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LSU’s Kristian Fulton got a second chance. Now he could be first-round NFL draft pick

Kristian Fulton of LSU runs a drill during the NFL combine in February.
Louisiana State defensive back Kristian Fulton has bounced back from an NCAA suspension in 2017 to become a projected mid- to late-first-round pick in the NFL draft.
(Joe Robbins / Getty Images)

The punishment for the cover-up was far worse than the penalty for the crime.

Had Louisiana State cornerback Kristian Fulton tested positive for marijuana use three winters ago, he would have been suspended for half of the 2017 season. Instead, Fulton, knowing he would likely fail a drug test after using marijuana two days before, substituted someone else’s clean urine for his own on Feb. 2, 2017.

An NCAA drug-test administrator witnessed Fulton tampering with the urine sample, a charge that Fulton, his attorney and LSU did not dispute. The lock-down defender, a rising sophomore at the time, was suspended for two full seasons, nearly derailing his football career.

But Fulton remained on track. The sentence was reduced to one year on the eve of the 2018 season, and Fulton made the most of his second chance. He did not miss one practice, and he passed dozens of drug tests while sidelined.

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The Times examines the top prospects ahead of the 2020 NFL draft, to be held April 23-25.

Fulton started 10 games for the Tigers in 2018, notching 25 tackles, one interception and nine pass breakups. He started all 15 games during LSU’s undefeated national title run in 2019, posting 38 tackles, one interception and a team-high 14 pass breakups.

The 6-foot, 197-pound Fulton’s emergence as the latest star defensive back from a school that has produced secondary stalwarts such as Tre’Davious White, Tyrann Mathieu, Patrick Peterson and Eric Reid has put him in a position to be a mid- to late-first-round pick in the NFL draft.

“Credit to God, He got me through a lot, and obviously to my family,” Fulton said at the NFL combine, when asked how he stayed positive through 2017, knowing he could have missed all of 2018 as well. “My family was there for me. Just calling, checking in on me. Sometimes we get down, and they’ll be there to pick you up.

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“Credit to LSU. They offered help when that time came. The coaching staff never gave up on me. They were there for me every moment, and they knew I would get through it. And also credit to my teammates for not giving up on me.”

Ready for a different kind of NFL mock draft? Football experts join Times NFL writer Sam Farmer to predict the first round of the 2020 draft.

The speedy, agile and athletic Fulton, who played press coverage “90% of the time” in college, is not a finished product. He needs to be more disciplined in zone coverage, where his eyes tend to wander, and his tackling technique needs work. He likely will play inside, at slot cornerback, as a rookie.

But Fulton couldn’t have asked for a better prep course for the NFL. He faced 2019 Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow and a talented Tigers receiving corps in practice and locked horns with star receivers such as Jerry Jeudy (Alabama) and Van Jefferson (Florida) in the rugged SEC.

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“It’s NFL talent,” Fulton said of the competition he faced during the week and on Saturdays. “So I kind of got a foot into the [NFL] already. We have great coaches who have been in the league, and they gave us NFL techniques to use throughout the years.”


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