Predicting Former Virginia Tech Players' 2014 NFL Combine Performance

Bryan Manning@bdmanning4Featured ColumnistFebruary 19, 2014

Predicting Former Virginia Tech Players' 2014 NFL Combine Performance

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    Virginia Tech Quarterback Logan Thomas in the Senior Bowl
    Virginia Tech Quarterback Logan Thomas in the Senior BowlGM Andrews/Associated Press

    The NFL Scouting Combine commences later this week in Indianapolis and, as usual, Virginia Tech will have a strong presence.

    Four former Hokies will participate in the combine: Logan Thomas, James Gayle, Kyle Fuller and Antone Exum.

    Each of the four players, at one point or another in their respective careers, were All-Conference performers. Fuller and Gayle were honored in each of the past three seasons by the league. 

    How will each of these former Hokie greats fare at the combine? 

Quarterback Logan Thomas

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    Quarterback Logan Thomas (6'6", 254 lbs)

    It's arguable that if Thomas left Blacksburg after his sophomore season he would've been a top-10 pick. 

    The last two years have been difficult for Thomas. There have been big-time moments for Thomas, like his performance against Miami where he threw for 366 yards, two touchdowns and completed just over 80 percent of his passes. 

    And there was his performance against Duke in 2013 where Thomas was picked off four times.

    Thomas isn't generally considered one of the 2014 NFL draft's top quarterbacks, but this week, at the combine, expect Thomas to shine. 

    He'll likely run the 40-yard dash in the 4.6 range, perhaps even better. Thomas not only looks the part of a tight end, but possesses the athleticism of some of the NFL's top pass-catchers. 

    Thomas will likely excel in all individual drills. The combine presents a great opportunity for quarterbacks to show off their ability to make all of the necessary NFL throws. Thomas will do that with ease.

    To prepare for the combine, Thomas has spent several weeks in San Diego with quarterback guru George Whitfield. 

Cornerback Kyle Fuller

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    Kyle Fuller
    Kyle FullerDave Martin/Associated Press

    Cornerback Kyle Fuller (6'0", 194 lbs)

    For the most part, draft boards around the NFL are set. However, two positions in particular will fluctuate heavily after this week's combine: wide receiver and defensive back.

    Teams value speed at corner and receiver and sometimes better players get knocked down a bit if their 40 times disappoint coaches and scouts. 

    For Fuller, a strong performance at the combine could propel him into the first round. 

    If you put on the tape, there's no disputing how good of a football player Fuller is. Not only is he strong in coverage, he's physical too.

    But coming off a late-season injury, Fuller's performance will be worth watching. If he can run the 40 in the 4.45 range, he could easily be a first-round pick. 

    NFL executives will pay particular attention to Fuller in the three-cone drill. This is as equally important as the 40 because it displays a defensive back's ability to change directions, turn and run. 

    Look for Fuller to put up solid numbers in both the 40 and three-cone drill. Don't expect him to be the top performer in either drill, but he will not do anything to hurt his stock. 

Cornerback/Safety Antone Exum

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    Antone Exum
    Antone ExumDon Petersen/Associated Press

    Cornerback/Safety Antone Exum (6'1", 220 lbs)

    2013 was a lost year for Exum. After tearing his ACL in a pickup basketball game in January, Exum didn't return until the midway point of the 2013 season. Then, after only playing three games, Exum injured his ankle and did not play again.

    While it was disappointing for Exum, it could benefit him in the long run.

    Playing only three games gave Exum more time to completely recover from ACL surgery. By the time the combine begins, Exum will be about 13 months removed from his surgery. 

    NFL personnel will likely prefer Exum at safety. He was an All-ACC performer at safety before switching to corner his junior year. He was also an All-ACC pick there too. Coverage safeties are in demand in the NFL, so Exum has a unique skill set that should translate well to free safety in the NFL. 

    Exum has a much thicker upper body than Fuller. He will likely do well in the strength drills. Much like Fuller, though, Exum's 40 time and three-cone drills will be monitored closely. Teams will want to see if there are any lingering concerns about Exum's knee.

    Expect Exum to run the 40 in the 4.5 range. He has good speed, but isn't a burner.

    Exum has an opportunity to open up some eyes this week. As of now, he looks like a third-round pick, but that could change with a strong performance this week in Indianapolis. 

Defensive End James Gayle

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    James Gayle
    James GayleVictor Calzada/Associated Press

    Defensive End James Gayle (6'4", 255 lbs)

    The combine is where players like Gayle shoot up draft boards.

    With terrific size and the athleticism of an outside linebacker, Gayle will open up some eyes in Indianapolis.

    Don't take that as a knock on Gayle, he was a three-year starter at defensive end for the Hokies and had a stellar career. He finished with 40.5 tackles for a loss and 22 sacks during his Virginia Tech career. 

    However, Gayle never put up big sack numbers in a season. His career high was seven, set as a sophomore in 2011.

    NFL talent evaluators will love Gayle's size and athletic ability. Teams will play close attention to his short-area quickness. Some teams will want to see if Gayle is scheme-versatile—could he play outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense, or is he just a pass-rushing defensive end in the 4-3?

    Expect Gayle to participate in defensive end and linebacker drills. In particular, teams will want to see how Gayle performs in the pass, drop and hip rotation drill. The drill tests how good a player is in coverage—something Gayle didn't have to do at Virginia Tech.

    The better Gayle performs in the agility drills, the higher he will get drafted.

    He will likely run the 40 in the 4.65 range and do well on the bench press.