As anyone who carries an emotional attachment to a sports team knows, it is never too early to talk about the future. Even though the 2015 collegiate and NFL seasons have not even started Gobbler Country will be exploring the Hokie's NFL Draft prospects for 2016.
Suffice to say, VPI’s showing in the 2015 NFL Draft was not particularly noteworthy. Only two Fighting Gobblers were drafted, and both were selected on the last day of the draft. Strong safety Kyshoen Jarrett was picked 181st overall by the Washington Redskins in the sixth round, and offensive tackle Laurence Gibson just missed Mr. Irrelevance fame when he was grabbed by the Dallas Cowboys as the 243rd pick in the seventh round. Although only a duo of Hokies were drafted in the NFL in 2015, the VT 2016 NFL Draft class looks to be significantly more robust.
Virginia Tech is no stranger to defensive talent. Kendall Fuller feels that this year’s squad has the potential to be one of the best defensive squads to ever play for the orange and maroon. So, it seems natural that we begin our discussion about the talent present on the protection side of the ball.
Phil Steele’s tome of college football preview has been referenced several times by Gobbler Country in the last few weeks, and it will again be referenced for this consideration of talent. In his publication Mr. Steele lists his top draft eligible players by position for the next NFL draft. The pinnacle of Virginia Tech’s showing is Kendall Fuller whom Steele lists as the number one draft eligible corner in the nation. Only a few spots lower, Brandon Facyson places fifth on the CB list. Moving closer to the line of scrimmage, Deon Clarke weighs in as the number 21 draft eligible ILB. Those in the trenches are not to be outdone. Defensive ends Dadi Nicolas and Ken Ekanem are number five and 12, respectively, as his draft eligible DEs. Corey Marshall is Steele’s number 19 Defensive Tackle.
Considering the offensive woes Virginia Tech has endured the last few seasons and with six defensive contributors making the list of draft eligible players it will be difficult for Virginia Tech’s offense to match. That difficulty is realized with a dearth of offensive VPI players making Steele’s lists, but the first name should not be a surprise. Bucky Hodges has set himself apart as one of the preeminent contributors on the points side of the ball for the Hokies. Hodges checks in as the number six draft eligible Tight End. Although Mr. Hodges is not the lone Hokie to be represented on offense, Tight End is the sole position to be denoted. At number 19, TE Ryan Malleck completes the Hokie representation of offensive providers to make Steele’s draft eligible players.
The potential for Virginia Tech’s 2016 Draft Class to be impressive is not only a supposition provided by Mr. Steele. Recently the NFL posted their top 25 College Football Teams with the most NFL talent in 2015. Virginia Tech is ranked 13th. Just as Mr. Steele did, the NFL highlights the defensive talent on the Virginia Tech squad. As expected for DBU, the NFL highlights the talents of Kendall Fuller and Brandon Facyson. Not to be forgotten, the talents of defensive lineman Dadi Nicholas and Ken Ekanem are a focus. On the offensive side of the ball the talents of VT’s TE corps is also declared by the NFL.
It has already been established that we at Gobbler Country are all in, and have fully imbibed the Kool-Aid. One of the factors that help us justify our belief that VT will return to the greatness, which fans are accustomed, is the recognition, by outside entities, that the Hokies are chock full of talent, and a dangerous force to be reckoned with.