April 24, 2008
    NFL Draft weekend could end up being a big one for Tech

    VIRGINIA TECH NFL DRAFT PICKS BY DECADE
    1940's: 2
    1950's: 13
    1960's: 15
    1970's: 7
    1980's: 15
    1990's: 25
    2000's: 38

    This Saturday, April 26th, has a chance to be another one of those red-letter days in the history of Virginia Tech's football program when the NFL holds its annual draft in New York City.

    Tech has a chance to break its school record of players taken in a single NFL Draft. The current record was set in 2006 when nine Hokies were selected. Considering Tech sent 11 players to the NFL Scouting Combine - only USC with 12 had more - there's a decent chance that record could fall. By the way, the record for the most players from a single school taken in a single NFL draft is 14 set by USC in 1975 and again in 1977.

    As for the Hokies, the jury is out on several players, which isn't unusual. Since the Orange Bowl, Tech's players have worked out at pro days in Blacksburg and at the combine, giving scouts and general managers a chance to test, time, and otherwise evaluate players for the draft and as potential free-agent signees.

    There's rarely a consensus. Some teams suggest Brandon Flowers and Vince Hall aren't fast enough. Others are high on both. All it takes is one scout - and one general manager - to like a player and he'll be wearing that team's hat this weekend.

    In December, new Miami Dolphins executive vice-president Bill Parcells observed the Hokies' practice in south Florida, keeping a keen eye on defensive end Chris Ellis. "He's watching how he practices," one Dolphins' staffer suggested. NFL personnel people don't want slackers or mopers on their rosters. They invest too much money to draft 'Sour-puss Paulie,' even if the guy has a ton of talent.

    That's why one team's assessment of a player might be totally different than another's.

    What's perhaps the most remarkable thing is Tech's recruiting classes in 2002 and 2003 weren't ranked in the top 20. Yet the Hokies had more players at the combine than any team other than USC. Think about that for a moment. Tech had recruiting classes ranked in the 20's and 40's during those two years and yet won 10 or more games in four straight seasons.

    Clearly, Beamer and his staff are doing a remarkable job of evaluating high school talent and a terrific job of preparing kids for the NFL. In fact, Tech's had 38 players selected this decade, substantially more than any other decade (see chart).

    So what happens on Saturday? The answer varies by team.

    Player: Brandon Flowers
    Position: Cornerback
    At a glance: After a tremendous junior season in which he made a bunch of All-American teams, Flowers declared for the NFL Draft. At 5-foot-10, 190 pounds, he's not the biggest corner in the draft, but he has great instincts.
    What the scouts like: He can hit, as all Hokie fans and most ACC receivers know. He is very instinctive and quick.
    What they don't like: Some NFL teams think he's too small. He didn't have a great combine, but ran much better at Tech's pro day in Blacksburg. We know he's not a blazer and some NFL people don't think he's strong enough. 
    Projection: first or second round
    Hokie fact: Virginia Tech has had nine defensive backs drafted in the past seven NFL drafts and at least one defensive back taken in the past nine drafts.
    Recent cornerbacks drafted from VT: Jimmy Williams (2006, second round, Atlanta), Eric Green (2005, third round, Arizona), DeAngelo Hall (2004, first round, Atlanta), Ike Charlton (2000, second round, Seattle), Anthony Midget (2000, fifth round, Atlanta).


    Player: Duane Brown
    Position: Offensive tackle
    At a glance: In just three years since moving from tight end, Brown became one of the top tackles in the ACC. He wowed the scouts at the East-West Shrine game and then again at the combine. He has a great 40-yard dash (you've seen him race down field on punts, no?).
    What the scouts like: He can really move, has long arms and great balance. He has only played tackle for three years, which means he has a huge upside. He can also be a great addition on special teams as a kick blocker.
    What they don't like: Some NFL people think Duane doesn't have that killer instinct and that he isn't strong enough. They don't think he has great technique either, but remember, he was a tight end converted to tackle. 
    Projection: second round
    Hokie fact: Virginia Tech has not had an offensive tackle taken in the first day of the NFL Draft since Eugene Chung was picked in the first round in 1992.
    Recent offensive tackles drafted from VT: Brandon Frye (2007, fifth round, Houston), Jimmy Martin (2006, seventh round, San Diego), Jon Dunn (2005, sixth round, Cleveland), Derek Smith (1999, fifth round, Washington).


