Through two rounds, the four of us have picked through the tops of many of the positional groups. The offensive lines have been addressed, the defenses are beginning to fill in, and almost everyone has their quarterback.
(Sidenote, "who will TFF take at QB" has become the most thrilling subplot of this draft. None of us know, and I'm not positive he does either. There seems to be an obvious choice — cue the 2004 ACC Player of the Year's music — but when has TFF ever stuck to the obvious? I'll remain convinced he's taking Marcus Vick or Mark Leal until I see otherwise.)
Now, the fun starts. Receivers come off the board in droves, there are a few picks that the old heads on this website will surely appreciate, and even — gasp — a specialist?
BEAMERBALL BABY, LET'S DO THIS.
1. Pierson: Antonio Freeman, WR
Freeman left Blacksburg as the most accomplished receiver in school history, racking up 120 receptions and 22 touchdowns. He broke many of Ricky Scales' school receiving records during a time when Dwayne Thomas and Ken Oxendine were running roughshod over the Big East. Freeman was almost ahead of his time, dominating hapless secondaries and special teams with his athleticism. Historically, Freeman has seen his name fall in the Tech record books as the modern game has become considerably more pass happy. But don't let that fool you — Freeman was a beast. He would eventually become a 3rd Round pick in the 1995 draft, winning a Super Bowl with the Packers. His 1998 season was career defining: He led the league in receptions, was named to his only Pro Bowl and was a First Team All-Pro. Freeman is also a member of both the Virginia Tech Sports and Green Bay Packers Hall of Fames.
2. Sam: Carroll Dale, WR
"A long strider yet also a smooth, crisp route runner, Carroll Dale was the Packers' big-play
receiver when they won three straight NFL championships under Vince Lombardi from 1965 to 1967. During that span, Dale caught 92 passes for 1,996 yards, a 21.7-yard average per catch, and 14 touchdowns. Dale's average per catch for all eight of his seasons in Green Bay was 19.7, still the team record for receivers with 150 receptions or more." -Cliff Christl, Green Bay Packers Team Historian, 2019
"He's as fine a route runner as I've ever seen...I think Carroll is deceptive with his speed. Because he runs so smoothly, he eases by a defensive back and the guy hasn't realized he's that fast. He runs beautiful routes ... What I'm saying is that Carroll is a great artist. He's really gorgeous to watch run when he runs a route." -Bart Starr, Green Bay Packers QB, 1970
Caroll Dale has his jersey retired in Lane Stadium. Real first guy in, last guy out gym rat kind of guy. Obviously, a sneaky athletic possession WR with beautiful route running. A winner his whole career, Dale was a 2nd team All-American in 1958 and 1959. He also won the Southern Conference Player of the Year award in 1958. He was also a 3-time pro-bowler for the Packers and competed in 4 super bowls. Reminds me a lot of a Julian Edleman kind of career.
3. Brian: Isaiah Ford, WR
Glad Sam took the guy who plays below the rim, I'm sure he'll matchup up JUST FINE against DeAngelo Hall. Definitely no athleticism difference there at all. While he take a receiver who looks like a villain in Remember the Titans I'll grab the true king of "sneaky fast", Isaiah Ford. All-ACC as a true freshman, sophomore, and junior, Ford isn't going to blow you away with athletic testing, but he'll sure as hell dominate you at the catch point. If Wilford is my number one, Ford can be my 1B, someone who Tyrod can trust on third down and in the red zone.
4. TFF: Derek Smith, OT
Going back to Big East days, Smith ended up a 3rd team All American in 1998 plowing holes for Lamont Pegues. He's probably more well known to more recent fans as the guy who (legitimately) called out the Athletic Department on how they treat former players, ushering in what hopes to be an improvement in relations, which to me then trickles down to improvements in recruiting and financial support. So bonus points!
1. TFF: Shayne Graham, K
HELL YES I'M TAKING A KICKER WAY TOO EARLY. I don't even feel like I have to explain this one, BUT I WILL. Four time All-Big East. Demolished the scoring record at Virginia Tech and held it for 15 years. Holder of the NFL record for tackles by a kicker in a season. Last but certainly not least, the boot behind the Miracle in Morgantown. Yeah, the Hokies had some good kickers, but there's a Tier 1 and then there's the rest. I got Tier 1, suckas.
2. Brian: Cory Bird, WHIP
Sometimes I hate drafting behind TFF. And then other times, he Janikowskis. I had my eyes on Smith for this pick, but with him off the board I'll nab Bird here. He's the poster child of the Whip position, an undersized linebacker who could make plays vs the run and match up up with tight ends and backs in coverage. Does he have the speed to run with slot receivers? I'm unsure, but with his instincts (he was always around the ball) I'm betting that he'd figure it out. Sometimes you just need to take a pure football player and fit him in later.
