By Dylan MacKinnon
The final of the potential CB1’s in this draft is Virginia Tech’s Caleb Farley. The Hokies star corner remains in play to be the first corner off the board, despite opting out of the 2020 season. His 2019 tape and his elite athleticism are enough to keep him at the forefront of many scouts minds despite having not seen him play for well over 12 months. But should the Eagles target him over Patrick Surtain and Jaycee Horn?
Farley is fast, especially for someone who is 6 foot 2 and weighs over 200 pounds. The general idea would be that a corner that big would be slow. But Farley breaks that mold and then some. VT coaches clocked him getting up to 24 mph on the Football field. For reference, that is faster than Tyreek Hill’s top recorded speed. He projects to be able to keep up with even the fastest of WRS. But he’s not a one trick pony, and there is more to his game than just being big and fast.
He played the part of a legit shutdown corner. Just look at the passer rating opposing QBs had when targeting him.
Opposing quarterbacks had a 26.8 passer rating when targeting receivers in Caleb Farley's coverage last season— PFF (@PFF) July 29, 2020
5th best among all cornerbacks in college football pic.twitter.com/mISbEvn8SL
Farley didn’t originally envision playing corner. He came out of high school as a dual threat QB. His skills at that position were not going to get him a place on a college roster however. But what Colleges did love, was his raw athleticism. It was Virginia Tech who thought he had the profile to play defense, and they put him at corner. And while there were some bumps that first year, he showed huge potential. He had two interceptions his freshmen year to go with 7 pass deflections. He came back the next year with 4 interceptions and 16 pass deflections.
VT Defensive Coordinator Bud Foster praised not only Farley’s speed, but how quickly he picked up the technique
“You have to have ability, and he can run like a deer. That’s a big-time asset, but by the same token, he’s running backwards most of the time, or initially, while guys are moving forward, so there’s a lot of technique and fundamentals involved. That’s where I think he has really worked hard to improve in those areas. I’ve worked with a lot of guys who can run, but are not very good DBs, you know? He’s a guy that’s putting it all together.”
Farley takes pride in how he plays, and he is one to wear his emotion on his sleeves. No play exemplifies that more than when he had a pick six his sophomore year vs Georgia tech. It was the first time he scored a Td in college, after scored over 100 of them in his time at high school.
Will Byrne, his High School coach, was there, and knew what the moment meant to him. He talked to the Daily Press in Virginia about the moment, and about just what type of person his former player is.
“He may be the most competitive person I’ve ever been around. Back at Maiden, if we were playing just some random game in P.E. and he lost, he’d be upset about it the rest of the day. That’s just how he is.”
Farley attributes that to his good play. Its why he was so quickly able to pick up playing CB, and do so at a high level. In 2019 he had 7 games where he allowed one catch or less. He expects himself to be great, and more often than not, he succeeds at that goal.
CB1 Caleb Farley never allowed a deep 25+ yard TD in his career at Virginia Tech pic.twitter.com/O2p6qFmbLL— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) March 17, 2021
Dealing with His Mother’s Death
Farley’s road to this moment as he prepares to likely be a first round pick has not been easy. And there was likely no hardship greater than his mother’s battle with cancer that eventually took her life. Robin Farley battled her breast cancer for two years before passing near the end of his freshmen year.
Caleb tore his ACL that same year, and had to miss a year of playing Football for the first time in his life. But while that injury was hard to deal with, it at least let him be able to spend more time with his mother. When talking to David Hale of ESPN, Farley attributed his mothers own positivity to helping him get through that tough period.
“How she could be more happy than me, and she was the one going through it? That’s what kept me going. I just remember being weirdly at peace. I was calm. When I woke up, and the sun was out, I’d find joy in that.”
And many will tell you Caleb has that same trait his mom had. He has the ability to make others feel better. Even in the saddest circumstances. VT Head Coach Justin Fuente described an encounter he had with Caleb shortly after his mother’s death in that same David Hale ESPN article.
“There’ve been two times in his life that I’ve gone to him to try to make him feel better about a bad situation — his mother’s death and his injury,” Fuente said. “And both those conversations, he’s made me feel better. If the shoe was on the other foot, I don’t think anyone would walk away saying, ‘Man, coach made me feel better.’ It’s a remarkable gift.”
What The Experts Say
“Farley is one of the better big cornerbacks I’ve evaluated over the last few years. The NFL has turned into a man coverage league, and he possesses the ability to go nose to nose (one of my podcast partner’s favorite phrases) with the bigger, more physical wideouts. He wasn’t asked to play inside or travel (he played solely on the left side), but I believe he has the tools to move around at the next level. Every NFL team is trying to find players with his size and skill set.”
“Farley brings a rare blend of physical traits to the table in terms of size, length, quickness, fluidity, and athleticism that he pairs with exceptional man coverage skills that make him an exciting NFL prospect. Not only is he sticky in man coverage, Farley has game-changing ball skills and is an alpha in coverage. Unfortunately, his injury history is concerning. Farley suffered a non-contact ACL tear in 2017 that forced him to miss the season and then missed the last two games in 2019 due to back spasms, an issue Justin Fuente said Farley dealt with all season long. When it comes to on-the-field issues, Farley is a fairly complete prospect that is clearly ascending but sharpening his zone coverage skills would be beneficial. Farley has a full toolbox of traits to develop into a shutdown corner at the next level that can create takeaways.”
Where Caleb ranks among the corners in this draft is a matter of discussion. Some say he is below Surtain and Horn, some have him as CB1. With the Eagles now picking at 12, they may not get their pick of those 3, but at least one should be available. Horn has the athleticism and skill to be a top corner, but the injury history is a little concerning. But his unique blend of size and speed will make him tough to pass up.