    Player: Xavier Adibi
    Position: Linebacker
    At a glance: One of the best linebackers Tech's ever had. Superb instincts, a tremendous person, and an aggressive playmaker who fit Tech's scheme perfectly. 
    What the scouts like: Looking for a leader? Here's your guy. Great speed, agility and a nose for the ball. The guy has great instincts. Can really help on special teams.
    What they don't like: At 6-2, 235, X is a bit small for some teams. He didn't run a great time at the combine (4.69) or at Tech's pro day (4.68 and 4.62). Some teams think he's a bit smaller and not as fast as others at his position. He's an undersized linebacker to many teams.
    Projection: second or third round
    Hokie fact: Xavier's brother, Nathaniel, was a fifth-round pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2004 draft.
    Recent linebackers drafted from VT: James Anderson (2006, third round, Carolina), Ben Taylor (2002, fourth round, Cleveland), Corey Moore (2000, third round, Buffalo), Ken Brown (1995, fourth round, Denver).


    Player: Eddie Royal
    Position: Wide receiver
    At a glance: Eddie was just the third-leading receiver for the Hokies last season, but is a special teams demon, leading the ACC in punt returns with a 14.7 average.
    What the scouts like: He had a great combine and timed great. A very strong guy with a 400-pound bench press. Has great vision and the ability to make things happen on special teams. Will make the NFL as a special teams guy if nothing else, but could develop into a solid receiver, too. 
    What they don't like: Some teams questioned his durability and consistency in running routes.
    Projection: second or third round
    Hokie fact: In the Frank Beamer-era, Tech has had just three receivers drafted during the first day of the NFL Draft - Antonio Freeman in 1995 by Green Bay, Bryan Still in 1996 by San Diego and André Davis in 2002 by Cleveland.
    Recent wide receivers drafted from VT: David Clowney (2007, fifth round, Green Bay), Ernest Wilford (2004, fourth round, Jacksonville), André Davis (2002, second round, Cleveland).


    Player: Chris Ellis
    Position: Defensive end
    At a glance: Had a great career at Tech and really matured over the past two seasons. Some NFL teams really like him in a 3-4 alignment and that might suit him better at the next level. He might be a better pro than college player. Could be the next Darryl Tapp.
    What the scouts like: Everyone agrees that Ellis will get bigger and maintain his speed. He is already quick and strong and does a nice job against the run. They like his technique, and in the Charley Wiles-model, he plays with a great motor.
    What they don't like: He needs to get heavier and stronger, which will happen in the NFL. At the moment, some teams suggest he will have trouble shedding blocks.
    Projection: third or fourth round
    Hokie fact: Ellis will likely be the second Bethel High School Bruin to follow the path from Tech to the NFL. Jimmy Williams was the first.
    Recent defensive ends drafted from VT: Darryl Tapp (2006, second round, Seattle), Nathaniel Adibi (2004, fifth round, Pittsburgh), Derrius Monroe (2002, seventh round, New Orleans).


    Player: Vince Hall
    Position: Linebacker
    At a glance: Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster said Hall is 'the best player I've coached in my career.' That's mighty strong praise.
    What the scouts like: He's intense. He has great instincts. He's tough, physical and great against the run. He can read plays and seems to get to the football quicker than he should.
    What they don't like: NFL people think he's limited because of his size and speed. To some, Vince is just a very, very good football player who might not have the tools to be a high draft pick.
    Projection: This is a tough one. Some observers have Vince going as high as the fifth round. Others suggest he's a late pick or free-agent signee. Too small and too slow? Hmm. Didn't they say that about Ben Taylor? He was a fourth round pick. If you can play ... you can play. Ben could play. And Vince can play.


