Posted by: ewadd986 | 03/29/2011

Prospects: WVU

Hey  everyone, I know it’s been a while but I’m back from spring break and ready to get back into some NFL Draft discussion.  The draft is right around the corner, we’re almost into April and only 30 days away from the first day!  I was invited by Steve Shoup at Fanspeak to do a write up about the prospective players from West Virginia and thought that that was a great idea.  In years past the Mountaineers have put some pretty big name guys in the league like Pacman Jones, Chris Henry and Steve Slaton but WVU has never had more than 3 players drafted in the same year this past decade.  However, this year the Mountaineers could see as many as six players drafted into the NFL.  Here is a short review of some of the WVU players looking to make an impact at the next level.

Noel Devine

Noel Devine is the headline of this West Virginia class and rightfully so.  The 5-8′ 180 pound, lightning fast running back from Fort Meyers, FL was one of the most heavily recruited players in the country as a high school senior.  Many thought he would end up at FSU where his mentor Deion Sanders attended but he eventually decided to don the old gold and blue and became just the second five star recruit to attend West Virginia in the football programs history.  Devine came in as a freshman and immediately showed flashes of what all the hype was about.  Many WVU fans probably remember his breakout performance against MD where he rushed for 136 yards on just 5 carries!  He finished his stellar career with 4,315 rushing yards with 29 touchdowns to go along.  Now he will look to make an impact as a special teamer and change of pace back in the NFL.

Although Devine might be the most recognizable WVU player in the draft, it’s unlikely that he will be the first one off the board.  A lot of red flags were raised at the senior bowl when he weighed in at just 160 pounds, ant like by NFL standards.  Devine has risen his weight back to 180 and attributes the low weight to being sick but teams will definitely still be thrown off by his lack in size.  At the senior bowl QB’s couldn’t see him over bigger players sometimes in the flat and he was often ineffective when running between the tackles.  Devine’s strengths however are in his lateral agilities, he runs best when he can get to the outside or making a one cut north and south run like in a Mike Shanahan offense.  He can stop on a dime and is more quick than fast.  He doesn’t have the greatest top end speed but in the first 10-15 yards he is as fast as you will see.  I think that lack of size and durability will scare some traditional teams off but with the way NFL offenses have been shifting to a more spread like system for example the Chiefs and Patriots, I could see one of those teams drafting Devine to be a scat back, slot type receiver in the mold of Dexter McCluster.  Most mocks I have been looking at have Devine going in the later rounds 6-7 but as high as round 3.  In my opinion he falls somewhere in the middle and is likely to get drafted around round 5.  I just think that in the end his body of work stands for itself and after running in the low 4.4’s at his pro day, some questions have been answered and Devine is still only at 80% health.  I think in the end Devine will be a nice role player in the NFL who could have a similar career to San Diego Charger, Darren Sproles.


Robert Sands

Robert “The Sandman” Sands or “The Predator” as some call him, saw his fandom at WVU blowup in his sophomore season.  Unlike Devine, Sands was not highly rated coming out of high school but he did have some pretty big offers from schools like Miami and rival Pittsburgh.  Sands is a rare physical specimen at the safety position.  Standing at an enormous 6-5′ 220 pounds, you would think he was a linebacker but when looking at him you can see that he has a tall, agile body.  In his sophomore campaign Sands used his rare height to his advantage and was able to grab a career high 5 interceptions while also making 31 tackles.  WVU fans were more than ecstatic to see what Sands would do his junior season and although it wasn’t what some might have expected, he did not disappoint.  Sands racked up a career high 46 tackles to go along with 2 sacks but just one intercepton, although teams did try to stay away from Sands and his ability to pick the ball off with his long arms.

As far as a draft prospect goes, Sands will probably be the first guy off the board for WVU.  This draft class is very thin at the safety position and it’s very possible that the first one wont come the board until round 2.  Sands had the best combine performance out of all the mountaineers running a very respectable 4.53 40 while looking pretty athletic in most drills.  Some teams scouted Sands at his pro day as a OLB and some kept him at his traditional safety position.  I think he still works best as a SS and special teams player but OLB could be a possibility if he can bulk up without losing agility.  Sands is very good in run support, adequate in the pass with good ball hawking skills but a questionable back pedal.  In all, I think a team will take Sands in the 3rd round and see him going no lower than the 4th.


Other Notable Players:

Brandon Hogan– A very good cover corner with great ball skills.  However, teams will certainly look at his DUI and public urination charge and that will cause him to drop quite a bit.  If not for that, he could be a 3rd round talent but likely drops to rounds 5-6.

Jock Sanders- Noel Devine’s partner in crime.  Another short knocker who compiled a ton of yards during his career at WVU.  He has more experience at Devine at the slot position and teams like the Chiefs have said to be interested in him.  It wouldn’t surprise me to see him go before his counterpart somewhere in round 5.

Chris Neild- Was the unheralded anchor of the 2nd ranked defense in the country, manning the nose tackle position in the 3-3-5.  Neild controlled the line of scrimmage throughout his career and is what you would call a blue-collar player.  Not the most physically gifted guy but he has a tremendous motor and will appeal to 3-4 teams as a backup/role player.  Prediction, 5th or 6th round.

J.T. Thomas– Very productive linebacker in his time at WVU and a consistent leader on that 2nd ranked defense.  Has some nice speed off the edge and actually showed some nice ability in the positional drills at the combine.  Thing is LB is one of the deeper positions come draft time and he does a lot of things good and not one thing extremely well.  He could be a dime a dozen WILL in a 4-3 but his career of work says that he can play in the NFL.  7th rounder to undrafted.


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