The 2014 NFL Draft begins on Thursday night, and several Hokies are going to hear their names called, beginning with Kyle Fuller in the first round.
Kyle Fuller, CB, 6-0, 190
Only a handful of Virginia Tech players have been selected in the first round. Here’s the list.
1985: Bruce Smith, #1 overall
2001: Michael Vick, #1 overall
2004: DeAngeo Hall, #8 overall
1992: Eugene Chung, #13 overall
2008: Duane Brown: #26 overall
1997: Jim Druckenmiller: #26 overall
2004: Kevin Jones: #30 overall
2012: David Wilson: #32 overall
Kyle Fuller has a chance to join that select group on Thursday night. Fuller is rated anywhere from the #1 to #3 cornerback prospect in the draft, and he is projected to go anywhere between #10 overall (Detroit) and #31 overall (Denver).
Fuller has a bit of an injury history, playing through an injury in 2012 and missing the second half of the 2013 season. However, all scouts have to do is turn on the film to see that he is one of the best pure football players in this year’s draft. He also put up more impressive combine numbers than people were expecting, which shot his stock up even more.
Other teams who could potentially take a cornerback in the first round include (but are not limited to) San Diego (#25), Cleveland (#26), Chicago (#14), Philadelphia (#22), Pittsburgh (#15) and Cincinnati (#24). It’s starting to seem like Fuller won’t last past the #15 pick, though the rumor is that the Eagles love him at #22 and would love to take him.
Walterfootball.com mock draft: #14 overall, Chicago Bears
Logan Thomas, QB, 6-6, 248
In researching this article, I found many breakdowns of Logan Thomas on various sites that describe him as a “converted tight end.” Sigh. You’d think these NFL Draft sites would do their research. Thomas has never played tight end. He played quarterback his last two years at Brookville, and he was a wide receiver before that. Even the NFL’s site says he is a “converted tight end,” and another article I read said Thomas was a “former college tight end.” Hint: if you’re going to cover the NFL Draft, at least spend a little bit of time doing research. Okay, rant over.
Where could we see Logan go in the draft? He certainly has the physical talent, and he definitely helped himself in the NFL Combine:
40: 4.61 seconds
Vertical: 35.5 inches
Broad jump: 118 inches
3 cone: 7.05 seconds
20 yard shuttle: 4.18 seconds
Thomas was one of the top performers in all of those categories, showing NFL scouts that he truly is a physical mismatch at the quarterback position.
However, his inconsistency and accuracy issues of the past have hurt his draft stock. Physically, he looks like a first rounder, but he will slip to the mid-to-late rounds. Where he will be drafted varies from scout to scout. Some think he will go in the third to fourth rounds, while others think he is more of a fifth or sixth round selection.
It would be most beneficial for Thomas to land with an NFL team that is stable at quarterback, and that has a coaching staff that is expected to be around for awhile. He needs to sit for 2-3 years and truly learn the position in a pro-style offense.
I have a hard time seeing Thomas dropping to the sixth round. However, I don’t think I’d waste a third round pick on a quarterback with his question marks (that’s just a personal preference). I think the fourth or fifth rounds seem like Logan’s likely destination.
Walterfootball.com mock draft: 3rd round, #100 overall (last pick of round), San Francisco 49ers
James Gayle, DE/OLB, 6-4, 259
Gayle’s NFL stock has slowly dropped over the past year as teams have learned that his on-field production doesn’t match up to his strength and conditioning numbers. Also, the question of whether he’s better suited as a 3-4 outside linebacker or a 4-3 defensive end has popped up.
Gayle has been interviewed by several teams, and he has visited the Tennessee Titans. Some projections have him going as high as the third round, though most list him as a probably fourth or fifth round selection. It’s certainly possible that he could be selected before Logan Thomas.
Right now, if he’s drafted as a 3-4 outside linebacker, Gayle is viewed as a situational pass rusher. He doesn’t have the pass coverage experience to be an every down player at this stage of his career. Like former VT DE Jason Worilds, who now starts at OLB for the Pittsburgh Steelers, he would have to develop that ability over time.
Walterfootball.com mock draft: 4th round, #118 overall, Pittsburgh Steelers
Antone Exum, CB, 6-0, 213
Exum had workouts with the Titans, Falcons, Buccaneers, Panthers and Cardinals, though questions remain about not only his health, but his ideal position at the NFL level. Exum played nickel, rover, free safety, boundary corner and field corner in his three seasons on the field for the Hokies. While his size indicates that he is a safety, he probably played his best football down the stretch of 2012 as a cornerback.
However, coming off a torn ACL which forced him to miss the entire 2013 season, many questions surround Exum. Has he regained his quickness? Does he have confidence in his knee? Injury aside, was he ever a true corner in the first place?
In all likelihood, zone teams will probably view him as a corner more than teams who play a lot of man coverage. Whatever his position, his versatility has to be considered a positive. In the early stages of his career, he might be well-suited for a nickel or dime role in the NFL. A guy with his size and overall athleticism will also be valued as a special teams performer.
Walterfootball.com mock draft: 5th round, #157 overall, Pittsburgh Steelers
Possible Free Agents
Other Tech players will likely receive a free agent contract and an invitation to mini-camps and training camp. Most of these players will hope to make a practice squad in their first season, though Jarrett Boykin made the Green Bay active roster as a rookie free agent and has contributed heavily in his two seasons:
Year 1: 5 catches, 27 yards
Year 2: 49 catches, 681 yards, 3 touchdowns
After playing mostly special teams as a rookie, Boykin emerged as a major target for the Packers in 2013.
Here are the Tech players who hope to have a Boykin-like story to tell:
Jack Tyler, #22 ILB, #427 overall by NFL Draft Scout
Tyler was an excellent college player, but he lacks the ideal bulk that NFL scouts are looking for. It’s possible that he could be a very late pick, but he is most likely headed to a free agent deal.
Derrick Hopkins, #54 DT, #737 overall
Hopkins was a terrific college football defensive tackle, but NFL teams shied away from him because of how he looks in person. He doesn’t have an NFL build. He’ll be hoping for a free agent contract.
J.R. Collins, #51 OLB, #616 overall
Collins doesn’t have NFL size as a defensive end, but he’ll be hoping for a shot at outside linebacker.
Tariq Edwards, #64 OLB, #759 overall
Edwards was once considered one of the better outside linebacker prospects of his class, however his knee problems have virtually ended his chances of an NFL career.
D.J. Coles, #70 WR, #535 overall
Coles has dropped weight since the end of his college career, which has helped take some of the pressure off his bum knee. However, his past health issues are likely to cause NFL teams to take a pass. That being said, he has worked out for the Arizona Cardinals.
Andrew Miller, #78 OG, unranked overall
Miller isn’t quick enough to be considered for the NFL Draft, and at this point he could be a long-shot for even an free agent contract.