After having a nice season in the ACC, the Virginia Tech Hokies (8-5, 5-3 conference) are preparing to send some star players to the next level. Four pro-ready players are preparing for the NFL Draft, a few being talked about as high-round selections.
Top to bottom, the Hokies had a fighting team that made a name for themselves throughout the season. Several seniors led Virginia Tech to a respectable 2013 campaign that was highlighted by winning four of their five road games during the regular season.
Logan Thomas, Quarterback
Thomas went into the 2013 season with a bit of uncertainty surrounding him. At times he looked phenomenal, but the games where he struggled carried more weight than the games he shined in.
His first game against Alabama was simply dreadful. Thomas completed just five of his 26 passes and struggled to get anything moving against the type of defense he will encounter in the NFL. Other performances, including the game against Marshall, made it clear to many that Thomas shouldn’t be looked at as a prime candidate leading up to May.
Some label him “un-draftable” due to his failed efforts to consistently complete passes and lead an offense to big results week after week. His big frame and occasional flashes should get him a few looks, but any legitimate thoughts shouldn’t come until much later in the draft process, maybe even forcing Thomas to enter the league as a free agent.
James Gayle, Defensive End
This senior made an impact often for the Hokies throughout his time at Virginia Tech. One of the ACC’s top defensive linemen tallied 22 total sacks during his collegiate career and was voted a 3rd team All-ACC player in 2013.
Gayle stood out to me when I was watching Seantrel Henderson of Miami. The strong defensive lineman often over-powered Henderson, creating havoc in the Hurricanes’ backfield the majority of the game.
At 6’4”, 255-pounds, Gayle possesses surprisingly good agility and burst to get off the line in a hurry. Although he does need a bit more fine-tuning overall, a team will get a good value late in the draft. Look for Gayle to go somewhere in Day Three.
Kyle Fuller, Cornerback
The Hokies’ best cover corner will be one of the best defensive prospects in the middle rounds this year.
Very physical and athletic on the field, Fuller will earn a very high grade on a few teams’ draft boards. The 6’0” corner will provide a team with rock-solid play in the run game and adequate ability to cover receivers. He needs to prove that he can handle guys like Darrius Heyward-Bey who have speed, but his ability to thrive at the next level looks more than probable.
Fuller grades out as a late Day Two pick for me, however a team could fall in love with him and take him a bit higher once crunch time comes.
Antone Exum, Defensive Back
You’ll see him labeled as a cornerback on official rankings, but after watching much of his tape and confirming my thoughts with other members of “Draft Twitter”, Exum should be looked as a simply a defensive back due to the potential move to Safety at the next level.
Exum has a bigger build, an interesting trait in the new-era NFL. The monster cornerback is a new trend in the league and this kid certainly fits the description. He has many aspects of his game that are above-average, but the one concern that stands out the most is health.
Exum was unable to stay healthy throughout his time with the Hokies, something that will knock him down on draft boards and keep him behind Fuller. He has the potential to give a team depth in 2014, but he’ll need to prove that he can be perfect and stay healthy to earn a consistent roster spot in the coming years.