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2021 NFL Draft Profile: Virginia Tech CB Caleb Farley

Assessing VT’s corner. Does he make sense for Denver’s no. 9 overall pick?

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 12 Rhode Island at Virginia Tech Photo by Lee Coleman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

GM George Paton showed the Broncos’ secondary some love during free agency, but he might not be finished. Among many prospects in the 2021 draft class, Virginia Tech’s corner Caleb Farley warrants an assessment.

Granted, the Broncos might not pick a cornerback straight out of the gate. ESPN’s Todd McShay seems to think they will, though he projected Alabama’s Patrick Surtain, Jr as the pick.

From my perspective, Denver’s CB situation isn’t in dire straits - especially with Ronald Darby and Kyle Fuller as starters.

On the other hand, Fuller only signed a one-year deal, not to mention players get injured all year long. Adding strong weapons (read: Farley) to the depth chart might be on Paton’s mind.

Farley isn’t projected as 1st or even 3rd cornerback of the 2021 draft, but that’s not attributed to poor performance. Even with just two seasons under his belt, the quarterback-turned-receiver-turned-cornerback is considered a top-10 draft prospect.

Background

Farley played quarterback at Maiden High School (Maiden, NC), ending his career with 124 TDs and 10,425 yards.

Originally slated to play wide receiver for Virginia Tech, #3 was red-shirted over an ACL tear in 2017. After recovery, his position was switched to cornerback.

In 2018 Farley took home 36 tackles (29 solo, 7 assisted), a sack, and two interceptions. He was also an honorable mention for the Mayo Clinic Comeback Player of the Year award.

He followed that up with 20 tackles, 4 interceptions with 14 interception yards, and a defensive touchdown in 2019. That same season he led the ACC with passes defended (16), and was named first team All-ACC.

Farley opted out of the 2020 season due to fear of contracting and spreading COVID-19. In a video he released announcing this decision, Farley explained that he lost his mother to cancer in 2018 and wanted to prevent losing any more family members to serious illness.

He was the first prominent college football player to opt out over concerns for the virus.

Farley’s stats

Height: 6’2” / Weight: 207 lbs / Speed: 4.28 40-yard dash

2019: 20 tackles, 4 interceptions for 14 yards, 1 TD, 12 passes defended

2018: 36 tackles, 2 interceptions, 7 passes defended

What Farley can bring to Denver

On the field, Caleb Farley is an aggressive, no-holds-barred player. Here are some of the qualities that really stand out:

  • Speed, speed, speed. In 2019 Farley was clocked at 24 mph, which is actually 1mph faster than “Cheetah,” aka the Chiefs’ Tyreek Hill. Good luck to any receiver trying to run deep against him.
  • Size. At 6’2” and 207 lbs, he can cover athletes of any size. And he can do this without sacrificing speed.
  • Coverage. Farley has second nature for both zone and man-to-man coverage. I’d suppose his background as wide receiver and quarterback gave him solid detection for offensive routes. He can cover offensive players because he thinks like an offensive player.
  • Boldness. His decision to opt out of the 2020 season hurt his draft prospects. He knew this, and decided to put his family first, before any other athlete made such a move. I respect that and I think it shows leadership characteristics.

Possible drawbacks

As with any prospect, Farley could optimize some areas of performance, such as:

  • Form. Farley has run into receivers, and he’s tripped and slipped on the field. Looking at the tape I can see where his hips, shoulders, feet aren’t always in the best form for a given route, particularly when you consider his lightning speed.
  • Tackle approach. Farley’s missed 21 tackles in his 2-season career, and his technique in this area can certainly improve.

Farley’s abbreviated career and history of injuries are also worth noting. He was only active for two seasons and, in 2019, experienced back spasms that pulled him out of the last two games.

Farley recently underwent a microdiscectomy for a non-football back injury, causing him to miss VT’s Pro Day as well.

Despite these setbacks, there’s nothing to suggest Farley couldn’t replicate or top what he did in 2018 and ‘19. Recent videos of him indicate he’s in great athletic shape and will be ready for training by the summertime.

