In preparation for the 2014 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: 8
2013 NFL Draft picks: 1 – OT Oday Aboushi (5th round, New York Jets)
The past four years, Virginia has churned out just four NFL Draft picks, but that has been enough to extend one of the longest active streaks in the ACC. The Cavaliers football program has produced at least one draft pick each season dating back to 1984 and Oday Aboushi kept the streak alive for another year when he was chosen in the fifth round of the 2013 NFL Draft. That active streak is longer than Virginia Tech and Clemson and matches Florida State for second-best among current ACC teams (behind Miami). Will it continue another year? Probably, with senior offensive tackle Morgan Moses leading the way.
Top Virginia prospects for the 2013 NFL Draft
1. OT Morgan Moses (6-6, 330, 5.48)
A native of Richmond, Va., Moses found the field early in his career and earned regular playing time, starting 30 games at right tackle the past three seasons. But with Aboushi now in the NFL, Moses transitions to the left side as a senior, a move that NFL scouts will watch closely. Moses is a large human being and one of the better 330-plus-pound athletes on the planet; very few blockers his size can get out in front of his running back and demolish defenders 30 yards downfield like he can. Moses has a wide base, broad shoulders and uses angles well to shield defenders with strong hands to latch and drive. He tends to underestimate speed off the edge and lacks the recovery quickness to regain positioning, struggling with consistent focus at times. Moses lunges and bends at the waist too much, but his size and length combination usually allows him to get away with it. If he can hold up at left tackle, Moses will only bolster his already strong pro resume and projects as a better NFL prospect than his former teammate Aboushi.
2. CB Demetrious Nicholson (5-11, 170, 4.45)*
Ranked as the top high school recruit out of the state of Virginia three years ago, Nicholson became the first true freshman to start a season-opening game for the Cavaliers at cornerback since 1986. He started every game as a freshman in 2011 and last year as a sophomore (25 straight starts) and has totaled 25 passes defended over his two-year UVA career. Nicholson lacks an ideal frame for the position with a thin, wiry body type and very average height, but he play much bigger and isn't afraid to attack the run with veracity. He is a fluid, quick-footed athlete with natural flexibility to stay low in his stance and burst from a stationary position. After two pick-offs as a freshman, Nicholson didn't record an interception last season, but teams also stayed away from his side of the field and he'll likely see more of the same treatment in 2013. A dedicated, mature individual, Nicholson is a resilient leader who pushes himself on and off the field to get every ounce of talent out of his ability. While his size will ding him in the minds of some evaluators, one AFC scout has already dubbed him the “next Joe Haden.” Time will tell if Nicholson can live up to those high expectations, but he's off to the right start.
3. TE Jake McGee (6-5, 235, 4.79)*
After starting last season as the second or third tight end on the depth chart with zero career catches, McGee emerged as one of Virginia's more reliable targets in 2012, recording 28 catches for 374 yards and a team-best five touchdowns. He committed to Richmond out of high school to play quarterback, but followed former Spiders head coach Mike London to Virginia when he accepted the Cavaliers head job. McGee moved to tight end shortly after he arrived at Virginia but was relatively unknown until his breakout season last year. A tall, smooth athlete, McGee is able to create mismatches from the slot with the speed to beat linebackers down the seam and the body control and power to win in contested situations against defensive backs. He plays with the passion and confidence that coaches wish they could instill in all their players, showing the competitive drive to reach his full potential. While the current quarterback situation in Charlottesville is unsettled, McGee is already being dubbed the best tight end at Virginia since former first round pick Heath Miller.
Other Virginia prospects worth watching:
RB Kevin Parks (5-8, 200, 4.52)*
Despite just two starts last season, Parks led the team in rushing with 734 yards and five scores, using his undersized frame to his advantage.
WR Tim Smith (6-0, 190, 4.50)
After setting season highs in the 2012 opener, Smith struggled with injuries the rest of the season, and it appears that durability has stunted his development.
DT Chris Brathwaite (6-1, 280, 4.98)
After leading the team last season in sacks and tackles for loss as a backup, Brathwaite will miss the 2013 season due to academic troubles but is a name to watch for next year.
SS Brandon Phelps (6-0, 175, 4.49)*
A former cornerback, Phelps moved to free safety last season where he started all 12 games, finishing with 48 tackles and three pass breakups.