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2012 NFL Draft: Outlook for the Virginia Cavaliers

Cam Johnson (pictured) and Chase Minnfield lead the Hoos 2012 NFL draft prospects.
Cam Johnson (pictured) and Chase Minnfield lead the Hoos 2012 NFL draft prospects.

With the NFL Draft coming up this week, it's time to take a look at the former Hoos who have completed their college careers and are looking to move on to the NFL. This year isn't the best draft class we've ever had, but it's not the worst either.

I'm providing a small draft capsule for each of them, describing where I think they'll get draft (or not at all) as well as what I think their NFL career could amount to. The players are listed in the approximate order that they should be selected.

Chase Minnifield - Chase has good size and speed for an NFL CB. He's big enough to play press coverage against bigger WRs and he's also a very good zone CB. He also has NFL bloodlines, which doesn't hurt. He had knee surgery on January 3rd, so teams haven't been able to see him run at full speed. He expects to be ready for the beginning of the season, but anybody who drafts him has to be prepared for him to be rusty early on. Plus, he'll likely miss rookie minicamp.

Despite the injury, Chase will be drafted on the 2nd day of the draft. Most likely, he'll go in the 3rd round, but late second or early 4th is also possible. In the NFL, he's probably better as a zone guy, because he doesn't quite have the speed to run with the leagues' faster receivers. When matched up with bigger guys though, he's a beast in coverage. Chase will also provide strong special teams play.

Cam Johnson - Cam is a plus athlete for the DE position, but sometimes plays a bit high. He has dealt with various injury issues, and also has a sickle-cell trait, which limits his ability to stay on the field for extended periods of time. While his college career began at 3-4 OLB, he is an NFL DE through and through. As a 4-3 DE, he is a tremendous pass rusher. He has speed, strength and enough moves to get by. He isn't the biggest guy, and may not ever be an every down DE because he doesn't play the run very well. But he can be a force as a pass rusher from day one.

Cam, like Chase, is likely to be drafted in the 3rd round. His best fit is as a 4-3 DE, but he could play OLB in a 3-4 if necessary. Teams with a solid set of DEs already should look at Cam, who can be a valuable backup and substitution package DE.

Chase and Cam are the only two definites in this draft class. Click below to look at the rest of the Wahoo prospects.

Matt Conrath - Conrath started his career as a 3-4 DE, which is what he was recruited for. After Mike London moved the Hoos to a 4-3, Conrath slid inside to DT. He is listed as a DT on NFL draft reports, but his best position is back in a 3-4 on the outside. He is too tall, not big enough, and not strong enough to play inside in a 4-3.

I believe the DT listing is what is keeping him off many draft boards. NFL teams know better and will do their scouting work. Conrath has the size and power to play DE in a 3-4 in the NFL. I believe that a 3-4 team will take a chance on him the 6th or 7th round. If not, he'll make somebody's training camp, and it would be in his best interests to go with a team that runs a 3-4.

Austin Pasztor - Here is another guy who is being overlooked on draft boards. His 40 yard dash time is 5.4 seconds, which is on the slow side. And his 24 bench press reps aren't very many. But Austin checks in at 6'7" and 306 pounds, which is big enough to play G. He has enough power for an OG. He isn't the best at pulling, but gets a strong push upfield in run blocking, and is adequate in pass blocking.

Pasztor was a four year starter on the OL for the Hoos, and had a very good career. Despite not being listed on most draft boards that I've seen, I think he's got a shot at being drafted late 7th round. If not, I still believe he'll make an NFL team. He is not be ready to start in the NFL, but I believe he can be a valuable backup for a team that likes to run the ball.

Anthony Mihota - Oftentimes, Cs in the NFL are made, not drafted. Mihota played center, and played it well, but probably doesn't have the strength required to play OL in the NFL. Still, he'll be invited to somebody's camp and will be given the chance to succeed there.

