James Gayle NFL Draft 2014: Highlights, Scouting Report and More

Darren PageFeatured ColumnistFebruary 28, 2014

Sep 7, 2013; Blacksburg, VA, USA; Virginia Tech Hokies defensive end James Gayle (99) pursues the ball during the first quarter against the Western Carolina Catamounts at Lane Stadium. Virginia Tech defeated Western Carolina 45-3. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports
Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

James Gayle, DE, Virginia Tech (HT: 6’3⅞” WT: 259 lbs)



NFL Comparison: Kamerion Wimbley, DE, Tennessee Titans

Combine Weigh-In
603725932 3/8"9 5/8"
Combine Workout
40-yd dash10-yd splitVertBroad3-ConeBench


  • Meets requisite standards for athleticism in terms of quickness, flexibility and speed. 
  • Is a slippery defender for blockers, very active hands. 
  • Does a skillful job batting away the hands of the tackle to keep from getting locked up. 
  • Possesses lateral quickness to press tackles head on and then shoot either direction. 
  • Frequently disruptive when working down to inside and splitting gaps. 
  • Can stunt to the inside, get skinny through tight spaces, and work past interior pass-blockers. 
  • Utilizes space with hands to work a quick swim move with fine effect. 
  • Can dip his shoulder to minimize surface area and duck blocks around the corner. 
  • Sprinkled in a quick spin move, had some success with it. 
  • Has flashed ability to convert speed to power and deliver a blow with his hands. 
  • Rushes with an unrelenting motor, makes a number of plays with high effort. 
  • Can back pedal from the line of scrimmage and get depth in a hurry, potential in zone blitz heavy schemes. 
  • Will attain outside position and contain run plays from the edge sufficiently. 
  • Adequate open field speed for pursuing ball carriers across or down the field. 
  • Technically sound tackler who wraps well. 
  • Highly durable, played in every game of Virginia Tech career.


  • Lean frame doesn’t match the style of play his skills are most suited for. 
  • Stiff knees and ankles limit balance when he has to stay tight and turn a corner. 
  • Unable to recover when wrong-sided by blockers. 
  • Doesn’t hit a second gear to accelerate around the corner in speed rushes. 
  • Utilizes no power as a rusher for lengths at a time. 
  • Repetitive and predictable for stretches as a pass-rusher. 
  • Overused a hop step to the outside and swim move even when it wasn’t working. 
  • Doesn’t adequately control, extend hands, and shed in run defense. 
  • Can be moved off the ball by drive blocks, little strength to anchor from the lower half. 
  • Does too much guessing and gets caved completely from run plays. 
  • Will turn shoulders to take on run blocks instead of staying square. 
  • Was left unblocked and optioned frequently, was indecisive. 
  • Gets dragged by ball carriers for extra yardage, not the heftiest tackler. 
  • Marginal improvements from sophomore to junior to senior seasons.
Collegiate Statistics
2010Virginia Tech136.5410
2011Virginia Tech3812.5700
2012Virginia Tech4311501
2013Virginia Tech4410.5611

Personal Notes

  • A 3-star prospect as a recruit in class of 2009, 25th-ranked strong-side defensive end by Rivals
  • 2011 and 2012 second team All-ACC. 
  • 39 career starts and a four-year contributor at Virginia Tech.

Ratings Chart

Graph made at nces.ed.gov.


Expectations for James Gayle’s career took a big jump after a breakout sophomore campaign.  He’s been a steady presence at end for Virginia Tech ever since but never really took the next step to becoming a more dynamic, consistent pass rush presence.  He did give opponents fits and was more disruptive as a senior than the stats indicate.

Gayle’s projection to the NFL is a bit trickier.  It’s easy to place his scheme fit.  Gayle will surely be drafted into an even front where he can play with his hand in the dirt.  The issue is that he was hardly an athletically-dominant rusher in college football and won’t be that in the NFL.  He would be best served to add as much bulk as possible and become a power-rusher who utilizes fast and heavy hands.  That makes him more of a developmental type considering his minimal effectiveness defending the run.  If a team can build on his frame, they could be onto something.

Draft Projection: 4th Round