Heading into the 2020 college football season, former Virginia Tech cornerback Caleb Farley was seen as a potential top-10 pick. That’s how good experts viewed the 6-foot-2 defensive back from a coverage perspective. Barring anything unforeseen, he would be the first cornerback off the board once the 2021 NFL Draft came calling.
Unfortunately for Farley, the unforeseen has happened. He opted out of the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic and just recently had to undergo two procedures on his back.
According to NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport, this could force Farley out of action until training camp. It might also cost him the status of being a first-round pick.
Caleb Farley injury concerns
Rapoport went on to note that the former Virginia Tech star would have been the first cornerback off the board, ahead of the likes of Patrick Surtain II and Jaycee Horn, if he were 100% healthy.
As for super-agent Drew Rosenhaus, he has this to say about his client’s injury issues.
“I’ve had multiple teams tell me that in the middle of the draft, they are going to draft him,” Rosenhaus said, via NFL.com. “I don’t expect him to make it to pick No. 20. I’m convinced, based on my discussions, that he’ll go in the first 20 picks.”
That’s pretty much agent talk right there. The back surgery Farley underwent back in March kept him out of the Virginia Tech Pro Day, leading to further questions about his status as a first-round pick.
Some teams are also pushing back against selecting players who decided to opt out of the 2020 season. This, too, could play a role. However, Caleb Farley has a personal reasons for making said decision.
“I lost one parent. My dad is so important to me. Growing old with him means so much to me, more than football,” Farley told NBC Sports last summer (h/t the Akron Beacon Journal). “I don’t know what I would do if I contracted [COVID-19] and gave it to him, and he passed. I couldn’t live with that,” Farley told Peter King of NBC Sports in August.”
From an on-field perspective, he has the size, has tremendous ball skills and already boasts plus-level technique on the outside. He can also excel in both press-heavy and zone schemes.
Potential fits for Caleb Farley in the 2021 NFL Draft
- Pittsburgh Steelers: General manager Kevin Colbert noted recently that the 2021 NFL Draft is stacked at cornerback. It’s also a position of need after Pittsburgh released Steven Nelson and with Joe Haden getting up in age. Farley more than fits what the Steelers like to do on defense, too. Taking him at 24 would be a risk. But it would also make sense.
- Cleveland Browns: On the surface, it doesn’t seem like cornerback is a need with Greedy Williams returning healthy and given the presence of Denzel Ward. With that said, Cleveland general manager Andrew Berry opened up recently about the possibility of selecting Caleb Farley. He doesn’t seem to be too concerned over both backs surgeries and the torn ACL the cornerback suffered back in 2017.
- New Orleans Saints: Head coach Sean Payton has made it clear that the Saints are going to add a starter-caliber cornerback at some point between now and the start of the 2021 NFL season. It’s highly unlikely that New Orleans is able to do that via the draft if it doesn’t trade up or avoid Farley due to his injury issues. Meanwhile, the legal issues relating to current cornerback Marshon Lattimore could play a role here.
- San Francisco 49ers: Selecting 43rd overall in the second round, there’s a chance that San Francisco moves up from that position for a specific target. The moves this team has made in free agency gives it flexibility, even after trading up to the third pick. Meanwhile, cornerback is a need with Richard Sherman likely to leave in free agency. A perfect scheme fit and potential Year 1 starter, Caleb Farley could make a lot of sense here.