Fans were bummed when it seemed crystal clear that homegrown safety John Johnson wasn’t long for Los Angeles following the selection of Terrell Burgess and Jordan Fuller in the 2020 draft. Johnson had become the best safety the Rams had since Aeneas Williams and had jumped up a level when, now Chargers Coach, Brandon Staley took control of the defense. Then a funny thing happened.
Jordan Fuller emerged and over the course of the season became THE GUY. It’s not that Johnson got worse but Jordan Fuller became the heir apparent in real-time. The secondary wasn’t going to have to be backpacked by Jalen Ramsey and clever scheming while the rookie safeties develop nor would Taylor Rapp have to bear the brunt of a rebuilding safety corps.
Now in year two, Jordan Fuller got the ultimate endorsement by getting the vaunted green dot, as reported by The Athletic’s Jourdan Rodrigue, meaning he will be calling the plays in Raheem Morris’s defense. For a second-year player drafted 199th in the draft that’s a huge deal and proof that the Rams’ scouting department isn’t just falling ass-backward into great players.
Draft grades and profiles age worse than 80’s teen comedies or Krusty the Clown’s setlist, and Jordan Fuller’s draft profile is the “Revenge of the Nerds” of that. Per nfl.com, they state that he “does not have the ideal traits to be a starting safety”, “quarterbacks manipulate him out of positions with glances, and “gets lost at route stems in space”. The list of negatives goes on and on. Now to be fair to this profile, they did credit his leadership abilities, agility, and ability to cover tight ends. This profile wasn’t entirely an outlier nor a straw-man but it was more or less the consensus. He was projected as a sixth-seventh-rounder and sure enough, that’s where he went.
So what happened? Well, kudos to the Rams’ staff for one because they developed him well, and the other is the injury to Taylor Rapp that kept him largely off the field during camp. Fuller came in and worked with the first-team defense and flourished. He worked his way into the permanent starting job and the defense didn’t miss a beat.
He first made an impression by getting a big fourth-down stop against the Cowboys on opening night on NBC. He would miss a month of time but came back and picked off fellow 199th pick Tom Brady TWICE on the road on a Monday Night. It was a game the Rams NEEDED and Fuller came through big time.
Throughout the season he recorded 60 tackles, three interceptions, and five pass deflections. For a rookie safety, especially one taken in the sixth round, that’s astounding. His ascendance dovetailed with Rapp missing a lot of time with various injuries and fellow rookie Terrell Burgess going down with an ankle injury for the year. Jordan Fuller and John Johnson became one of the most dynamic/anonymous safety tandems in the league. It was still bittersweet because Johnson was playing alongside his replacement, and normally that dynamic falls to an old vet and a young gun ala Agent K and Agent J, but Johnson is just entering his prime.
Fuller was smart and took everything he could from Johnson, whom Fuller referred to as a great communicator. That’s clearly something that Fuller took to heart since now he’s trusted with a new scheme for the second time in as many years. Being the primary play-caller on an elite defense in year two is no small feat. On top of that, he’s been receiving rave reviews from members of the Rams’ offense.
Cooper Kupp described what he’s been doing on the field as “freaky” and other members of the offense called out all the things he could do if they were having contact. The biggest praise came from the defensive star and human Kaiju Aaron Donald who enthusiastically declared “He’s the guy who is getting us hauled up and getting us the plays now!” Getting praise from Donald is as Nic Cage would say, “high praise”.
Jordan Fuller’s journey from decorated safety from THE Ohio State to a draft afterthought to a starting safety in the span of two years, and both of his pro training camps are happening during a pandemic, is nothing short of extraordinary. The next step is to prove he’s worthy of wearing that little green crown and being the franchise safety the Rams will actually extend.