Virginia Tech Football: Top 5 Hokies in the Eyes of NFL Scouts
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Every March, NFL scouts flock to Blacksburg, Va. to see several Hokies perform on their pro day. Sometimes, the Hokies may have only one or two players being seriously considered as first or second-round draft choices.
In last week's NFL draft, David Wilson was a first-round selection of the New York Giants. Cornerback Jayron Hosley was selected in the third round, also by the Giants. Wide receiver Danny Coale was a fifth-round selection of the Dallas Cowboys.
Despite losing several starters on the offensive side of the ball, 2012 could be an outstanding year for the Hokies.
2012 could also be a big year in Blacksburg for several Hokies looking at a future in the NFL.
Quarterback Logan Thomas is an obvious choice, but four other Hokies could be selected rather high in 2013.
Antone Exum, Cornerback
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Exum, a junior, will be in his first year at cornerback after splitting time at free safety and rover in his first two seasons.
At 6'0" and 219 pounds, Exum is well-built and has ran the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds. Exum has good ball skills and proved solid in coverage. He is a good tackler and has the type of size and speed the NFL covets.
Can Exum make a smooth transition to cornerback? Former Hokie Jimmy Williams made a similar transition several years ago and was a second-round draft choice. Exum is a much better all-around athlete than Williams was.
Marcus Davis, Wide Reciever
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Calling Marcus Davis the best athlete on the team would not be a stretch. Possessing outstanding size (6'4" and 228 pounds), Davis has been timed at under 4.4 seconds in the 40 with a vertical leap of 44 inches.
Davis, a senior, has improved in each of his three seasons in Blacksburg. A former high school quarterback, Davis still looks the part of an inexperienced wide receiver. His hands fail him at times, but his improvement on a yearly basis are encouraging.
In 2011, Davis emerged as Logan Thomas' top downfield threat. Davis, along with fellow seniors Dyrell Roberts and D.J. Coles, will be relied upon heavily in 2012.
If Davis stays healthy and continues to improve his hands and route-running, he could be a first-round pick. The NFL will take chances on a wide receiver with such immense physical ability. Stephen Hill of Georgia Tech was proof of this last week. Hill's progression throughout his college years was similar to Davis' in his first three years.
James Gayle, Defensive End
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Outside of quarterback, pass-rusher is perhaps the most desired trait of NFL scouts. With the NFL now being a pass-happy league, great pass-rushers are even more in demand.
2011 was a breakout season for James Gayle. Gayle, a junior, finished 2011 with seven sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss.
At 6'4" and 260 pounds, Gayle plays defensive end for the Hokies. At his current size, Gayle could play defensive end in the 4-3 or outside linebacker in the 3-4.
The Hokies have produced several good pass-rushers over the last decade. With Gayle's size and athletic ability, he has the potential to one of the best pass-rushers in school history.
Kyle Fuller, Cornerback
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Fuller, a junior, is the third of four brothers to attend Virginia Tech. His oldest brother, Vincent, was a standout for the Hokies from 2001-2004. Corey Fuller, a senior, is a reserve wide receiver for the Hokies. His younger brother, Kendall, is one of top high school players in the country, and the Hokies appear to have a good shot at landing Kendall in 2013.
Perhaps no player was more valuable to the Hokies defense in 2011 than Fuller. He started seven games at whip linebacker and the other seven at cornerback. And he still made second-team All-ACC.
A natural cornerback, Fuller is one of the smartest players on the team, and his knowledge of the defense allowed defensive coordinator Bud Foster to move him around.
Before spring practice, Fuller was timed at under 4.4 seconds in the 40. Although he needs to add some weight, Fuller is an excellent tackler and is very involved in the running game.
If the Hokies can stay healthy in the secondary, they could have the best pair of cornerbacks in the country. Fuller has everything the NFL covets in a cornerback, and if he starts every game there, he could be a high first-round pick in 2013, or hopefully, 2014.
Logan Thomas, Quarterback
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As if there were any doubt, Thomas is the Hokies' top pro NFL prospect entering 2012.
In early 2011, many were calling for the Hokies to make a change at the quarterback position. Many fans felt Thomas wasn't ready to be a big-time starting quarterback. But, after the Hokies lost to Clemson for the first time, Thomas gradually improved in each game.
At 6'6" and 254 pounds, Thomas has rare size for a quarterback. Many fans will compare Thomas to former Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton, but they are much different.
While Thomas is a strong runner, he isn't Newton. However, Thomas is more advanced in the passing game than Newton was coming out of Auburn. With another year of experience, Thomas could find himself among the top-five picks of the NFL draft in 2013.
2012 will be a big year for Thomas with the loss of eight offensive starters. He will have four new starters along the offensive line as well as a new starter at running back. NFL scouts will surely see how Thomas adapts to the many changes around him.
If Thomas continues to get better, his combination of size, athletic ability and arm strength will surely put him atop many draft boards next April.