Virginia Tech 2021 NFL Draft Preview

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Virginia Tech, Christian Darrisaw
Unwanted out of high school, Virginia Tech offensive tackle Christian Darrisaw will be a first round pick. (AP Photo / The Roanoke Times, Matt Gentry, Pool)

The NFL Draft begins on Thursday night, and Virginia Tech will most likely have two players selected in the first round, as well as two others who will come off the board later.  Christian Darrisaw and Caleb Farley are the two likely first round selections, with Divine Deablo and Khalil Herbert also expected to be taken anywhere from the third round to the end of the draft.

Today we’ll take a look at where each player is projected to be drafted, and what some of the NFL Draft experts view as their strengths and weaknesses.  Just for fun, we’ll throw in how many Power 5 offers each player had coming out of high school.

OT Christian Darrisaw

Dane Brugler (The Athletic): No. 17, Las Vegas Raiders
NFL Staff (The Athletic): No. 19, Washington Football Team
USA Today: No. 21, Indianapolis Colts
WalterFootball.com: No. 19, Washington Football Team
Ryan Wilson (CBS Sports): No. 13 (LA Chargers)
Chris Trapasso (CBS Sports): No. 13 (LA Chargers)
Josh Edwards (CBS Sports): No. 24 (Pittsburgh Steelers)
Pete Prisco (CBS Sports): No. 5 (Cincinnati Bengals)

*Note: Prisco has moved Darrisaw up from No. 13 to No. 5 since the weekend…I wonder if that’s a simple guess, or if somebody told him something?

Power 5 offers: 1 (Virginia Tech)

I went back and looked at my scouting report of Darrisaw, and I had a chuckle.  Here’s how I closed the article:

“ETA: 2020.  Apparently Darrisaw will have to go to prep school this coming season, and I’m guessing Fork Union is the likely destination.  He’ll then arrive at Virginia Tech in 2018 and likely redshirt. Because there’s so much unknown about Darrisaw, I’m going to play it safe and project a normal developmental path.  Darrisaw will have his first chance to compete for time in the two-deep as a redshirt-sophomore in 2020.”

You get some wrong, and you get some right.  I was wrong, and every Power 5 school in the country was wrong…with the exception of Virginia Tech.

Darrisaw is a technically gifted player with plenty of strength and solid size.  He also faced a number of highly-touted defensive ends and outside linebackers (both of those positions are packaged as “edge rushers” in modern football jargon) during his days in the ACC and he did extremely well.

The knock on Darrisaw is that he doesn’t finish blocks with enough tenacity, though UNC linebacker Chaz Surratt would probably disagree.  The funny thing is that was the same criticism that he faced coming out of high school.  Here’s an exerpt from his ESPN Scouting Report from 2017:

“Consistency of finish is an area of focus.  Effort is up and down, has the ability to finish blocks and will not.”

One of Darrisaw’s great strengths is his ability to play through pain.  Justin Fuente is on record as saying Darrisaw played through a painful injury early in his career, and then this little bit of information was released this morning…

He missed the Pitt game, but other than that he was always in the lineup for the Hokies, and he always played at a high level, despite being hurt.

Darrisaw is a sure-fire first round pick.  However, opinions on where he’ll end up seem to be mixed, with one analyst having him as low as No. 24 and another placing him at No. 5.  Most seem to have him in the middle of the round between No. 13 and No. 19.

Caleb Farley, Virginia Tech
Injury concerns are hurting Caleb Farley. (Virginia Tech sports photography)

CB Caleb Farley

Dane Brugler (The Athletic): No. 29, Green Bay Packers
NFL Staff (The Athletic): No. 31, Cleveland Browns (trade from Detroit)
USA Today: No. 23, New York Jets
WalterFootball.com: No. 23, New York Jets
Ryan Wilson (CBS Sports): No. 20, Chicago Bears
Chris Trapasso (CBS Sports): No. 24, Pittsburgh Steelers
Josh Edwards (CBS Sports): No. 22, Tennessee Titans
Pete Prisco (CBS Sports): No. 13, LA Chargers

*Yet again, Prisco has elevated a Tech player in the last couple of days, bumping Farley from No. 28 to No. 13.  Has he heard something, or is he just guessing?

Power 5 offers: 3 (Virginia Tech, South Carolina and Wake Forest)

Power 5 programs weren’t exactly knocking on Farley’s door.  He was a dominant athlete at quarterback in high school, where he set the state touchdown record (twice) with eight scores in a game.  Even at Virginia Tech there seemed to be a little bit of confusion early in his career as to where he would end up (CB or WR), but cornerback appears to have been the correct decision.

Early on, Farley was touted as a potential top 10 pick, and from a pure talent perspective that’s probably right.  However, he’s had two back procedures since he played his last football game in November of 2019.  Specifics of Farley’s back issues really haven’t been out there for people to consume, until yesterday.

It’s pretty incredible that he was probably the best cover corner in the country in 2019 despite suffering his back injury in the weight room well before the season began.  He played in pain, yet was still dominant.

Farley’s career could be a great success story.  He has the upside to be the best cornerback in this draft, and he could prove to be fantastic value for an NFL team in the late first round if he goes on to have a great career.  However, if his back issue lingers, one day we could look back on his NFL career as one of those “what could have been” stories.

