Editor's Note: We are proud to introduce James who has put together a comprehensive piece on how the Hokies' 2012 seniors' NFL draft prospects are viewed. Excellent work from James, and quite thought provoking. Makes me want to look at some NFL rosters and see where our guys might best fit. Comments section is below as always, so that your opinions might be heard. This should spark a little conversation. Enjoy!
With another NFL Draft looming, Virginia Tech fans are wondering once again where some of their beloved Hokies will end up on draft weekend. The 2014 NFL Draft begins on Thursday, May 8, 2014 and ends on Saturday, May 10, 2014.
Over these few days, Tech prospects will be looking to improve on last year’s output. Tech produced just two players who were selected: Wide receiver, Corey Fuller was drafted in the sixth round by the Detroit Lions; and offensive tackle, Vinston Painter was drafted in the sixth round by the Denver Broncos.
Let’s take a look at this year’s prospects:
1. CB Kyle Fuller
The second Fuller brother to play at Tech, Kyle is a force to be reckoned with on the football field. He shows a great physical presence, makes great open field tackles, can cover just about any receiver, and his most important feature is probably his versatility. Fuller can line up at either corner position, nickel, or even whip as he did in the Georgia Tech game this year. As a four year starter in Blacksburg, he earned All-ACC second team honors as a sophomore, honorable mention All-ACC and Coaches’ All-ACC selection as a junior, and as a senior earned second team All-American by the Walter Camp Foundation and was a first team All-ACC selection by the coaches. The only thing going against Fuller right now is his nagging injuries and the fact that he is only six foot tall. But his effort during plays makes up for his lack of height. Many draft boards have Kyle Fuller going anywhere between the second and third round, which seems correct. It’s possible for any team to take a chance on Fuller because of the simple fact that he’s a great football player.
Prediction: Round 2, Philadelphia Eagles
Look for the Eagles to address their secondary needs early in the draft. If they can’t get Michigan State’s Darqueze Dennard then Fuller should be there for them to pick up. His skill set and football IQ are too great to pass up.
2. DE James Gayle
Ever since Gayle was described as too small and undersized coming out of high school by college scouts, he has been on a mission to prove them wrong. Now this beast of a defensive end stands at six feet and four inches tall and weighs 255 pounds. Gayle is one of the most physically imposing players in Tech’s recent years and his speed around the edge only adds more to drool over. A starter since 2011, he earned a second team All-ACC selection in both his sophomore and junior year. But this season he took a step back and earned a third team All-ACC selection. Despite this, Gayle made his presence known and showed his worth to the team. This was most evident in his performance against East Carolina when he came up with clutch plays late in the game that helped the Hokies seal the victory. However, Gayle does still lack the size that the NFL might prefer, and although his play does a lot of the talking, his mouth tends to get him into trouble on the field.
Prediction: Round 3, Pittsburgh Steelers.
Gayle could go anywhere to be honest. Any team with a 3-4 base defense will be looking at the stud defensive lineman. A lot of teams see Gayle as a stand-up defensive end, and it seems fitting that the Steelers would take a chance on him given the recent success of former Hokie, Jason Worlids in Steel City.
Editor's Note: The Steelers also selected former VT DE Nathaniel Adibi in the 5th round of the 2004 NFL draft.
3. QB Logan Thomas
Thomas hasn’t just been the topic of discussion in recent weeks during the North-South Senior Bowl preparations, he has been a much argued topic for the past four years among Hokie faithful and NFL Draft analysts. Once ranked among the top ten prospects on Mel Kiper’s Big Board, Thomas has since dropped to the bottom of the pack as he is now projected to be a seventh round pick or an undrafted free agent. It’s remarkable, though. Thomas came out of Brookville High School as one of the top ranked tight end prospects in the country, and eventually would go hold Virginia Tech’s records for total offense, touchdown passes, and completions. But with all of his success has also come a lot of criticism as Thomas struggled in his last two seasons at Virginia Tech. His play went from receiving "ooo’s" and "ahh’s" to receiving "what the…?" There is no doubt that Thomas has the physical tools necessary to succeed in the NFL. He stands at six feet six inches tall, weighs 254 pounds, and has a cannon for an arm. But it’s the inconsistency that has brought Thomas down. He would make throws that would make your jaw drop and make you say, "That kid is going places." But the very next play he would throw the worst ball you’ve ever seen and fans would beg for him to be taken out of the game. The Senior Bowl looks to be helping Thomas as he’s been very impressive at practices and is showing superior skills throwing the football. Thomas has to gain consistency during the Senior Bowl, his workouts, and the Combine for teams to really want to take a chance drafting him. His physical assets won’t end up being enough in the long run if he can’t put things together on the field.