I would be very surprised if Mihota were drafted, but that doesn't mean he isn't an NFL player. Center in the NFL is a very cerebral position and that is Mihota's strength. He could find success after some seasoning, if he gets into the right franchise and puts in the necessary work.

Aaron Taliaferro - Aaron's dreams of playing in the NFL likely ended when he ran the 40 in just over 5 seconds. You simply cannot play LB in the NFL with that kind of speed. Aaron's best shot would be to put on another 25 pounds and try to play DE.

Aaron isn't fast enough to play LB and isn't big enough to play DE. Therefore, he will not get drafted. However, he'll still make somebody's training camp, and be given a shot. He'll have to excel on special teams to make a roster, but it is a longshot.

Rodney McLeod - It is somewhat ironic that McLeod moved from CB to S when he arrived at Virginia. Had he played CB, he might have a chance at playing in the NFL, but McLeod isn't big enough to play S in the NFL. I'm not sure he's quick enough to play CB in the NFL either, but he'd at least have a shot there.

McLeod's best shot at making a team is on special teams. If he puts in the effort necessary to succeed there, he could develop the rest of his game and have an NFL career. But special teams is his ticket into the league.

Nick Jenkins - Jenkins was a very good college player, but really does not have a position in the NFL. His best fit might be as a 3-4 DE, but he still lacks the explosiveness for the position. His best position in college was as a 3-4 DT, but he isn't big enough or strong enough to play that position in the NFL.

Like the rest of the guys on the bottom of this list, Jenkins will be invited to somebody's training camp, but he has little chance of making a team.

Kris Burd - Burd had a very productive career for the Hoos. Sadly, there isn't much room in the NFL for 6'0" 190 lb WRs who don't run sub 4.5 40s. Burd is actually the type of guy who can succeed in the NFL at that size, because he works hard and runs very precise routes. Burd had little chance of getting drafted, but those chances went to nil when he hurt his collarbone in the bowl game.

Burd isn't going to drafted, and will have to fight to make somebody's practice squad. If Burd gets onto the right team, that has a good veteran QB, he could end up have an NFL career as a slot, possession guy. He's not as quick as Wes Welker, but there are similarities in their size and route running abilities.

Max Milien - There aren't a lot of FBs drafted, and the ones who are tend to be more prototypical FBs. Milien is a bit of a tweener, not big enough to be a good blocking FB and not quick enough to be a big bruising RB. Milien, however, has good receiving skills, and has worked hard to become a good lead blocker. Milien checked in at just under 6' and 220 lbs. He also ran a 4.6 40, which is solid for his size.

Milien is not going to get drafted, but like most of the other guys, will have a shot at somebody's camp to impress. Teams that utilize the FB in the passing game might take a look at Milien in that role. Milien is comparable to Jason Snelling, who was a 7th round pick and has had a successful career. Snelling had a more productive college career, which was largely due to opportunity moreso than talent.

Corey Mosley - Mosley is basically in the same boat as McLeod, although he is bigger. McLeod has a big edge in athleticism, as well as production, so if McLeod isn't getting drafted, neither is Mosley.

Like McLeod, Mosley needs to make his mark on special teams. He's a big hitter, so he has the ability to make a mark in kick coverage. But I simply do not think he is fast enough to play in the NFL.

Jimmy Howell - Punters very rarely get drafted. The few who do are tremendous talents. Howell is not that, and he's a bit slow getting the ball off. He should get a training camp invite, and if he can speed up his motion a bit, he's a good enough punter to get a look. Most likely, if he does get a shot, it'll be a couple of years down the road.

Robert Randolph - Kickers, likey punters, have to be exceptional if they are going to get drafted. Randolph is not exceptional. He is solid, but that's it. He may get a training camp invite, but he has little chance of ever kicking for an NFL team.

Chris Hinkebein - Hinkebein is less exceptional than Randolph, if that makes any sense at all. Hinkebein's football career is over.