The Bears saw plenty of success taking a Virginia Tech product in Round 1 back in 2014, when they took eventual two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Kyle Fuller. Fuller’s time with the team has come to an end, but Chicago could look to go back to Blacksburg, VA. with their first-round pick in 2021.
Offensive tackle Christian Darrisaw broke out in 2020, cementing himself as one of the top blockers in the nation. His combination of lateral mobility in pass protection and power at the point of attack figures to translate to the NFL level, and the projected first-round pick is confident that he will be able to do exactly that.
“Taking my game to the next level, you just have to be confident at the end of the day,” Darrisaw told Windy City Gridiron. “They’re going to draft you for a reason, and you have to have the ability to go out there to perform. You can’t worry about things. Every time you step on that practice field, just go out there with that mindset that you just want to be the best player you can be. Like I said, a big key is confidence, for sure; you never can doubt yourself, like ‘am I ready for this moment?’ or anything. Just go out there and know that you’re prepared. These coaches, they’re going to teach you the game. You have your teammates who you can steal things from, some tips and keys, what it takes to be in the league.”
Darrisaw confirmed that he has had meetings with the Bears, who would likely consider adding him to their offensive line if he’s available at No. 20. Offensive line coach Juan Castillo was among the team’s three allotted guests at the Pro Day.
The first-team All-ACC lineman also mentioned former Bears guard Josh Sitton as a player who has played a large role in helping him in his pre-draft process.
“We’ve been breaking down different defensive schemes,” explained Darrisaw. “Like the over-under front, bear. Just the little things like that. It’s like coming in as a rookie, [learning] the playbook. That’s what it’s going to take to get me on the field faster. [I] work out, stay in shape, take care of your body was a huge thing. The moment you get hurt, you don’t know what happens after that. Just play every down like it’s your last, and everything will work out.”
With the aforementioned departure of Kyle Fuller, the Bears now find themselves in the cornerback market, even after bringing in Desmond Trufant. Caleb Farley is one of the top players at the position in the 2021 draft, and after being the first big-name college player to opt out of the 2020 season, he had the chance to speak with teams and stake his claim as the best defensive back in the class.
Farley was recruited as a wide receiver coming out of high school and actually served as a dual-threat quarterback at that level. He redshirted the 2017 season after suffering a knee injury in camp, but he did have the chance to learn some technicalities of the receiver position. He states that both that experience and his time as a quarterback have helped him gain a sharper understanding of how to read an offense.
“Coming in at [Virginia] Tech, I was comfortable playing receiver because I was an offensive guy running with the football and playing quarterback,” Farley noted. “But truly, I really wasn’t a receiver, either. I didn’t have a lot of route-running savvy, I was just an athlete: quick off the line and just quick-footed. I really didn’t have a natural position [coming out of high school], but I think what [former Hokies wide receivers coach Holmon] Wiggins, in the limited amount of time I had with [him] and what he was trying to teach us on how to attack a DB, I remember everything from their side, from the corner’s side to the quarterback’s side. I definitely think it’s given me an advantage.”
Another one of Virginia Tech’s key defensive backs was safety Divine Deablo, a 6-foot-3, 226-pound converted wide receiver who ran a 4.42 40-yard dash on Friday. Though his size, athleticism and ball skills have translated from the receiver position, it’s his tackling ability and his physicality that have teams intrigued. In fact, he mentions that some teams have projected him as a WILL linebacker.
Deablo’s rapid development as a tackler has been impressive to watch, and it’s something that he is still working on.
“The thing about tackling, you don’t get too many opportunities to tackle your teammates in practice,” Deablo said. “Whenever we scrimmaged, I’d get next to the ball and wrap up, squeeze, get him to the ground — most important part. I think I can be a lot more aggressive when I do approach a tackle, and that can just take my game to another level.”
Deablo also mentioned that he has spoken with the Bears, who sent defensive backs coach Deshea Townsend to the Pro Day.
He wasn’t the only Hokie to impress in testing, though. Running back Khalil Herbert broke out in 2020 with 1,183 yards and 10 touchdowns as a graduate transfer from Kansas, and he brought his explosive and physical running style to the field on Friday. He ran a 4.44 40-yard dash and put up 22 bench press reps, a total that exemplifies the lightning quick, yet bowling ball style of play the 210-pounder executes.
Some have expressed concern about Herbert being just 5-foot-9, but he views his height — or lack, there of — as a positive. As a runner, low pad level can provide for better contact balance and more explosive cuts, and Herbert believes that his frame makes it a lot easier for him to run with a more technically-refined approach.
“My height’s never affected me before,” Herbert explained. “Running backs back in the day were all my size. I don’t think it affects me at all. It helps me playing the position I play at and keep that low center of gravity, keep my pads low. A lot of guys my height are doing great things in the league.”
Not soon after Zach Wilson stepped off the field at his Pro Day, the landscape of the 2021 NFL Draft shifted completely.
The 49ers’ move up to the No. 3 pick and the Dolphins’ trade back only to acquire the Eagles’ No. 12 pick being directly related to Wilson’s Pro Day performance is unlikely. However, the BYU gunslinger did put together a phenomenal showing in passing drills and showed why many see him as the likely second overall pick in this year’s draft.
“I think that the game of football is changing, especially the quarterback position,” Wilson said. “You want someone that’s athletic and mobile in the pocket and make all the throws, but also extend and make [throws] from different angles. It was good to work some of that today.”
Though Wilson is the player on BYU’s offense who has received the most national attention, the Cougars featured numerous talented prospects on that side of the ball. Dax Milne was the team’s leading receiver in 2020, and the fluid and physical wideout was able to showcase why he’s more than deserving of getting drafted come April.
“What I’ve been telling scouts when they’ve asked about me is first, just my pure competitiveness and my will to win,” Milne explained. “I’ve always told people that I hate losing more than I love winning. I think that really drive me to be a great competitor and ultimately sets me apart from my mindset like that. Physically, the way I run routes, I take pride in running crisp routes that a lot of people strive to emulate me, and like I mentioned before, my great hands: I feel like my ball skills really set me apart, and I can compete with anyone in the league in that way.”
BYU’s offensive line also played a big role in helping keep their offense running, and manning the blind side in 2020 was left tackle Brady Christensen. At 6-foot-6 and 302 pounds, he ran a 4.89 40-yard dash with 30 bench press reps and a 10-foot-4 broad jump, the latter of which being the best broad jump measurement for an offensive lineman in recorded history. His athleticism is apparent on tape and impressed scouts on Friday, but he has been receptive in technique tips from experienced offensive linemen, including a former Bears starter.
“As far as who I’ve leaned on, John Tait — he played left tackle [at BYU] and got drafted in the first round — I’ve talked to him,” Christensen mentioned. “I trained down with about 14, 15 o-linemen down in Dallas, TX. at Michael Johnson Performance. Just leaning on them, they’ve been through their Pro Days, and I’ve just been picking their brains at what they’ve been doing and just supporting each other.”