Six Hokies were invited to the NFL’s pre-draft combine workouts in Indianapolis which started February 29 and run through March 6.
Underclassmen Jerod Evans, Bucky Hodges, and Isaiah Ford were all selected to showcase their skills for pro scouts. Also chosen were seniors Sam Rogers, Chuck Clark, and Ken Ekanem.
The draft prospects vary quite a bit for Tech’s hopefuls. Let’s take a look at each player who will compete and interview at the combine.
The pass-catchers are easily the Hokies’ most intriguing prospects. Bucky Hodges figures to be a dangerous target for teams with obvious comparisons to Jimmy Graham and other “hybrid” receivers. He displayed excellent hands at times, though he did miss some catches that a man of his talents shouldn’t. That happens to everyone, but it’s an area he needs to clean up.
His tremendous size will be more evenly matched at the professional level, but combined with his athleticism and quickness he’ll make for a tough match up across the middle while still being able to challenge at times on the outside.
Most projections have him going in the first or second round of the draft which seems about right. Hodges has room for improvement, but his ceiling is very high.
Isaiah Ford has similar upside. In just three seasons at Tech, he set nearly every receiving record the school has and showed a set of skills which Tech fans may never have seen all in the same player at the same time.
His hands are tremendous, his routes are sharp, and Ford’s body control when the ball is in the air is unmatched. Pop on the tape of any Tech game and you’ll see it, but the Pittsburgh game was a wonderful display of Ford’s ability to locate the ball and make plays for your quarterback.
Ford projects to be drafted in a similar position to Hodges, most likely in the second round. He needs to get stronger to convince teams he can stand up to the rigors of the NFL. at 6’2″, 195-pounds he can stand to add more muscle to beef up his frame.
Every Hokie by now knows the legend of the versatile Sam Rogers. As a high school junior he dislocated his elbow, so he moved from quarterback to tight end and linebacker to keep playing. He came to Blacksburg as a walk-on and earned a scholarship after the first week of practice.
During his time with the Hokies Rogers has passed, run, and caught touchdowns all in the guise of a ‘fullback’. He’s also a standout on special teams. That kind of versatility is an immeasurable value with the restrictions of the NFL’s 53-man active roster.
Rogers’ toughness and work ethic will only further endear him to many front offices. He’s undersized at 5’10”, 231-pounds but Rogers is an outstanding lead blocker and probably has the most all around value of any Hokie at the combine.
Quarterback Jerod Evans surprised many when he declared early for the NFL after just one season in Blacksburg. Of course, he also thrived in junior college before that and posted huge numbers there too.
Evans has NFL size at 6’4″ 230, and proved to be quite efficient completing 63.5 percent of his passes for 3,546 yards and 29 touchdowns with just eight interceptions in 14 games for the Hokies.
Despite the high completion percentage, Evans did misfire on a number of passes that he should have made and tends to struggle with his downfield accuracy. He fails to go through his entire progression, and as such sometimes misses his checkdown targets.
Still, this is a rough year for quarterbacks with no clear-cut favorite, even at the top of the class. Evans is a developmental prospect with some good tools who could find his way onto a team with an established, but aging quarterback.
On the other side of the ball, defensive end Ken Ekanem is a tough guy who played through a number of injuries during his four years of college. He served as an important piece of a defensive line that was one of the strengths of Tech’s team.
His 7.5 sacks and 10 tackles for loss as a senior hint at his ability to disrupt in the backfield, but his 11 additional QB pressures show the frequency. Ekanem uses a strong set of hands to evade blockers and has shown a considerable amount of overall physical strength.
However, as you may now be tired of hearing, he’s a bit undersized.
At 6’3″ 260, Ekanem projects most likely as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 system much like past Hokie defensive ends Jason Worilds, Chris Ellis, and Corey Moore. Ekanem’s toughness and production should serve him well during evalutations.
Finally, it wouldn’t be an NFL combine without a Hokie defensive back. Chuck Clark has played since he was a freshman and spent the past two seasons as a team captain.
Clark’s strength may be his tackling. In his 52 total games and 40 starts, Clark racked up 296 tackles including 14 for a loss and 2.5 sacks. He’s a sure tackler and packs quite a punch despite being — deep breath — undersized at 6′ 205.
Like many Tech defensive backs he showed the versatility to play multiple positions which certainly helps. The track record of Tech’s DBs is also well-known and NFL teams have a good sense of what they’re getting when they select one.
The scouting combine is just the next step in the journey for these six Hokies as they work towards the NFL Draft April 27 to 29 in Philadelphia.