Takeaways from Virginia Tech’s 2021 Pro Day

Caleb Farley (center) headlines a prospective draft class for the Hokies that looks to avenge a glaring absence last year. (Photo: Michael Reaves)

Virginia Tech football held its annual Pro Day on Friday. I don’t claim to be a reporter on the Hokies, but I keep a close eye on them and try to share my thoughts at times.

Seeing that it was Pro Day got me a bit emotional, because I had covered the event as a student reporter. Nonetheless, I came across a laundry list of information as the day progressed on Friday, and it shined a lot of insight on where Virginia Tech’s top prospects might wind up playing this fall.

Who Participated

The event wasn’t limited to players exiting the program this year, nor ones who are likely to be drafted. Here’s who was spotted in some capacity – although not necessarily in the workout portion:

There were four players who garnered most of the attention. Caleb Farley didn’t work out, but numerous scouts and assistant coaches wanted to get to know him in person. Christian Darrisaw was showcased in positional testing. And Divine Deablo and Khalil Herbert ran the gauntlet of interviews, position work, and Combine-like strength and agility testing.

Who Else Attended

Personnel from across the NFL were on-hand for the event. Not everyone had their eyes on every player, but here’s who was in the building:

That’s a lot of names, but some are more important than others. Here’s a guesstimate at who was keeping a most close eye on each individual player:

  • Caleb Farley: Greg Williams (Cardinals); Evan Cooper (Panthers); Deshea Townsend (misspelled above, Bears); Tim Walton (Jaguars); Addison Lynch (Raiders); D.K. McDonald (mis-punctuated, Eagles); and Teryl Austin (Steelers)
  • Christian Darrisaw: Pat Meyer and Tony Sparano Jr. (misspelled, Panthers); Juan Castillo (Bears); George Warhop (Jaguars); Tom Cable (Raiders); and Carmen Bricillo (mislabeled, Patriots)
  • Divine Deablo: possibly the same as Farley
  • Khalil Herbert: none, in terms of position coaches present

Some other front office executives – and a head coach – stand out amongst this list, including Q Attenoukon (Ravens); Terrance Gray (Bills); Jeff Morrow (Panthers); Mike McCarthy and Will McClay (misspelled, Cowboys); Nick Schiralli (Broncos); David Sears (Lions); Brian Gutekunst and Jon-Eric Sullivan (Packers); Tom Hayden (Texans); Trent Baalke (Jaguars); Chris Petit (Giants); Phil Savage (Jets); Ahmad Tariq (49ers); Monti Ossenfort (Titans); and Martin Mayhew and Marty Hurney (Washington Football Team).

Connecting the Dots

Caleb Farley

Farley and Darrisaw are the easiest players to speculate about – although Farley’s draft stock is tough to assess after his recent injury news.

Prior to the injury announcement, many mock drafts rated Farley as a top-10 pick, with the Broncos (No. 9) and Cowboys (No. 10) as frequent destinations. That likely explains why they had representatives at Tech’s Pro Day. Both teams need help at cornerback (although the Broncos have somewhat addressed the position in free agency) and presumably want to evaluate him against Patrick Surtain II (Alabama) and Jaycee Horn (South Carolina), among others.

The Lions (No. 7), Panthers (No. 8) and Giants (No. 11) all pick in the same range, so they’re likely feeling out Farley in a similar manner – although Darrisaw is also a possibility. The same may have initially applied for the 49ers, but they traded up from No. 12 to No. 3 early Friday afternoon. In fact, the Eagles were on the other end of that trade, and their cornerbacks coach was present – signaling their interest, which is more relevant now than it had been previously.

Other teams like the Cardinals (No. 16), Raiders (No. 17), Bears (No. 20), Steelers (No. 24) and Jaguars (No. 25) – and possibly teams who sent scouts/executives instead of position coaches, such as the Titans (No. 22), Jets (No. 23), Ravens (No. 27), Packers (No. 29) and Bills (No. 30) – are being more proactive, in case the injury causes him to slide into the mid- or late-first round.

The team that stands out above the rest for Farley is the Steelers, who also have a glaring need at cornerback. Reportedly, head coach Mike Tomlin has reached out to him in some depth, and even offered him some advice.

They aren’t the only team pursuing Farley to some extent, but they do appear to be among the front runners for him.

Christian Darrisaw

Most mock drafts have Darrisaw in the Nos. 11–20 range, and rarely getting past the Washington Football Team at No. 19. They – in particular – seem to be locked into selecting him if he’s available, so I view that as his realistic floor.

Teams within that range who sent position coaches to Blacksburg were the Patriots (No. 15), Raiders (No. 17) and Bears (No. 20). The first two were very active with him, as well.

Frankly, it seems like he’ll end up in one of the three spots I highlighted (New England, Las Vegas or Washington). If the top five quarterbacks are all gone by No. 15 – which is growing increasingly possible – and New England opts not to trade back into a later pick, they’ll probably select Darrisaw. And if they don’t, the Raiders likely will, and Washington will pounce if they let him sneak that far.

The Patriots will have the first crack at him, though, and it’s a logical match for numerous reasons.

Divine Deablo

Projections for Deablo are less precise, since he isn’t a first-round prospect. But he – and Herbert, for that matter – both tested very well on Friday, likely boosting their draft stocks.

Many of the same people whose eyes were on Farley were probably also on Deablo. They’re not the same player, but they’re both defensive backs who played in the same system. Likewise, the Steelers – who seem to respect Tech’s defense more than most organizations – seem like a natural fit.

Deablo likely projects as a box safety – and possibly a linebacker, in certain systems. However, he is capable of covering more ground, as he exemplified while playing predominantly free safety for the Hokies.

Deablo is currently estimated as a consensus Day 3 selection, but after Friday’s performance, don’t be surprised if he comes off the board in the second or third round.

Khalil Herbert

It goes without saying, but Herbert’s lone season at Tech was sensational, and it’s improved his draft stock substantially. The NFL Draft once wasn’t even a thought for him, but now it’s almost a certainty.

It was discouraging to see no running back coaches show up in Blacksburg, but it shouldn’t diminish his standing amongst draft-eligible backs. His athletic testing checked out well, and running back is viewed by some experts as the easiest position to transition from the collegiate ranks to the NFL at.

Lance Zierlein of NFL Network views him as a Day 3 pick, but other outlets are more bullish. Athlon Sports projects him to be taken in the third or fourth round, and Joe Marino of The Draft Network sees him as a high-end No. 2 running back at the next level with borderline starting-caliber upside, particularly in a zone-based running scheme.

The Others

The top four players are almost certain to be drafted at the end of April (or first day of May), but they might not be the only Tech players selected. Rayshard Ashby and Justus Reed both have a chance to be taken in the late rounds, as do Oscar Bradburn and Brian Johnson as punt and kick specialists, respectively.

My initial guess is that five Hokies are selected this year – the top four plus one of the others. And I’d expect for at least eight to crack someone’s training camp roster, with Jarrod Hewitt also in the mix for an invite.

One thing is clear: The Hokies will be much better represented than they were last year, when no exiting player was drafted or made it to a regular season roster – granted, very few contributors left that offseason anyway.

Follow @stephen_newman1  and  @CapitalNewsman for continuing insight on Virginia Tech sports.

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