hurt defenses with his arm and his legs, Kaepernick is a solid start for not only this week’s game against the Rams but for the rest of
the season.

2) Bryce Brown, RB
Philadelphia Eagles


Starting in place of the injured LeSean McCoy, the rookie out of Kansas State exploded into the scene on Monday Night Football, rushing for 178 yards and two touchdowns against the Panthers. Although ball security is an area of concern, expect an encore performance from Brown in a favorable match-up this week against a decimated Cowboys’ defense.

3) Andre Johnson, WR
Houston Texans


After a quiet first nine games of the season, Johnson has absolutely gone off the past two weeks, burning the Jaguars and Lions for a combined 461 yards and a touchdown. Although it might be a bit too much to expect him to keep up these gargantuan numbers, Johnson should be in for another big day against a weak Tennessee secondary.

SIT

1) Daniel Thomas, RB
Miami Dolphins


Although Reggie Bush fans have not been happy with the former Heisman trophy winner’s decreasing touches over the past month, Thomas’ owners have loved his emergence as a consistent threat out of Miami’s backfield. However, a date with New England’s awful secondary and respectable run defense equates to the Fins relying on a more pass-heavy attack this week.

2) Russell Wilson, QB
Seattle Seahawks


Wilson had a great outing last week, throwing for 224 yards and two touchdowns while also racking up 38 rushing yards. That being said, he faces a fearsome Chicago Bears defense that is the stingiest in the league against opposing fantasy quarterbacks and will struggle, as any rookie should, against an elite defense.

3) Chris Givens, WR
St. Louis Rams


Givens torched the Arizona Cardinals last week for a career-high 115 yards and a touchdown in the Rams’ 31-17 victory. However with St. Louis facing San Francisco’s suffocating defense Sunday, which held Givens without a catch in their last meeting, there’s a risk he may have another quiet afternoon. If there is another option available with a more favorable match-up, consider benching Givens.

Printed on Thursday, November 29, 2012 as: Kaepernick, Brown holiday fantasy gems

Alex Smith doesn't deserve to be sat by the San Francisco 49ers

NFL football is a cutthroat line of work, as San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith is currently discovering.

Smith had done everything right. He led the 49ers to a 6-2 start and the top seed in the NFC West, dropping only two games to a Vikings team on a hot-streak and the reigning Super Bowl champion New York Giants. Last year he threw fewer interceptions than any other starting quarterback, one fewer than Aaron Rodgers and 18 fewer than league leader Ryan Fitzpatrick. He also leads the league in completion percentage in 2012 at 70 percent.

But when Smith suffered a concussion in the 49ers’ Week 10 bout against the St. Louis Rams, coach Jim Harbaugh filled his place with second-year quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Taking over in the first half, Kaepernick led the 49ers to a 24-24 tie. While the result was a disappointing way to end a rivalry game, Kaepernick brought a new mobility to the team’s offense.

The following week, the 49ers routed a Chicago Bears team that boasted a 7-2 record and held the top seat in the NFC North, slicing and dicing one of the league’s best defenses. While Kaepernick put forth an impressive performance in his fist NFL start, much of the 49ers success was attributable to their own defensive juggernaut, which recorded six sacks, two picks, and a safety on the day.

When Week 12 rolled around and Smith was cleared to play, Harbaugh opted to keep Kaepernick at the helm. Smith watched from the sideline as Kaepernick led the team to another victory, this time over the New Orleans Saints at the Superdome.

The result left the 49ers sitting pretty at 8-2-1 and on top of their division, but chances are Alex Smith did not celebrate the victory on Bourbon Street.