No excuses. Well, that’s what I’ll stick with for the moment. We haven’t really been covering the NFL Draft run-up. It’s been sort of a glaring blank spot in our article portfolio this year.
The reason for the missing pieces is a distinct lack of any sort of real prospect for the drafting of any Hokies leaving after the 2018 season. The reality is that this is as close to a recruiting disaster as you can get without actually having a major coaching change. Face it, the prospect of being drafted into the NFL is a HUGE factor in the recruiting process; in particular for the four and five star talent necessary to win big games. Having the Virginia Tech Hokies show up huge in the 2018 NFL Draft was a definite recruiting bonanza. The prospect of having Virginia Tech disappear from the 2019 NFL Draft is a hit on the program’s reputation that could change some minds. Suddenly Blacksburg doesn’t look so attractive after all. Virginia Tech becomes another Purdue or Central Michigan in the stars’ eyes. You might get to play, but you’ll probably be left behind by the Pro Scouts.
The prospect that we could get left out of the 2019 Draft is difficult enough, but even worse is that the current draftable class is tiny, and totally problematic from a PR perspective. So, who is from last season has a potential? The tiny list is led by Yoshua Nijman at O-Line and followed by Ricky Walker at D-Line. We have the potential of something stirring for both Vinny Mihota and Kyle Chung but draft day is probably not in those cards. That’s really the entire class under any level of consideration.
Let’s look at each one from the “scout” perspective for a team looking at a smart pickup or two.
Yosh Nijman was the only Hokie invited to the Underwear Olympics this season. Nijman probably made his best impression of the season in both his NFL Combine and Pro Day performances because his injury shortened 2018 season really didn’t to a whole lot for his draft stock. Nijman is quick, fast in the 40 for a man his size, and has demonstrated the ability to shift to the left or right side of the offensive line with some reasonable skill. The problems still remain that injury, and the totally mediocre performance of the Virginia Tech program in the 2018 season.
Scouts are going to have to dig to his prior years and look at films from 2015-2017 to get a better idea of what they’d be getting. Most pro scouts that I have talked to (we meet a few now and then in the press box) have no real interest in digging too deeply into prospects’ past films. The time is not there. They see what they see in the here and now. With that in mind, Yoshua Nijman is probably a sixth or seventh round pick as a “harmless check it out” sort of deal. I’d be genuinely surprised to see him go above the 6th, and certainly no higher than the 5th round.
Ricky Walker is the story that has the headline “Underappreciated Talent Left Behind” all over it. Walker was certainly a leader, and he was a skilled player to go with that senior leadership. What he wasn’t; was from a current top flight defense. The fact is that the Virginia Tech 2018 Defense was about as close to horrid as you can get. If the squad could have halved their position in the high 80’s to the mid 40’s several games lost would not have and the 2018 season would have been very different. Well, the old saw “Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda, won Nada” (okay I made that up but still...) will be in full consideration mode for the scouts. Ricky Walker presided over a mess. He had a teammate dismissed due to behavior issues.
His secondary was eviscerated and played like a high school taxi squad. His linebacking corps was on the small side and almost all rookies. It was the “perfect storm” of terrible that just drained away any real draft stock that Walker should have earned. Walker’s scouts will have to be looking for more than just performance on the field during a single season. Again, they don’t have much time for that sort of stuff, and given that, someone is going to have to reach down and take a chance. So, Ricky might go in the 6th or 7th, but I rather doubt it. Like it or not, draft stock is more often than not proportional to team performance. No one is bragging about the 2018 Hokies. I am predicting a UDFA shot, though, somewhere if he doesn’t make the draft on Saturday.
Kyle Chung will probably get some sort of look, but there is no real guarantee of anything substantive. His father’s position as an assistant at Philly isn’t going to hurt him as far as scouting exposure, but Tech’s spotty reputation at offensive line and his injury record will probably hold him back.
There isn’t even a real buzz about prospects above a small chance at a UDFA or a CFL bid. I just think that Chung is headed for the coaching route like his father. That’s not a bad thing. He’d probably be a really fine coach and football needs them badly.
Vinny Mihota will probably get a bid to go to graduate school and be a genius mathematician at some scientific think tank... At least that’s where I hope he goes. I loved every minute of seeing Vinny at Defensive End in the past seasons, but he just never really fit in a Tackle. All of the defensive foibles for the 2018 season will apply to him, and then his injury load is just going to be too much.
There isn’t even a real murmur as to the potential for Vinny really wanting to go pro. His intellect will allow him to go pretty much where he wants to in the technical world. Maybe Belichick will hire him to be a sorcerers’ apprentice in his dark chamber of computerized football analyticals. I will be genuinely surprised to see Vinny playing beyond college.
Braxton Pfaff and Steven Peoples aren’t on any radar, and not on any known lists. They did yeoman’s work in the last two seasons, but aren’t likely to see any draft action, it’s also not likely to see a UDFA setup for them, either.
Sometimes, actually most of the time, the collegiate football experience is the pinnacle of a player’s career. Braxton Pfaff and Steven Peoples will be missed on the field and in the locker room but the pros are probably not in Their futures.
There aren’t really any other prospects out there for the Hokies. Like we said before, that’s a serious recruiting hit that will really pinch the decision tree for the 4 and 5 star recruits. In the modern era, it seems players don’t want to make teams great; they want to join great teams. That’s a discussion for another time, but for now we’ll have to live with this potentially being the first time in a long while that Virginia Tech has had no one drafted into the NFL.
It all starts this evening, and we realistically don’t have a chance to hear a Hokie’s name called until Saturday’s spin through the late rounds.