Divine Deablo, Virginia Tech
Divine Deablo looks the part at safety. (Virginia Tech sports photography)

S Divine Deablo

Dane Brugler (The Athletic): 3rd Round, No. 72 overall, Detroit Lions
WalterFootball.com: 5th Round, No. 154 overall, Detroit Lions

Power 5 offers: 10 (Virginia Tech, Clemson, Penn State, Ohio State, NC State, UNC, Louisville, Georgia, Florida, Duke)

Deablo had a lot of big-time schools after him, though he was considered a wide receiver prospect and not a safety.

Only a couple of sites make specific picks past the first round.  The two who do both have Deablo going to the Detroit Lions in either the early third round, or the fifth round.  Perhaps they’ve heard something about Detroit’s interest in Deablo, or maybe it’s merely a coincidence.

Scouts consider Deablo to possess the following strengths:

  • Size
  • Balance
  • Reads the game well as a zone defender

They see the following as his weaknesses…

  • Limited speed and acceleration
  • Wouldn’t be successful in one-on-one situations with slot receivers
  • Only had one season (2020) of above-average production in college

For me, Deablo never quite played as big as he looked during his time at Tech, until the very last game of his career when he was knocking hapless Hoos all over the Worsham Field grass.  That could also be something that NFL scouts notice.

Evan Hughes brought up a good point in Monday’s TSL Podcast.  It’s possible that Deablo could be used as a specialist defensive player, especially early in his career.  On clear passing downs, a team could take out a linebacker and put in Deablo and they’d lose very little size but add a good zone defender.

Deablo is certain to be drafted, but the only question is which round?

Virginia Tech, Khalil Herbert
Virginia Tech running back Khalil Herbert is expected to be a mid-to-late round selection. (Virginia Tech sports photography)

RB Khalil Herbert

WalterFootball.com: 4th Round, No. 114 overall, Denver Broncos
Dane Brugler (The Athletic: 6th Round, No. 196 overall, New York Giants

Power 5 offers: 1 (Kansas).  Herbert was ranked outside the top 2,100 recruits in the country.

Hebert is another player who is certainly going to be drafted after his impressive 2020 season in Blacksburg, and he’ll have to go down as the best Virginia Tech player ever whom the fans never got to see play in person.

Herbert’s strengths include:

  • Low center of gravity (212 pounds on a 5-9 frame)
  • Faster than anyone realizes
  • Vision
  • Capable of helping on special teams as a kick returner

Some of his weaknesses are considered to be:

  • Agility.  He’s not really a make-you-miss type of running back.
  • Lack of production in the passing game, having never caught more than 10 passes in a season.

 

To be fair to Herbert, his lack of production in the passing game isn’t necessarily a reflection of his ability as a pass catcher.  He split time with other backs at Kansas under run-heavy coach Les Miles, and Hendon Hooker wasn’t really the type of quarterback to progress through 3-4 reads and then check it down to running back outlet.  He only caught 10 passes for the Hokies this past season, but it’s important to note that he averaged 17.9 yards on those 10 receptions.

Herbert will get drafted, and it’s been awhile since the Hokies have had a running back in the NFL, so I look forward to seeing him play.

Virginia Tech
Luke Tenuta is one of several Hokies who could hear his name called in 2022 or 2023. (Virginia Tech Athletics)

Virginia Tech And The NFL Draft

Here are the number of players the Hokies have had drafted every year since 2012…

2012: 3
2013: 2
2014: 3
2015: 2
2016: 2
2017: 4
2018: 3
2019: 0
2020: 1

Dalton Keene is Virginia Tech’s only draft pick in the last two years.  The big villain for the lack of numbers are two specific recruiting classes: 2015 and 2016.  Those two classes produced a total of three NFL Draftees, and two of them (Tim Settle and Tremaine Edmunds) declared early following the 2017 season.  If Dalton Keene hadn’t declared early after the 2019 season, Tech would have gone two years in a row with no players drafted, which is a pretty good indicator of the lack of NFL quality in those 2015 and 2016 classes.

The Hokies have a number of draftable players in the program right now, such as Luke Tenuta, Jermaine Waller (if healthy), Amare Barno, James Mitchell, Chamarri Conner, Lecitus Smith, Brock Hoffman, and Dorian Strong.  After a barren spell over the last couple of years, it will be good to see some Virginia Tech names coming off the board in the near future.

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3 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. Farley has a tough road ahead with two minimally invasive lumbar surgeries in only 2 years of college ball. The lingering toe pain is not good, although it may be typical.

    6 years ago I had a posterior approach TLIF of L-5,S-1 at age 62…no relief…had open back fusion surgery 9 months later.

    My fusion was also a failure. Can’t even swing a golf club without leg and back pain. Work with pain management practice- injections, ablations, round the clock pain and anti seizure meds.

    I wish him the best. Hopefully the areas already worked on are stable and the disc spaces up the line will tolerate the abuse of nfl contact.

  2. I would argue that Herbert did have the ability “to make people miss”. This is borne mostly from watching him be able to change directions and choose a hole that allowed him to avoid would-be tacklers.

  3. I like that you implied that recruiting and/or development has improved. Yes, recruiting includes the portal as well as high schools.

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