With the Orange Bowl loss behind it, the Virginia football program sets its sights on offseason preparation.
The Cavaliers hope to continue their tradition of unbroken growth, and that starts with winter workouts and eventually spring practice.
For the graduating players, Virginia’s offseason workout program is a thing of the past. Those players will turn their attention toward landing jobs and beginning their professional careers. For some of those players, they hope football their football careers are just beginning.
To better understand the NFL potential of some of Virginia’s best graduating seniors, we spoke with Ric Serritella, the creator of NFL Draft Bible and an advance scout for the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl. The game, which is played on Jan. 18, features a handful of NFL hopefuls who will compete in the game and practice in front of coaches and scouts in hopes of boosting their draft stock.
While the bowl doesn’t include any Virginia players this season, Serritella did attend the Virginia-William & Mary game earlier this season, so he’s familiar with the Cavaliers’ top draft prospects.
Bryce Hall, CB
“When I saw him in person, I said, ‘This is a first-round pick,’” Serritella said. “I loved his footwork, smooth back pedal, fluid hips, excellent speed.”
Using an advanced scouting tool, Hall has been tracked running at 22.3 miles per hour. Serritella says few players in the draft can match that speed.
Henry Ruggs III, a speedy wide receiver at Alabama, clocks in at about 20-21 miles per hour. Serritella says there are people who believe Ruggs could set the NFL Combine record for the fastest 40-yard dash.
“You’re talking about a guy that has rare speed,” Serritella said of Hall.
Serritella also loved Hall’s strength in press man coverage, and he says coaches raved about Hall’s character. The ankle injury that sidelined Hall for the second half of the season, however, will hurt his draft stock.
“Prior to the injury, I had a first-round grade on him,” Serritella said. “After the injury, I still have him in the top 100, but I think maybe he slides down to Day 2 and kind of a low risk, high upside type of guy, and I think teams will find that appealing.”
Draft stock: Top-100 selection
Eli Hanback, DT
Hanback, who played in 52 games during his UVa career, will be missed along the defensive line next season. He’s an experienced player and leader with an outside shot at landing on an NFL roster.
What stands out most about Hanback is his size. He’s listed at 6-foot-4 and 300 pounds. He’s a big defensive tackle, but he’s not likely to be drafted and isn’t an obvious candidate to make an NFL roster.
“He’s probably like a two-down nose tackle type of guy with limited athleticism,” Serritella said. “It’s tough to really keep a guy like that on the roster if he’s not starting.”
Serritella did add that he thinks Hanback will get an opportunity in a team’s camp due to his impressive size and strength.
Draft stock: Undrafted, likely to earn a rookie minicamp tryout
Jordan Mack, LB
“Sitting in the press box, I said, ‘Who is this No. 4 making plays?’” Serritella said. “That’s Jordan Mack. From my understanding, he took a big leap this season. I think he has great size, quickness, power, strong, fast, physical, solid tackler, shows natural instincts.”
Mack performed well this season, and he’s another high-character player who any team would love to add to its locker room.
Unfortunately for Mack, he’ll likely see his draft stock take a major hit due to his ankle injury at the end of the season. He missed the Orange Bowl, and rehab could force him to miss potential workouts with teams ahead of the draft, which will hurt his draft chances.
Mack did find the field on special teams during his career, which Serritella says can help any player’s stock, as teams want players that can contribute in as many ways as possible.
“Prior to this ankle injury, I thought he would’ve been a solid mid-round pick, now if he can’t work out before the draft, he’s gonna be probably a late Day 3 or possibly even an undrafted guy.”
Draft stock: Late-round pick or undrafted free agent
Hasise Dubois, WR
Dubois came on strong this season, catching 75 passes for 1,062 yards and six touchdowns. He also excelled against elite competition, tallying 33 receptions for 475 yards and four touchdowns against Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, Clemson and Florida.
“I have an undrafted free agent grade on him,” Serritella said. “I know some scouts I’ve spoken to are higher on him than I am.”
Serritella compared Dubois to a power forward, given the receiver’s ability to box out defenders on contested catches. Pro Football Focus found that Dubois was the most targeted FBS receiver without a drop this season. He was targeted 110 times and never dropped a pass.
Strong hands and a good frame also make Serritella believe Dubois can be a good downfield blocker, which is a “nice attribute” when teams view him. He also added that Dubois does a nice job finding seams and open holes in defenses and has dominated at every level of his playing career.
The sheer volume of talented receivers in the draft, including underclassmen who have declared, makes Serritella skeptical about Dubois’ chances of being drafted.
“Any team kind of looking for a fourth or fifth wide receiver, possession type of guy, I think Dubois can kind of fit that role, but he’s gonna have to learn how to play special teams if he wants to stick at the next level,” Serritella said.
Draft stock: Undrafted free agent
A dual-threat quarterback, Perkins presents an interesting situation for teams. He’s not the most accurate passer, especially on the run, but he’s an exceptional athlete and leader. With improved offensive line play, he shredded defenses at the end of the season, and he had success moving the football against Clemson and Florida.
Perkins offers potential.
Positives for Perkins, according to Serritella, are his athleticism and ability to make throws using different arm angles and with his feet slightly out of position. It’s the accuracy and some of the turnovers that hurt Perkins’ draft stock.
Fair or unfair, Serritella also believes teams will take Perkins’ neck injury in 2016 while at Arizona State very seriously. He expects teams to take X-rays to get a better understanding of what Perkins healed from and whether or not they consider that a concern.
With questions surrounding Perkins, he’s likely an undrafted free agent who will have a chance to earn a backup gig.
On the bright side for Perkins, his ability to throw and run from the quarterback position is becoming coveted at the NFL level with players like Lamar Jackson, Russell Wilson and Dak Prescott all playing great football using both their arm and legs.
Adding someone like Perkins to the fold as a backup in an offensive system designed for mobile quarterbacks makes sense.
“I think he’s gonna be in the developmental, undrafted free agent category,” Serritella said.
Draft stock: Undrafted free agent
Joe Reed, WR
Reed does it all. He’s a wide receiver who can play outside or inside. He’s also lined up in the backfield at times this season. On special teams, he’s arguably the best kick returner in the NFL Draft.
“This was one of the most exciting players I saw on the scouting trails all season long,” Serritella said. “I pounded the table to get him at the NFLPA Bowl. He winded up going to the East-West Shrine Game.”
Reed will play in that game on Jan. 18, and practices in front of teams and scouts begin next week. He’ll have a chance to improve his draft stock during those practices.
Serritella says Reed is a versatile player, and some scouts think he could be a running back at the next level. He’s high on the Virginia receiver.
“When I saw him, I gave him a fifth-round grade,” Serritella said. “I think his stock is pretty solid there ... early Day 3, teams are gonna start giving Joe Reed a good, hard look.”
Draft stock: Mid-round pick