    Player: Carlton Powell
    Position: Defensive tackle
    At a glance: CP was one of the real keys to Virginia Tech's defense over the past couple of years. A very solid tackle who used his speed and quickness to clog up the middle. Not many offensive linemen can move him off the ball.
    What the scouts like: NFL people like how CP moves. He's a quick guy who can shed blocks and is tough at the point of attack.
    What they don't like: He's not the biggest tackle in the world and doesn't have the 'burst' a lot of teams like. 
    Projection: sixth or seventh round
    Hokie fact: As good as Tech's been on defense, the Hokies have had just one defensive tackle drafted in the past five years (Jonathan Lewis).
    Recent defensive tackles drafted from VT: Jonathan Lewis (2006, sixth round, Arizona), Chad Beasley (2002, seventh round, Minnesota), David Pugh (2002, sixth round, Indianapolis), John Engelberger (2000, second round, San Francisco).


    Player: Justin Harper
    Position: Wide receiver
    At a glance: Is this another guy who could have a better career as a pro than a collegian? It's possible with Justin, who has great size, good hands, and is a terrific leaper. Sound like Ernest Wilford?
    What the scouts like: Oh, NFL people like tall receivers with long arms and soft hands. 
    What they don't like: Justin is not a blazer and some scouts are concerned with his speed. Some also say he is not 'explosive' off the line of scrimmage and that he didn't catch the football consistently.
    Projection: sixth or seventh round 
    Hokie fact: In the fall of 2003, Justin caught a 47-yard touchdown pass at Lane Stadium against the Hokies' JV team when he was playing for Hargrave Military Academy. At the time, there was some thought that Justin might play basketball in college - Southern Conference schools had offered the North Carolina native. After that game, it was clear that Justin had a solid football future.


    Player: Josh Morgan
    Position: Wide receiver
    At a glance: Josh had his moments at Tech and will certainly be in an NFL camp. The question is: Will he be drafted, or sign as a free agent?
    What the scouts like: He's a terrific athlete with great size and good quickness. He is also a good leaper and could be a very good special teams player.
    What they don't like: Does not have great speed compared to the other WR's in the draft and is not considered a deep threat. Some think he drops too many catchable passes.
    Projection: sixth or seventh round


    Player: D.J. Parker
    Position: Safety
    At a glance: A real quarterback on defense for the Hokies who can do the same at the next level if given the chance. A smart guy who can excel on special teams.
    What the scouts like: The NFL people call him a 'smooth' athlete, which is a good way of putting it. He is very fluid and they love his attitude and the intangibles. Has very good upside.
    What they don't like: Not quite big enough for some teams and he timed a bit slower than other safeties.
    Projection: sixth or seventh round, or free-agent signing.
    Recent safeties drafted from VT: Aaron Rouse (2007, third round, Green Bay), Justin Hamilton (2006, seventh round, Cleveland), Vincent Fuller (2005, fourth round, Tennessee).


    Player: Barry Booker
    Position: Defensive tackle
    At a glance: Wow, what a career Barry had at Tech. A key guy on Tech's defensive front over the past couple of years. 
    What the scouts like: He's strong, he's quick, and aggressive. Very good against the run. Good motor. Ranked among the top 18-20 defensive tackles in the draft.
    What they don't like: Not a dominator inside. 
    Projection: Will make someone's camp this July either as a late-round pick or a free agent signee. Like Powell, Booker is too good of a football player not to have a chance to wear an NFL helmet this summer. Count on it.

    For updates on Virginia Tech Athletics, follow the Hokies on Twitter (@hokiesports).

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