3. Sam: Terrell Edmunds, FS
Wow. As a die-hard Browns fan, taking a Pittsburgh Steeler, one I was critical of during his Tech days no less, shows great character development on my part. Terrell was a much better player at Tech than most people, including myself, gave him credit for, recording 196 tackles and 6 INT's in basically two years of defensive play at ROV (his sophomore year) then FS (his junior season). He was selected in the 1st round of the 2018 NFL Draft and has done pretty well for the Steelers, which I'm happy, but not really that happy about.
4. Pierson: Frank Loria, Rover
A two-time All-American (Tech's first consensus All-American) and College Football Hall of Fame inductee, Loria manned the Hokies defensive backfield with a certain Franklin Mitchell Beamer during the 1960's. Loria was best known for his penchant for making big plays when the Hokies needed him most, using his high football IQ and quickness to pick off passes and make key stops. In addition to his defensive prowess, Loria was always a threat in the return game, capped by a 1966 season where he returned three punts for touchdowns. Oh, and his number is one of only four retired by the Hokies.
1. Pierson: Mike Johnson, Mike LB
When I thought about who best to pair with Ben Taylor, I wanted to bring some athleticism to the Mike linebacker position. Had he not spent his college career in the massive shadow of Bruce Smith, Mike Johnson would have undoubtedly been remembered in a bigger light. A two-time honorable mention All-American and Academic All-American, Johnson finished his career in maroon and orange as one of the most productive linebackers in Tech history. He had 429 total tackles, including seasons of 148 and 135 (1982 and 1983, respectively). His 11 career interceptions rank 10th all-time in Virginia Tech history, and his nose for the football helped him earn two Pro Bowls and one All-Pro selection during his 12-year professional career. Oh, and to make his accomplishments even more unbelievable: Johnson was an architecture major. If you knew or were an architecture student, you were familiar with how little free time they had during their time at Tech. I can personally attest to how ridiculous it is that Johnson dominated both on the field and in the studio. Frankly, I find it unbelievable.
2. Sam: Genarro DiNapoli, OG
1st Team All-Big East in 1997, DiNapoli was a hard-nosed run blocker. Had a solid NFL sting with the Raiders, Titans, and Cowboys. His name also sounds like an amazing authentic pizza joint, one of those places where you go for the crust and not the toppings. Man, Tech does not have a ton of OL talent to go around...
3. Brian: Dave Kadela, OT
For those of you counting at home, Sam has now taken THREE of Tech's best five centers and has them scattered across his line. Selfish, me-first teambuilding if you ask me.
Since I can't go center, let's look at tackle, and if Kadela is good enough for Michael, he's good enough for me. Kadela anchored the offensive line during Vick's tenure, earning All-Big East honors in both '99 and '00. Did he have quick enough feet to go up against some of these pass rushers? Maybe not, but that's why I'll move him to right tackle while Chung cleans up Tyrod's blind side.
4. TFF: Tyronne Drakeford, CB
Super Bowl Champion, two time All Big East (and another 2nd team All Big East), Drakeford is one of the OGs of DBU. He picked off 16 passes in his career, 2nd most in school history, despite missing 5 games his senior year with a broken ankle. He returned from the injury to record ANOTHER interception in the 1993 Independence Bowl, the one that started the streak.
1. TFF: Vincent Fuller, FS
The Fuller who started it all. Vincent was part of that first ACC conference winning team, earning Honorable Mention All Conference that year before going on to have a solid five-year NFL career. Like his younger brother, he also moved back and forth between positions, spending time at corner before nailing down the starting position at FS. But what I will never forget, as long as I live, is the blocked FG TD return against West Virginia in 2004 where Fuller was so far out in front of the Mountaineers that the cameraman panned up into the Lane Stadium crowd going NUTS as he crossed the 10.
2. Brian: Logan Thomas, TE
Okay, here are some things we know:
Logan has hands:
Last Time at Lane 👀@TyrodTaylor got Tech on the board first in a 52-21 win vs. Wake Forest with this TD pass to fellow QB Logan Thomas! 📽️ @ESPNU 10.16.10 | #Hokies 🦃 pic.twitter.com/Gerv7XSPXV— Virginia Tech Football (@HokiesFB) November 7, 2019
Logan can block:
And Logan was recruited to Blacksburg to play tight end.
Did he end up there? Well maybe not as a Hokie, but his undeniable athleticism and talent has kept him on NFL rosters at tight end well after his time as a quarterback ran its course. I'm firmly of the belief that if Frank had signed (or even seriously recruited) a single QB better than Ju-Ju Clayton, Thomas winds up at TE and becomes a first round pick. Let's fulfill that destiny now.
