West Virginia has some talented seniors who are hoping to hear their names called this weekend, but their fortunes are likely to be affected by on-going shifts in the way NFL teams are valuing players.
The Mountaineer most likely to be affected by this is running back Charles Sims. Although his multiple talents in both running and catching the ball are undeniable, Sims will suffer from the growing NFL trend of downgrading the value of runners. Over the past few drafts, teams have found capable backs in later rounds, thus lessening the number of backs taken with early picks. The resulting domino effect pushes runners down the board, so it won't be a surprise to see Sims somewhere in the middle rounds of the draft.
Conversely, safeties have been growing a bit in importance, given the need for defenses to cover multiple receivers in a league that is trending more and more to the pass. Could that help Darwin Cook get a late spot? He's on the edge of the pick/free agency divide.
With those thoughts in mind, here's a look at West Virginia's prospects, and a prediction on the draft status of each. There's plenty of time to peruse and debate, as none are expected to go in tonight's first round. Also, be sure to check out the outstanding coverage provided by Dave-Te' Thomas of NFL Draft Report.
Will Clarke: The lanky defensive tackle was a typical WVU signee, who turned raw talent into very good production at WVU. He projects to a defensive end in the NFL, and won't get outworked by anyone. If he has the speed to turn the corner, he could forge a solid NFL career. Draft Projection: Fourth Round
Darwin Cook: THe WVU safety bulked up after an injury-plagued senior season, checking in at 203 pounds at his pro day. That didn't stop him from clocking a sub-4.5 40-yard dash, showing that he's fully recovered and ready to go. At 5-11, he's a bit shorter than what some pro teams may like, but his work ethic might help him latch on as a special teams and pass package defender. Draft Projection: Free Agent
Pat Eger: Eger's versatility will help, as he could play any interior line position (a lack of quickness likely keeps him from tackle consideration). As a center, he gets some notice, but will have to correct an issue with off-target snaps that hurt the WVU offense at times in 2013.Draft Projection: Free Agent
Curtis Feigt: A late start in football and switches from offense to defense and back in college has Feigt behind other linemen in terms of sheer numbers of repetitions, but his measurables of 6-7 and 315 pounds have kept him on the boards of some teams. He has the wingspan to play tackle, but will have to show the ability to get outside to speed rushers and lock them away from the quarterback. Draft Projection: Free Agent
Doug Rigg: Rigg is one of hundreds of players who took part in an NFL Regional Combine, where he (along with all the other aspirants) hoped to catch the eye of just one scout -- an occurrence that might lead to that free agent shot. Rigg's injury status over his career will be a concern, and his speed doesn't stand out, so his hopes will likely hinge on getting into a camp and making an impression. Draft Projection: Free Agent
Shaq Rowell: Rowell has the ability to tie up blockers at the line and overpowered some opponents on the collegiate level. He probably won't be able to do that in the pros, and thus will have to be more technically proficient to execute at nose. Pass rush is also a question, as he did get push on occasion, but will need to do more to make an NFL roster. Draft Projection: Free Agent
Charles Sims: Sims has it all. He's a solid runner that makes moves and finishes off with strength, and he can catch the ball from a variety of positions, making him a weapon in the passing game as well. The only thing hurting him is the devaluation of running backs mentioned earlier. Five years ago, he's a second-rounder. Draft Projection: Third Round