Five Things to Watch for Hokies at the 2021 NFL Draft

Five Things to Watch for Hokies at the 2021 NFL Draft
Tim Thomas

Tim Thomas | @TimThomasTLP

TLP: Editor
Apr 29, 2021

Photo Credit: Jake Roth

Draft day has arrived as several former Virginia Tech stars are hoping to hear their name called during the 2021 NFL Draft with four certain to be picked. From Christian Darrisaw and Caleb Farley on the opening night to Divine Deablo, Khalil Herbert, and more; it's poised to be a busy weekend for Virginia Tech stars.

With that said, here are our five things to watch.

1. Will Christian Darrisaw make Hokie history?

Christian Darrisaw is basically assured of becoming the third Hokie offensive lineman selected in the first round joining Eugene Chung (1992-13th), and Duane Brown (2008-26th). However, Darrisaw has a chance to make history in a couple of different ways.

First, it is more than realistic for Darrisaw to go in the top 12 this evening, making him the highest selected offensive lineman in program history and making this the second-straight year where a Hokie record was broken at a specific position (Dalton Keene did so in 2020). With that, Darrisaw would also become the highest-selected non-quarterback offensive player in Hokie history as well and only the seventh offensive Hokie ever selected in the first round.

The second part is more out of his control, but Darrisaw has a chance to become part of the third pairing of Hokies to be selected in the first round if him and Caleb Farley go in tonight's first round. They would join DeAngelo Hall and Kevin Jones in 2004, and

2. Will Caleb Farley fall in the draft and how far if so?

This may be the biggest storyline among all Hokies tonight. There's been plenty of talk surrounding a Caleb Farley drop given the injury issues which are holding him back from being the top 10 pick that he otherwise is.

There's no doubt that Farley is about as close to a dream cornerback prospect as could be before discussing injuries with great athleticism and speed, impressive collegiate numbers and accolades, and impressive growth. He also has an uber high ceiling given his athletic skills, current growth rate, and limited cornerback experience given that he played QB in high school and split time between WR and CB early in his time in Blacksburg.

However, the injuries are definitely a concern especially the back issues which are as hampering of an issue. Back problems can be the ones that never go away and the fact that he has multiple instances of them now is a problem in addition to the torn ACL that sidelined him before what would have been his true freshman season.

Personally, I think Caleb Farley is more than worth the risk and has a great chance to be a mid to late first round steal as someone who has the upside to easily be a 15-year player who makes 5-10 Pro Bowls and even puts his name in Canton.

3. Could Divine Deablo be the big Hokie surprise?

Divine Deablo is considered a consensus top 100 prospect who should go during Day 2 of this year's NFL Draft. However, there has been plenty of rumors that there are at least a couple teams who rate Deablo significantly higher which could even give him a chance at going in the first half of the second round or even sneaking into the first round.

A lot of that is built around the fact that Deablo has tremendous size and shown loads of versatility as a safety and part-time whip linebacker at Tech. In an NFL that is looking for more versatility in their safeties combined with Deablo having the size for both, he's the type of player that fits the modern NFL in those areas.

Deablo also has the proven reputation after a strong senior season where he earned All-ACC First Team honors. Additionally, the stats show that Tech's defense is significantly better when Deablo has been on the field versus when he hasn't in terms of points per game.

In some ways, Deablo seems to have a vibe around his draft stock similar to Terrell Edmunds who had some rumors about a couple teams really liking him before the Pittsburgh Steelers proved that to be true taking him late in the first round.

If Deablo were to be selected in the second round, this would be only the second time that Tech has had 3 players taken in the first round along with 2004 (DeAngelo Hall, Kevin Jones, Jake Grove). If he rises into the first round, and Darrisaw and Farley are selected then as well; it'll be the first time in school history that Virginia Tech has had 3 first round picks.

4. Get ready for the Khalil Herbert Steal

The fact that Khalil Herbert isn't one of the top 5 or 6 running backs in this draft is astonishing to me. Many have wondered what he's shown beyond his external running ability, but he proved to be comfortable making plays in space as a receiver with solid hands and though he didn't have to block too much, he proved to be a quality, tough pass blocker.

Those things plus questions about his ability to run in between the tackles have held him back with those questions being even more confusing though his tendency to try to get outside the tackles some for big plays may be part of that oddly enough. Herbert also has the benefit of not having the wear and tear in terms of collegiate volume that many other running backs had during their collegiate career while also having the versatility to be a dynamic return man especially on kickoffs.

The production is also tremendous from averaging 7.6 yards per carry to averaging more than 100 rushing yards per game even when you include the game he basically missed against Liberty due to injury and the limited action he received the following two weeks after that. If not for those games and Tech not having as good of a record as Clemson and UNC with their star running backs, Herbert would have been an All-ACC First Team guy and likely an All-American by some as an all-purpose guy.

There's no reason why Khalil Herbert shouldn't go on day 2 of the draft yet all signs are that he will be there as a steal for day 3 who at minimum can be a change-of-pace RB 2 with the clear potential to develop into a quality starting RB who is around the league as a top and secondary guy for a decade.

Khalil Herbert will be a steal for somebody this weekend and if you're the future fan of the team that drafts him reading this, you should be more than happy with your GM on this one.

5. Who else gets drafted?

Beyond the first four guys, it's unclear if Virginia Tech will have any more draftees. If there is a top candidate among that next group, it certainly has to be punter Oscar Bradburn.

There is no doubt that Bradburn is one of the top punters in this year's draft and showed steady improvement throughout his career and the type of consistency that NFL teams expect. Of course, Bradburn is at a fickle position that will likely only see a couple players selected this weekend, but Bradburn has the skill set to be one of those players. On top of that, Bradburn has proven to be a high character guy who would fit well in any locker room.

Rayshard Ashby is another intriguing possibility who didn't have as good of a senior season as hoped, but still brings loads of leadership and a high football IQ. Additionally, he's a great addition to any NFL locker room which combined with his talent, could be enough to push him over the top to sneak into the sixth or seventh round.

Justus Reed is also worth watching given his solid season in Blacksburg after big numbers at Youngstown State previously. Reed is as mature of a player as you are going to find both on and off the field given his extended collegiate career which could have some questioning his upside. However, his physical development should be a major plus given that he has the size to fit in day one and be a depth player for someone.