3. Sam: Dalton Keene, TE/HB
Dalton Keene is the perfect hybrid TE for a run-n-shoot offense. He's an exceptional blocker who can block from the TE, HB, and WR positions. He's an excellent pass catcher and has just enough athleticism to make guys miss and put a shake-n-bake on the end of a route. I don't think there's a grittier player at Tech. He is Rambo. And now I have Rambo on my football team.
4. Pierson: Cam Phillips, WR
The leading receiver in the XFL 2.0, Phillips had himself a career in Blacksburg: all-time Virginia Tech leader in career receptions and receiving yards; 7th all-time in receiving touchdowns; 2nd and 4th most receptions in a single season; most receptions in a single game (14 in the 2017 ECU demolition); and his 189 receiving yards against ECU were the fifth largest single game tally in program history. Statistically, Phillips benefitted from Isaiah Ford leaving early for the NFL. But Phillips was a consistent contributor during his four years at Tech (I suppose one has to in order to break virtually all school records). He caught more than 40 passes each year, using his precise route running, shiftiness in the open field, and the staff's penchant for flanker screens. He was a First-Team All-ACC in 2017 and was the 2016 Belk Bowl MVP, which, in all honesty is the most important factoid I've listed.
1. Pierson: Gene Bunn, CB
Someone has to take the school's all-time leader in interceptions, right? I wanted a ball hawk to pair with Jimmy Williams, so why not take the biggest hawk in school history? Bunn locked down opposing receivers for the Hokies during the late 1970's, tallying 18 career picks, including 7 in '76 and 6 in '77. He was an honorable mention AP All-American and, obviously, was inducted into the Tech Sports Hall of Fame.
2. Sam: Ken Ekanem, DE
To finish out my edge rushers, I'm going with the Ekanibal. I think he gets tossed in the not-so-amazing bin of Tech DE's because he played when Tech struggled in the win/loss column. In 3 years as a starter, Ekanem had 22.5 sacks, 34 tackles for loss, and 131 total tackles. He maybe did more with less of a modern Power 5 build than any Hokie in recent memory — there was no reason for him to play as well as he did, it's a product of the tenacity and skills he had as a pass rusher. His 10.5 sack season in 2014 led the ACC. In terms of All-ACC, I think Ekanem was robbed in 2014. Dadi Nicolas was second team all-conference ahead of him in 2014. How? No clue, Scooby Doo.
3. Brian: Willie Pile, FS
Two quick thoughts before my selection: Who is Gene Bunn? Between Bunn, Frank Loria and Mike Johnson, I think Pierson's defense might have a little trouble with anyone who has more than a single receiver. Also, I feel like the longer we do this, the quicker Sam gets to losing his mind. Not that Ekanem is a bad pick by any means, but I think we've hit a new brainspace with "no clue, Scooby Doo."
Currently I have Hall and Flowers locking things down on the outside, Prioleau patrolling the middle, and Cory Bird to be my pre-millenium Fuller. But who do I want as the center fielder? The guy over the top, daring QBs to throw it deep, but also has no problem delivering a thump at the line of scrimmage? Give me the ball hawking Pile all day. Second team All-Big East and Sporting News All-American in 2002, Pile notched 14 INTs in three years as a starter (fourth best in program history behind Macho, Drakeford, and–wait–how the hell have I never heard of Gene Bunn before today?)
4. TFF: Josh Morgan, WR
It's still hard to believe that Tech had Eddie Royal, Josh Morgan, Justin Harper and Josh Hyman for the SAME four seasons. That's ridiculous! And three of them got drafted! While Royal's highlight reel gets the most play, Josh Morgan was, in my opinion, the best pure receiver of the group. He finished with the most catches, yards and touchdowns of the four and caught those two touchdowns in New Orleans in the ultimately unsuccessful comeback attempt against Auburn. While, at times, I will pick with my heart (see: next pick), and my heart REALLY wanted me to go with my unreasonable love of Josh Hyman, Morgan is the right play here.
1. TFF: Branden Ore, RB
Yeah, so speaking of, Shyrone Stith is probably the best pick here, but I have (again) an unreasonable amount of affection for Ore. His running style made him one of my favorite running backs to watch in the last 20+ years; I vividly remember him with his hand on the back of his lead blocker before exploding through the subsequent hole, or him lifting his right foot juuuuuust enough that it didn't touch down out of bounds while he dove for the pylon. He was a first team All ACC player his sophomore year, fifth on the all time rushing list at Tech and the third non-kicker on the all time scoring list despite losing his senior season to...let's just call it indiscretion. He is also the first and only Hokie that I bought the jersey of, though I will admit I started claiming it was an Alonzo Tweedy jersey in the immediate aftermath of his dismissal. Ore also has a TON of experience operating in an offense like I'm designing, where O-line is an afterthought and the running back just needs to figure it out on his own.