Prediction: Round 5, Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
It’s a toss-up folks. Thomas could go anywhere in the draft, but look for him to go anywhere in the later rounds, most likely from the fourth to seventh. Remember that it only takes one team to like a player, and if they like what they see then they’ll take a chance. Thomas has the tools necessary and is improving before the draft. The Bucs don’t have much at quarterback besides Mike Glennon, and Thomas looks to be a player with quite the upside that the Bucs can benefit from. The best scenario for Thomas is a team taking a gamble and drafting him early. The worst scenario is that Thomas will be an undrafted free agent or not picked up at all.
Editor's Note: In today's Senior Bowl, Thomas entered the game late in the 1st and gave up series killing sacks on both drives to eventual MVP Dee Ford. He re-entered the game to start the 3rd and was sacked on consecutive plays by Carraun Reid to end that drive. The next drive he gave up a 3rd down sack yet again. On 10 pass plays, Logan was sacked five times. None of the ACC QBs did themselves any favors today, as Tajh Boyd (Clemson) and Stephen Morris (Miami) both struggled as much or more than Thomas. A combination of poor pass protection and Thomas holding the ball too long put a severe damper on the praises he was receiving throughout preparations earlier in the week. Luckily for Thomas, the combine in Indianapolis will hold far more weight when it comes to NFL draft weekend in early May.
4. CB Antone Exum
Coming out of Deep Run High School, Exum was listed as an athlete before solidifying his position at free safety at Virginia Tech. He earned an honorable mention All-ACC selection at safety in 2011 and led the team with 89 tackles. Then in 2012 he switched positions to play at corner, led the Hokies with five interceptions, and earned a second team All-ACC selection by both the media and the coaches. But Exum tore his ACL while playing pick-up basketball during the off season and was forced to miss most of the 2013 season. Showing determination and toughness, Exum battled his way back and returned late in the season. The senior ended up starting three games for the Hokies, but ended up missing games versus Maryland, Virginia, and UCLA due to injury issues. Exum has the ability to make plays on the ball most of the time, he’s aggressive and versatile, but he takes a lot of chances too. He gets burned by wide receivers with better quickness and speed because of this. He always likes a challenge, though. Just ask Clemson’s Sammy Watkins. Unfortunately, Sammy got the better of Exum when they faced each other over the years. You have to admire the corner’s toughness and confidence, but since his ACL injury we haven’t been able to see a lot of what he’s still got. This will push teams away and that’s why it’s safe to venture away from a fourth to fifth round prediction if you have any doubts.
Prediction: Round 5, Seattle Seahawks.
It never hurts to have extra talent in the secondary. Exum comes with the physicality like that of the Seahawks defense and could only add an extra element to the team. Head Coach Pete Carroll knows what he likes and Exum seems to fit the criteria of Carroll’s secondary players.
Other Hokie prospects:
-LB Jack Tyler
-DT Derrick Hopkins
-DE J.R. Collins
-OG Andrew Miller
-WR D.J. Coles
-LB Tariq Edwards
The players above are most likely going to be undrafted free agents or not picked up at all. But if anyone will be drafted it’s going to be Jack Tyler and Derrick Hopkins. The two spearheaded the Hokies’ highly touted defensive front in 2013, and both have shown great leadership during their time at Virginia Tech.