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.
VIRGINIA TECH HOKIES
NFL Draft picks the last five years: 20
2012 NFL Draft picks: 3 – RB David Wilson (1st round, 32nd overall), CB Jayron Hosley (3rd round, 94th overall), WR Danny Coale (5th round, 152nd overall)
The Hokies have recorded double-digit wins each of the past eight seasons and have been just as successful sending players to the NFL. Since 2000, Virginia Tech has had 58 players selected on NFL Draft weekend, and to put that in perspective, that's more than Alabama (55), Michigan (54) or Texas (52) over that time span.
The last time Virginia Tech produced a first round quarterback, Michael Vick was drafted by the Falcons first overall in 2001. Time will tell, but there is a good chance another Hokies' quarterback goes in the first round next April, and it's not impossible to think Logan Thomas could go first overall, just like Vick a dozen years ago. But the talent on the Hokies' roster goes beyond Thomas, especially on defense.
Top-five prospects for the 2013 NFL Draft
1. QB Logan Thomas (6-6, 260)*
Fair or not, get ready for the Cam Newton comparisons because Logan Thomas (pictured above) looks the part and shows flashes that will remind you of the former Heisman Trophy winner. At 6-6 and 260 pounds, he has a big-league arm with the athleticism to make plays with his legs and move the offense up and down the field. Last season in his first year as a starter, Thomas accounted for 30 total touchdowns (19 passing/11 rushing) while leading the Hokies to an 11-win season and trip to the Sugar Bowl. He had just one 300-yard passing game and struggled in some big moments, but he could be just scratching the surface of his potential, which is the largest reason for the intrigue around his pro prospects. Most high school quarterbacks lament the thought of changing positions, but Thomas was recruited as a tight end/wide receiver and he had no problem with that, he just wanted to play offense. The Lynchburg-native actually preferred to stay at tight end, but the Hokies' coaching staff had other plans, moving him to quarterback soon after he arrived in Blacksburg. After redshirting in 2009, he was the back-up quarterback behind Tyrod Taylor in 2010 and was also used at receiver in a few packages. Thomas became the starter last season as a redshirt sophomore, finishing with 3,013 passing yards, 469 rushing yards, 19 passing scores, 11 rushing scores, 10 interceptions and a 59.8% completion percentage. He earned Second Team All-ACC honors in his first season as the starter and made believers out of a lot of doubters, including himself. Now with a year under his belt, it will be interesting to see the development of Thomas and you can bet the NFL is watching, extremely close. Is he a future No. 1 overall pick like Newton? Too early to tell, but the raw talent is too good to dismiss the thought.
2. DE James Gayle (6-4, 260)*
Dubbed the next great Hokies' pass rusher by the Virginia Tech coaching staff, Gayle had a breakout sophomore season in 2011 with a team-best 7.0 sacks. Teaming with J.R. Collins at the other defensive end spot, the defensive end duo is among the best in the ACC and possibly the nation. Gayle wasn't highly recruited out of Hampton, Virginia, but really impressed the Hokies' coaches with his work ethic and natural ability. After redshirting in 2009, he spent the 2010 season as a back-up defensive end, registering 13 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss and 4.0 sacks. Gayle had his best season last year as a sophomore with 7.0 sacks, 12.5 tackles for loss and 38 total tackles, earning Second Team All-ACC honors. He lacks imposing size, but is strongly-built throughout his frame with the natural burst and quickness to explode off the edge with flexibility and raw power. Gayle needs to continue and develop his pass rush moves to win one-on-one battles when he doesn't gain a step off the snap and become more creative to keep blockers guessing. In a crowded defensive end class next April, Gayle could emerge as one of the top pass rushers in the draft.
3. MLB Bruce Taylor (6-2, 255)
Although a foot injury clouds his future, Taylor is one of the more underrated defensive prospects for the 2013 NFL Draft. The middle linebacker was on pace to lead the Hokies in tackles for the second straight season in 2011 before he suffered a Lisfranc fracture in his right foot, missing the final six games last season and team activities this past spring. Taylor expects to be ready for his senior season in August, but the injury is much more serious than originally thought and it might take longer until he's at full health. He was a three-star linebacker recruit out of Myrtle Beach, choosing Virginia Tech over Clemson, South Carolina and Florida State. After he redshirted because of a shoulder injury in 2008, Taylor started a combined 14 games as a freshman and sophomore, including a team-best 91 tackles in 2010. He was having his best season in 2011 with 53 tackles through eight games, but the foot injury sent him to the sidelines. Taylor is a balanced athlete with a strong upper body and very good instincts to diagnose the play and attack. He lacks elite lateral range and natural explosion, but is quick in pursuit and rarely misses tackles. When healthy, Taylor is the emotional leader of the Virginia Tech defense and has the skills to be an early round pick. But his right foot is something to keep an eye on.
4. CB Kyle Fuller (6-0, 190)*
The younger brother of former Virginia Tech defensive back Vincent Fuller, Kyle Fuller became a full-time starter last season at the field-corner position and emerged as one of the Hokies' top defenders. Despite the team's talent on the defensive line, it was actually Fuller who led the team in tackles for loss last season with 14.5, adding two interceptions and seven pass break-ups. After missing most of his final season in high school due to injury, Fuller didn't receive as many looks from colleges as his talent warranted, but because of his bloodlines, it was a good bet he was always headed for Blacksburg. He pushed for playing time as a true freshman in 2010 with six starts, lining up mostly at the nickel corner position. Fuller started every game as a sophomore last season and stood out as one of the leaders of the defense with 65 tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, one forced fumble and a pair of interceptions. He has an excellent feel in coverage with a nose for the ball, putting himself in position to make plays on the ball. Fuller needs to continue to spend time in the weight room and stay disciplined on the field, but he shows the awareness to play at the next level.
5. DE J.R. Collins (6-2, 250)*
Although he might be considered the “other” defensive end on the roster right now, it won't take too much longer for Collins to gain more praise for his pass rushing ability. He finished second on the team in sacks last season (6.0), just one behind Gayle. Collins flew under the radar as a prep recruit and redshirted his first season in Blacksburg. He played in every game as a reserve in 2010, recording 25 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss and 5.0 sacks. Along with Gayle, Collins became a starter last season as a sophomore and impressed in his first season with the first-team defense. He finished 2011 with 57 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, 6.0 sacks, one interception and led the team with 29 quarterback hurries, earning All-ACC Honorable Mention honors. Collins is a balanced rusher with the aggressive drive and relentless nature to put pressure on the backfield and create havoc around the ball. He lacks ideal size and doesn't always appear to have a plan, but closes in a flash and is still developing into the player he can be.
WR Marcus Davis (6-4, 230)
WR Dyrell Roberts (6-2, 190)
WR DJ Coles (6-3, 215)
OT Nick Becton (6-6, 330)
OT Vinston Painter (6-6, 305)
C Andrew Miller (6-4, 300)*
DT Antoine Hopkins (6-1, 320)
DT Derrick Hopkins (6-0, 305)*
OLB Jeron Gouveia-Winslow (6-2, 215)
OLB Tariq Edwards (6-2, 230)*
CB Antone Exum (6-0, 220)*
For more 2012 college football draft previews click here.
Photo credit: US Presswire