2. Brian: Shyrone Stith, RB
Okay picture this. My offense has been rolling all day. A Tyrod/Ryan Williams-lead spread option attack is lethal on the ground, in part because the threats of Wilford, Ford, Thomas (and one-to-two receivers to be named later) stretch a defense both vertically and horizontally. Williams needs a break, and the linebackers and safeties who've tried to tackle him all day sigh in relief. And then this hits them.
PARTY LIKE IT'S 1999 🎉✅ Anthony Midget INT sets it up🗝 Blocks by @JFerguson27 + @1AndreDavis 🏡 Shyrone Stith 41 yards #TBT vs. The U pic.twitter.com/yJprjiFxSq— Virginia Tech Football (@HokiesFB) November 2, 2017
5'7" with a quick step and a hard nose, Stith is no joy to try and bring down either. He's not a burner, but has nice vision and will destroy tired defenses. He was never asked to catch many passes (he and backfield-mate Andre Kendrick combined for 19 receptions in their entire careers), but we'll throw more to him and have him in the quiver as a third down threat.
3. Sam: Danny Coale, WR
Maybe this is too early to start taking a flex player, but I need another WR for the Run-N-Shoot. I don't think a player has ever been more of a fan favorite than Danny Coale. At the end of his career, Coale had racked up 165 receptions for 2,658 yards, both were second in team history at the time. His senior year he hauled in 904 yards, which was astronomical for a Tech receiver in those days. He also punted in 4 different games!
I think the most endearing part about Coale's career is how he was at the center of so many iconic Tech moments over his career. The catch against Nebraska to set up the "Tyrod did it, Mikey!" touchdown, 2 ACC championships, and an Orange Bowl victory, Coale left Tech with quite the impact on the program.
4. Pierson: Christian Darrisaw, OT
Darrisaw burst onto the scene after a prep year at Fork Union, earning the starting left tackle spot as a true freshman. A low three-star recruit who chose the Hokies over schools like Central Connecticut State and NC Central, Darrisaw was a revelation for a young Hokies team looking to turn a middling unit into strength. While Darrisaw has only played 25 games in his career, he continues to improve and has a shot at finishing his career in Blacksburg as a Top 3 tackle in school history. He earned Freshman All-American nods from several publications in 2018 and was an All-ACC Honorable Mention in 2019. Pro Football Focus ranks him as the #9 returning offensive lineman for 2020, noting that his combined Wins Above Average for his first two seasons ranks 14th amongst all o-linemen over that span. Not too shabby.
1. Pierson: Joey Slye, K
In addition to sporting a steezy beard and being built like a linebacker, Slye kicked his way into Tech fans' hearts by booming kickoffs into the stands and giving the offense a chance from 50 yards plus. Slye finished his career as Tech's all-time leader in made field goals, and is tied for most in a single season and game (23 and 6, respectively). Statistically, Slye wasn't always the most accurate kicker. But his ability to make long-range kicks extended the field and his kickoff prowess effectively neutered the opposing return game.
2. Sam: Jon Dunn, OT
My right tackle will be Jon Dunn, a consistent blocker throughout his career at Tech. Dunn was 2nd team All-ACC on Tech's 2004 ACC Championship team and started 33 games during his career. In that 2004 season, Dunn recorded 34 pancakes and had a blocking grade of 82%. Oh yeah, and he's 6'7" 341 pounds.
3. Brian: Bryan Still, WR
I've got my big-bodied matchup nightmares out wide with Wilford and Thomas. I've got a do-everything pass catcher who isn't afraid of the middle of the field in Ford. And now, I'll go get a home run hitter with the versatility to play inside or outside. Still was a beast for Tech in the mid-90s, hauling in bombs from Druckenmiller to the tune of 19.7 yards per catch for his career (a Hokie WR best), and didn't even play in an attack predicated on getting him into space–he just had to make it himself. Put Still in my spread offense, have him attack the seam, run drag routes into space, and even get the ball on the occasional jet sweep, and he'll put up big time numbers as a playmaker.
4. TFF: Antone Exum, Rover
Yeah, I'm pulling a Sam and drafting a player to play WHEREVER I WANT TO. Ex got a bad rap when he transitioned from safety to corner, taking some time to adjust to the position. It's also difficult when you are being constantly compared to a Fuller on the other corner, but I digress. I have fond memories of Exum playing centerfield, and while this would certainly require him to function more in a run support role as opposed to free, I'm feeling comfortable about his ability to shine. Plus, this is an excuse to post the Exumtaur On a Treadmill picture again.