Although a lot of tonight's "will he stay or will he go" 2011 NFL Draft speculation will center around Stanford Cardinal quarterback Andrew Luck, Virginia Tech Hokies tailback Ryan Williams isn't too far behind. Williams has generated some buzz that he might himself turn pro as a sophomore himself, although he's not likely to touch the first round.
We already took a look at Stanford's NFL Draft Prospects for tonight's Orange Bowl contest. In this post we look at Virginia Tech's best talents.
Ryan Williams, tailback: At 5'10", 205 lb, Williams has the prototypical NFL frame, and is definitely in a position to crack the first three rounds in a weak year for tailbacks. Will that be enough to persuade Williams to come out early and test the pro waters?
Draft projection: 3rd round
Rashad Carmichael, cornerback: The senior leader of a stalwart Hokies defense that went undefeated in conference play, Carmichael can go a long way toward upping his draft stock by shutting down Luck's pass attack in tonight's contest. Check out this good read on Carmichael from Kyle Tucker of the Virginian Pilot. He also helped turn Virginia Tech around after their horrid 0-2 start with fiery words to the team, as they enter their bowl game on an eleven game win streak. Sounds like the type of guy who'd thrive in NFL locker rooms.
Draft projection: 4th round
Andre Smith, tight end: According to Gobbler Country, a lot of the offensive revival of Virginia Tech this season came courtesy of the contributions of Smith, who did everything a tight end should do. Watch for him to be a favorite target in the pass attack tonight, in addition to unleashing big blocks to power the rush attack of the Hokies.
Draft projection: 4th-6th round
Tyrod Taylor, quarterback: Taylor should provide a stark contrast in his quarterback style to Luck. Luck is mobile, but he primarily beats teams with his arm. Taylor is a scrambler in the mold of Randall Cunningham, and he'll throw on defenses once they respect his ability to run. Teams probably won't take a chance on him in later rounds, but don't sleep on him in developing into a legitimate NFL starter down the road.
Draft projection: 5th round-undrafted
Steven Friday, defensive end: Stanford had Doug Baldwin. Virginia Tech has Friday. Both didn't do much for their respective teams until exploding for remarkable senior campaigns. Friday is fifth on the team in tackles, first in sacks, and second in tackles for loss--if he can get pressure on Luck behind that immovable offensive line, he will boost his draft stock immensely.
Draft projection: 6th-7th round
John Graves, defensive tackle: Graves was the anchor inside to help power the generally solid Virginia Tech front seven. Graves also graduated in three years, so he's a model student as well.
Draft projection: 6th round-undrafted
Someone to keep an eye on for the future
Blake DeChristopher, offensive tackle: DeChristopher would probably be in the top twenty of offensive linemen to be chosen this year, but he's only a junior. With the promise of moving up to the first round and a top 10 pick, it's likely he'll return and be a force to be reckoned with next year.