Photo Credit: Dave Knachel/Virginia Tech Athletics
As the end of the season approaches, the free year that 2020 is for fall athletes has led to many questions as to whether top senior college football stars will return for an extra year. One player who will be declining that option is Virginia Tech's seventh year DE Justus Reed.
DE Justus Reed said he won't be returning next year. He's already a seventh-year senior and isn't going to make it eight.— Andy Bitter (@AndyBitterVT) December 8, 2020
"This is it for me." Thinks playing at the Power 5 level again as a senior helped improve his NFL stock a little bit, even with an uneven season. #Hokies
Reed told the media Tuesday that he will not be returning to Virginia Tech for what would be a second season in Blacksburg and eighth in college football. Reed's college football career will include three stops in total as he started his career at Florida followed by a highly productive venture to Youngstown State and then a return to the Power 5 at Virginia Tech.
Through his 10 games with the Hokies, Reed has a team high 6.5 sacks among his 9 total tackles for loss and 26 overall tackles. As Reed mentioned, the fact that he was able to gain valuable Power 5 experience and be productive while doing so should boost his NFL Draft stock.
Regardless of his draft stock, it's impossible to blame Reed for being ready to move on from the college ranks especially given the fact that most people his age are a couple years into their professional careers. Additionally, Reed only has so much time to make a run at the NFL and at some point, his age begins to be something that limits his draft stock rather than maybe boosts it because teams see him as more mature physically and mentally to handle the NFL as is the current case.
In regards to his draft stock, NFL Draft Scout currently ranks Reed as the 25th best defensive end in the 2021 draft pool as of right now. That currently puts Reed in line to be a Day 3 pick who largely projects as a 4-3 DE but may have the size to also work as a DE in a 3-4 defense.
With Reed making this unsurprising decision, it should open up a spot for Amare Barno to start next season in a full-time capacity regardless of who else returns. Additionally, Emmanuel Belmar should be the frontrunner for the other should he choose to return while TyJuan Garbutt and Jaylen Griffin should also factor in. Robert Wooten may be the sleeper in all this at the moment as the true freshman has shown promise in limited reps this season.