Virginia Tech had five players selected in the 2018 NFL Draft this year including 2 first round picks (Tremaine and Terrell Edmunds) for only the second time in program history. After having four players selected in 2017 and none in the first 5 rounds, this was an impressive draft performance for VT.
While the 2019 NFL Draft is still almost a year away, there are a few Hokies who can likely expect to hear their names called. Here’s our top 3 2019 NFL Draft prospects for Virginia Tech.
1. OT Yosuah Nijman
Yosuah Nijman has the prototypical size you look for in an offensive tackle at 6’7” and 322 pounds. In addition, Nijman has the athleticism that you look for along with showing the versatility this spring to play at left or right tackle.
Nijman has had a fairly productive career at Virginia Tech, and you could see how important he was to last season’s team when their offensive struggles began during November after VT lost Nijman to injury. While Nijman has been solid, he hasn’t necessarily been a top-tier guy in the ACC and has no All-ACC honors to his name (though you could make a strong case he deserved some recognition last year).
The biggest question surrounding Nijman is whether he can take his play to the next level and become an All-ACC First Team caliber offensive tackle. If Nijman can, it’s hard imagining him not being selected during the first 2 days of the NFL Draft given the athleticism he brings to the table. If not, Nijman’s floor appears likely to be the fourth or fifth round given the upside he brings athletically at offensive tackle.
In addition, some teams may have concerns about his injury last season though since that was the only major injury he has suffered in his collegiate career, it shouldn’t hurt his stock as long as he can stay healthy in 2018.
No matter his development this year, Nijman is likely to become the fifth offensive lineman selected this decade from Virginia Tech after what has been a very good career so far in Blacksburg.
2. CB Adonis Alexander
There likely won’t be a defensive player for Virginia Tech that receives more attention from NFL scouts to start the season than Adonis Alexander. While Ricky Walker has put up better numbers as a Hokie, the Charlotte cornerback has the type of size and athleticism that NFL teams want in their secondary.
At 6’3” and 207 pounds, Alexander has the size that teams are looking for in a modern NFL defensive back. Alexander also has the experience and versatility to play cornerback or safety at the next level with strong safety possibly being his best position at the next level.
Alexander hasn’t always been a natural fit at cornerback after starting at rover, but he has adjusted well to the spot relying largely on his great ball-hawking skills that have helped him to seven interceptions in three seasons. In man coverage, Alexander has taken lots of steps in the positive direction, but his man coverage skills still have room to grow. However, those skills should benefit from another year with Bud Foster and Brian Mitchell.
Off the field concerns likely will hurt Alexander’s stock especially given the fact that he has been suspended twice during his time in Blacksburg. However, Alexander has an opportunity to lessen the impact of that red flag if he can have avoid any off-the-field issues this upcoming season.
Looking ahead, Adonis Alexander is currently a third to fifth round guy with great size and ball-hawking skills. However, he has some work to do in man coverage in order to continue to improve his NFL Draft stock.
3. DT Ricky Walker
Ricky Walker has steadily improved throughout his collegiate career and though the senior DT may not be a first round pick, Walker does have a future in the NFL as a quality defensive tackle. Scouts don’t appear to be as big on Walker at this point though given that he has another year, don’t be surprised if Walker’s name slowly rises up NFL Draft boards.
In his first full year as a starter, Walker was impressive on a talented Virginia Tech defensive line with 41 total tackles, 12.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, and 6 QB hurries. Despite the big season, Walker surprisingly only earned All-ACC Honorable Mention honors though Walker returns as the best defensive tackle outside of Clemson in the ACC next season.
Walker is best as a run-stuffing defensive tackle, but has shown that he can be an effective pass rusher 6 sacks and 10 QB hurries over the past two seasons. Walker has good size for the position at 6’2” and around 300 pounds, and should fit well in a 4-3 defense in the NFL. However, one thing that may hurt Walker’s draft stock is that his skill set doesn’t fit well in a 3-4 defense.
One thing that will definitely help Walker is the fact that Justin Fuente trusts him as a leader of this team. Even on a veteran defense, Walker quickly emerged as a leader and received praise from Fuente for his leadership last season. Walker has shown that he is the type of player that any NFL team would want in their locker room in addition to being a productive player on the field.
While Walker is likely a day 3 NFL draft pick, whatever team that picks him will likely be very ecstatic about adding him to their roster. Walker may not be a high draft pick, but the 757 native is poised to have an extended career in the NFL.
Sleeper: FS Divine Deablo
Divine Deablo is probably more of a 2020 NFL Draft prospect than a 2019 one, but Deablo has shown the athletic and ball-hawking skills to have a big year that puts him on the radar of NFL scouts.
Currently, Deablo has very limited film due to suffering a left foot injury last season. Fortunately for Deablo, he was able to preserve a year of eligibility and receive a medical redshirt but his injury did prevent him from putting up some big numbers.
However, Deablo did show a lot of potential in limited action last season with 6 tackles including 1 for loss against West Virginia while having his first career interception against Old Dominion where he also injured his left foot.
Deablo showed in those games that he has the range, speed, and ball-hawking abilities to be a center field-type free safety that many NFL teams look for. While Deablo has shown that he can make some plays around the line of scrimmage, the former wide receiver is most comfortable in zone coverage at the back end of the secondary.
In addition, Deablo brings above-average size and athleticism to the table that can’t be discounted and should prove valuable in helping his draft stock in the future.
Obviously, Deablo needs to have a big season to jump onto the 2019 NFL Draft radar. However, Deablo has the athletic skills and size to be selected during the first two days of a future NFL Draft if he can match it with his production.