Every year, there are numerous NFL Draft prospects who fly under the radar. One of those players you should make sure to keep an eye on leading up to the 2014 NFL Draft is Virginia Tech defensive end James Gayle.
An athletic, physical defensive end out of the ACC, Gayle hasn’t garnered much attention this season due to his lack of electrifying plays. That fact, however, remains that he’s a disruptive force who could be a quality contributor in the NFL as a stand-up defensive end. He will need to bulk up a bit (he’s only 6’4’’, 255 pounds), but Gayle has the frame to fill out nicely.
What makes Gayle such an intriguing option as a pass-rush specialist at the next level is his first step and quickness off the snap. On almost every play, he puts the opposing blocker on his heels and does a great job of using his athleticism to get them off balance. Gayle even dropped into coverage occasionally, so there’s plenty of reason to believe he can be an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense.
During the 2013 season, Gayle racked up 39 total tackles (10 for a loss), 5.5 sacks, 21 hurries and one forced fumble. While his numbers don’t exactly jump off the page, the film shows just how disruptive he can be off the edge. Just look at his 21 hurries this season – Gayle lives in opposing backfields.
In terms of where Gayle will go in the draft when May rolls around, the opinions range from the first round to the fifth round. While Day 1 might be a bit of stretch, there’s a good chance that Gayle could come off the board before Day 2 is in the books.
According to draft expert Matt Miller, though, Gayle has a first-round grade from at least one NFL team, so don’t be surprised to see him go early.
Keep an eye out for Gayle as the 2014 NFL Draft nears. If you have a chance to catch some film of the Hokies’ edge rusher, don’t hesitate to take a peak.