Every player that a college sends to the NFL is a major boon for recruiting. Virginia Tech and UVA both made their marks at the professional level this year at the NFL combine.
Four players form Virginia Tech and two from Virginia were among the draft hopefuls in Indianapolis trying to improve their overall draft stock.
Though the combine is very limited in what it can show NFL teams, each player comes hoping to answer the key concern teams may have regarding their NFL potential.
Here’s a look at how each local player performed and how it affected their draft stock:
Antone Exum, CB
Key question: Has he fully recovered from his ACL tear?
This is where Exum no doubt hoped he would be a year ago, but a torn ACL caused him to put off the NFL for another year. ACL tears require a lengthy healing process and he started in only three games in 2013. He was clearly not at 100% during the season.
The combine was important for Exum to show NFL teams he is back to the dynamic corner he was in 2012, but it looks like he is still feeling the effects of the knee injury.
Exum was near the bottom among defensive backs in the vertical jump and broad jump, showing he may still be favoring the knee. At the very least it shows he is not getting enough push from it. His 4.59 second 40 time also did not stand out.
The news isn’t all bad. He showed good strength in the bench press and there could be potential for him as an NFL safety. Given his apparent average speed and his short height (5’11”), switching to safety may be necessary.
There’s potential there, but he has to get healthy first.
Kyle Fuller, CB
Key question: Could he justify the first round projections by some analysts?
Exum may have been the bigger name in college, but coming into the combine there was more buzz over Fuller’s potential in the NFL. Some analysts, including Mike Mayock of the NFL Network, believed he could be a first round pick depending on what he showed at the combine.
A respectable 4.49 in the 40-yard dash won't turn heads, but it was just outside of the top 10 for defensive backs at the combine. He was also tied for third in the broad jump and tied for sixth in the vertical jump.
Though he did not clock in as fast as he may have hoped, he did show he has the physical tools that first brought him to the attention of several analysts in the first place. He may not have lived up to the lofty expectations his most optimistic of supporters had for him, but he still did pretty well.
He won’t go in the top round, but he'll still be among one of the first corners taken.
James Gayle, DE
Key question: Does he have the athleticism to switch from defensive end to linebacker?
Gayle was a dominant pass rusher at Virginia Tech, but he lacks the size of an NFL defensive end and will likely have to make the switch to linebacker in the NFL. It is always hard to tell how a player may handle a position change so the combine workouts offer an important look into the athletic tools available to young players.
As the linebacker position requires more athleticism and agility than defensive end, Gayle needed to perform well in the workouts to show scouts he can make a successful transition.
Gayle worked out with the defensive linemen and clocked the seventh highest 40-yard dash and cone drill times at the position. More importantly, however, when comparing his times with other linebackers at the combine, Gayle’s times look decidedly more average.
The real question for Gayle, and for anyone transitioning from end to linebacker, is how well will he do in coverage. The combine can’t test that. He was a good pass rusher in college, but in terms of linebackers he looks like he’s just middle of the pack.
Trending: Down, slightly
Logan Thomas, QB
Key question: Is he a quarterback or a tight end?
Thomas was first recruited as a tight end by Virginia Tech, but converted to quarterback. Now, he may need to transition back.
Thomas looked fantastic in the combine, performing better in the workouts than any other quarterback. He had the fastest 40-yard dash, the best vertical jump, the best broad jump, the second best 20-yard shuttle behind only Johnny Manziel, and the fourth best cone drill time.
If anyone had any questions about Thomas’ size and athleticism, he answered those questions. The problem is that he answered none of the questions scouts have about him as a quarterback.
Thomas’ three seasons at Virginia Tech were marked with inconsistencies. In his college career, he threw for 53 touchdowns and 39 interceptions. His footwork and decision making is questionable and that’s not something you can really test in the short workouts at the combine.
Whatever position he may play depends on what he can show scouts at Virginia Tech's pro day, but there’s no denying his size and athleticism. It’s clear he is going to be in the NFL. The questin is where?
Trending: Up, slightly
Brent Urban, DT
Urban was invited to the combine, but did not participate in drills due to an injury he sustained in the senior bowl. At 6’7” his size is impressive and he has definite pro potential. He was even selected in the second round of the 2013 CFL Draft by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
A fifteen minute interview likely will not be the deciding factor for any team as to whether or not to draft him. Though teams would be interested in seeing him workout, his size is what they’re really after.
Morgan Moses, OT
Key question: Does Moses have the athleticism to play left tackle or does he rely too much on his size?
What excites scouts most about Moses is his sheer size. He is 6’6” and has an arm length of 33 3/8”. This guy is just a monster of a man.
Size can also be a detriment, however.
Moses weighed in at 314 lbs. which is not bad, but he first came into UVa weighing 350. This tells teams they will have to monitor him in order to keep his weight low.
Moses first played right tackle for the Cavaliers, but switched to left tackle in his senior year and started all 12 games at that position. His performance at the combine would determine for a lot of scouts which side he was more suited for in the NFL.
The results were not great.
Moses had a pretty average workout leaving more questions over this athleticism than answers.
His 21.5” vertical leap was tied for last among all offensive linemen who participated and his 20-yard shuttle time was in the bottom three.
The lack of athleticism he showed will make several teams pencil him in on their draft board as a right tackle which automatically decreases his value. His size still makes him one of the top offensive linemen in the draft, but he probably dropped from the top five to the top ten at the position.