The buzz around Farley

  • Former NFL QB and current NBC Sports analyst Chris Simms:
  • Sports analyst Mel Kiper, Jr.:
    “...I look at Farley, had he played this year, I think he could have been a top-five pick. (Jeff Okudah) went way up there. Why couldn’t Caleb Farley go up there? The only thing that prevents you from going too crazy with the ranking, I have him nine right now on the big board with Surtain at 15, is the fact he didn’t play.”
    SaturdayDownSouth
  • Lead PFF analyst Mike Renner:
  • PFF analyst Sam Monson:
    “I think he has the traits to be a special player. He allowed just 48% of targets thrown his way to be caught over his college career, a figure that dropped all the way to 36% in 2019. Farley should be a top-10 pick and will be a better player in the NFL than he was in college if his technique can get cleaned up in a few different areas.”
    Pro Football News & Analysis
  • NFL Network draft analyst Chad Reuter:
    “I think he will be compared to Xavier Rhodes during the evaluation process. His length and quick feet make him capable of handling press and press-bail techniques. Farley is a physical player who can handle his run assignments as well as attack receivers to eleven yards after the catch...Farley has a nice catch radius which helps him intercept wayward throws. He will also fight through the whistle if his man is trying to complete a catch. Farley is practiced at reading the quarterback and able to fight his way into the play even if his man is not the primary target. Farley’s height may make it more difficult for him to change directions when facing smaller receivers. His aggressiveness and penchant for watching the pocket may make him susceptible to double moves. Farley will likely fall within the top 10 or 12 picks in the draft however, because of that elite size and length.”
    NFL
  • Draft analyst Tony Pauline (on Farley’s injury):
    “Significantly more serious than people are portraying it to be in the sense that he is going to drop because of this. It is not just like they fixed your knee because your knee is likely fixed. With a back injury, it can reoccur. And this late in the game, it is not a good sign. I have talked to people in the league, and Farley’s people are trying to pawn it off as it is no big deal, he’ll be ready for football, for camp. People in the league say this is something that will have to be monitored, something we are going to have to watch. This is something that is a concern and will negatively impact his draft stock.”
    Pro Football Network
  • Draft analyst Joe Marino:
    “Virginia Tech cornerback Caleb Farley enters the NFL after playing quarterback in high school, beginning his college career as a wide receiver, and then transitioning to defense where he shined as a cornerback for the Hokies in 2019. While he is new to the position, his film does not resemble a player that is still learning the ropes. Farley brings a rare blend of physical traits to the table in terms of size, length, quickness, fluidity, and athleticism that he pairs with exceptional man coverage skills that make him an exciting NFL prospect. Not only is he sticky in man coverage, Farley has game-changing ball skills and is an alpha in coverage. Unfortunately, his injury history is concerning. Farley suffered a non-contact ACL tear in 2017 that forced him to miss the season and then missed the last two games in 2019 due to back spasms, an issue Justin Fuente said Farley dealt with all season long. When it comes to on-the-field issues, Farley is a fairly complete prospect that is clearly ascending but sharpening his zone coverage skills would be beneficial. Additionally, he needs to develop his tackling technique to decrease an alarming amount of whiffs on tape. Farley has a full toolbox of traits to develop into a shutdown corner at the next level that can create takeaways.”
    The Draft Network

Does he fit with Denver’s secondary?

My personal opinion is yes, Farley would fit as an outside corner. I am concerned about his back, but that size-speed combo gives him a unique leg-up on most receivers, especially if he nails down a tackling approach.

Although I’d use a first round pick to secure a quarterback, I know Paton has his own plan for bringing this roster together. Broncos Country could be going into 2021 with Drew Lock, and I’ve been preparing myself for that.

One thing is certain: Caleb Farley’s going to be taken in the first round. With the exception of making a trade, Denver would need to use their no. 9 overall pick to obtain him.

Poll

Do you think the Broncos should draft Caleb Farley?

This poll is closed

  • 43%
    Yes
    (129 votes)
  • 56%
    No
    (169 votes)
298 votes total Vote Now