In preparation for the 2013 NFL Draft, NFLDraftScout.com will profile the top draft-eligible prospects from FBS-level programs. This summer series will run until the start of the college football season.
NFL Draft picks the last five years: 10
2012 NFL Draft picks: 1 – DE Cam Johnson (7th round, 237th overall)
Although Virginia isn't known as a hotbed for NFL talent, the Cavaliers have produced at least one NFL Draft pick in 29 straight years, second only to Miami (Fla.) among ACC teams. Virginia had just three total players drafted over the last three years, but from 2005-08, the Cavaliers had 17 players selected in the NFL Draft, including four first round picks (Chris Long, Branden Albert, D'Brickashaw Ferguson and Heath Miller).
After a four-win season in year one of the Mike London era in 2010, Virginia finished 8-5 last year, including wins on the road against Miami (Fla.) and Florida State. It might be tough for the Cavaliers to reach eight wins again in 2012, but there is no questioning their talent on the roster that should extend their streak to 30 years of Virginia being represented on draft weekend.
Top-five prospects for the 2013 NFL Draft
1. OT Oday Aboushi (6-6, 310)
Only Southern Cal has produced as many first round offensive tackles since 2006 as Virginia and Aboushi (pictured above) could be next first round lineman for the Cavaliers. The senior has 25 starts to his name at Virginia, including 20 at left tackle after starting his career on the right side. Aboushi was a three-star offensive line recruit out of Brooklyn and chose Virginia after de-committing from Boston College. He saw limited action as a true freshman in 2009 before starting every game the next season as a sophomore. Aboushi started the first five games at right tackle in 2010 before moving over to the left side because of injury, starting the final seven games. He started all 13 contests last season at left tackle as a junior, earning Second Team All-ACC honors. Aboushi has good size and athleticism to hold his own in pass protection, but needs to improve his consistency as a run blocker. It helps that he is his biggest critic, always watching and critiquing his work in order to improve and earning praise from the coaching staff because of his dedication. Aboushi, who is Muslim-American, needs to cut down on the penalties and mental errors, but he has a pro future with the potential to be a top-64 pick.
2. OT Morgan Moses (6-6, 335)*
Over the last decade, Virginia has made a strong case to be known as “O-line U” after producing several offensive line prospects for the next level. And while Aboushi was No. 1 on this list, his bookend Morgan Moses isn't too far behind. The junior is entering his third season as a starter for the Cavaliers, spending most of his time at right tackle, despite practicing on the left side in the spring. Moses was regarded as one of the top offensive tackle recruits out of high school and committed to Virginia, but didn't qualify academically and enrolled at Fork Union Military Academy. Although he looked around at different schools after Al Groh was fired in Charlottesville, Moses recommitted to the Cavaliers in 2010 and started seven games as a true freshman (six at right tackle, one at right guard). He moved to right tackle full-time in 2011 as a sophomore, starting all 13 games. Moses needs to keep his weight in-check after ballooning close to 350 pounds last year, but weighed-in closer to his goal playing weight of 325-335 pounds during the spring. He is the definition of a “dancing bear” with his mammoth size and nimble feet. Moses likes to use his limbs to get his hands on defenders and take them wherever he wants, but needs to continue and refine his technique. If he continues to develop while staying in shape, Moses will be an attractive blocker for the next level.
3. TE Colter Phillips (6-6, 245)
If players were drafted based on collegiate production, Phillips would be lucky to get a try-out in the NFL. With only 26 catches entering his senior season, he has as many career receptions as he does starts for Virginia. Phillips was a top-40 tight end recruit out of high school and chose Virginia over Stanford and Wake Forest. After redshirting in 2008, he started 16 games over his first two seasons, combining for 23 catches and three scores. Phillips battled a foot injury last season as a junior and started nine games, but recorded just three receptions. Phillips comes from a football family as his older brother (Andrew) was an All-Conference lineman at Stanford and his younger brother (Paul) is currently a sophomore tight end at Indiana. Colter needs to stay healthy, but moves well for his size and has the skill-set to have a break-out 2012 campaign. Virginia has had three tight ends drafted since 2005, including Heath Miller who was taken in the first round by the Pittsburgh Steelers. While Phillips is a long-shot to go in the top-32 picks, he could warrant a draft pick with a healthy senior season.
4. RB Perry Jones (5-8, 185)
Nicknamed “Superman,” Jones is a do-everything offensive weapon for the Cavaliers. Entering his third season as the starting running back, he is one of the top rushers and receivers for Virginia and will share the offensive team captain duties with Aboushi in 2012. Jones was a lightly recruited safety out of high school and appeared mostly on special teams for Virginia as a true freshman. He started 11 games at running back in 2010, but finished second on the team in rushing with 646 yards and one score. Jones started all 13 games as a junior last season, finishing with a team-best 915 rush yards and five touchdowns. He also finished second on the team in receiving with 48 grabs for 506 yards and three scores, earning All-ACC Honorable Mention honors. Despite his 185-pound frame, Jones is a decisive runner with a tough, hard-nosed running style, never backing down from contact. He runs with good balance and lateral agility, flashing deceiving quickness and impressive ballskills out of the backfield (80 career catches). Jones also contributes on special teams, but has struggled as a return man and needs to show better patience and discipline as a runner. He isn't yet a finished product, but Jones is one of the more underrated senior running backs in this draft class.
5. MLB Steve Greer (6-2, 225)
The lone defensive player on this list, Greer emerged as the leader of the defense last season, recording a team-best 103 total stops. He will be heavily relied upon in 2012 as a senior and was made a team captain by the coaching staff. Greer was lightly-recruited out of Ohio and redshirted in 2008. He saw immediate playing time as a redshirt freshman in 2009 middle linebacker, starting 12 games and leading the team in tackles (92). Although he played in every game in 2010, Greer started only one game as a sophomore, but still finished second on the team with 59 total tackles. He earned his starting middle linebacker spot back in 2011 as a junior and led the team in tackles again, adding 6.0 tackles for loss, 2.0 sacks, four pass break-ups and a forced fumble. Greer is a tough, tenacious player with a glass-eating attitude, but lacks the range and fluidity to cover both sidelines. He has the physical nature to play the run at the next level, but needs to prove to scouts that he has the athleticism and instincts to drop in coverage.
QB Michael Rocco (6-3, 225)*
WR Tim Smith (6-0, 185)*
DT Will Hill (6-4, 280)
OLB Ausar Walcott (6-4, 240)
OLB LaRoy Reynolds (6-2, 230)
For more 2012 college football draft previews click here.
Photo credit: US Presswire