For a consensus first-round prospect, Virginia Tech cornerback Caleb Farley has had an unconventional rise to the top of NFL draft boards. A high school quarterback, it became clear during the recruiting process that he would probably not be a passer for a top collegiate team, so when he committed to the Hokies in 2017, he did so with the intention of becoming a wide receiver.
But an ACL tear wiped out his true freshman season, and when he returned to the field in 2018, he was asked to play cornerback. Despite the usual growing pains that could be expected with such a position switch, he showed plenty of promise as a DB, and he was tremendous in 2019, racking up four interceptions and 12 passes defensed en route to First-Team All-ACC honors. He also allowed a completion rate of less than 50% on passes thrown in his direction.
He had intended to return to college in 2020, but he opted out of the season due to COVID-19. That made sense, as he didn’t have much left to prove and already had a first-round grade.
The only real concern was the back injury that ended his 2019 season prematurely. As Ben Volin of the Boston Globe writes, Farley underwent a microdiscectomy procedure in March, which is the same procedure that Rob Gronkowski has undergone three times in his career. But according to agent Drew Rosenhaus, Farley “did well with his physical regarding his back and is still expected to go in the first round” (Twitter link via Adam Schefter of ESPN.com).
Of course, physicals are a little different this year due to COVID-19 protocols. Per Volin, the team doctor and head trainer from all 32 teams were able to meet with the top 75 prospects in this year’s draft — along with an additional 75 players with medical red flags — a few days ago in Indianapolis for in-person physicals. That event was critical for the evaluation process, as teams were not allowed to bring their doctors to a prospect’s pro day this year and could not host pre-draft visits at team facilities.
Farley was one of the lucky 150 to be invited to Indianapolis — other prospects were reduced to virtual “physicals” — and if what Rosenhaus says is true, then the 6-2, 207-lb defender should certainly hear his name called within the top 20 picks. He might even have a chance to slide into the top-10, and teams like the Cowboys, Patriots, and Cardinals could all have interest.
He might still be a bit raw, but his size, speed, and physicality should be enough to get him a starting spot right away, and he could develop into a true shutdown corner down the road.
Credit to Ian Cummings of Pro Football Network for details on Farley’s recruiting history and scouting profile.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.