There is a lot to like about the Virginia prospects headed to the 2023 NFL Draft. But there may be even more to like about the Cavs’ chances for success in the ACC in the 2022 college football season. Headlined by their quarterback Brennan Armstrong, the list of players UVA is putting on the field this fall is extraordinary.
Virginia prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft
Armstrong leads the pack on offense, but there’s a slew of talented pass catchers to keep a special eye on this fall. The skilled receivers on the receiving end of the big-armed lefty have varying skill sets as well, making them one of the more well-rounded units in the country.
Brennan Armstrong, QB
It all starts up front with Armstrong for the Hoos this season. Armstrong is an interesting case study because he put up such lofty numbers in 2021. Throwing for nearly 4,500 yards and 31 touchdowns, Armstrong has several NFL-level throws in his arsenal. However, Armstrong possessed a boom-or-bust mentality at times a season ago. He was gifted some good interception luck at times but also showcased even more special throws. Armstrong understands how to utilize his legs as well and can buy time in any pocket. There’s a lot to like about Armstrong as a college quarterback, and honing his intangibles will make him an enticing pro signal-caller.
Mike Hollins, RB
A bowling ball to try and tackle, Mike Hollins should see many more opportunities to showcase his ability on the ground in 2022. He’s bounced off defenders in a limited capacity to date, but Hollins possesses an ability to take over games from his days in high school. With great vision and terrific contact balance, Hollins also contributes in the passing game.
Ronnie Walker Jr., RB
Similar to Hollins, Ronnie Walker Jr. could see the benefit of a ton of vacated carries from a year ago. Walker had a sound freshman season back at Indiana in 2018 but hasn’t rekindled that form since transferring to UVA in 2020. With more carries available, his veteran leadership and ability in the passing game (12 catches and 112 yards in 2019) should allow him ample opportunity to put his skill set on display.
Dontayvion Wicks, WR
The returning star for this UVA offense, Dontayvion Wicks feasts from anywhere on the field. Averaging a whopping 21 yards per catch last season, Wicks is a big-play threat waiting to happen and can get open at any level of the field. With speed for days and soft hands, Wicks wins over a variety of coverage defenders all the same. Wicks also possesses terrific size for a man of his skill set and should be on the shortlist for all the major college football awards this preseason.
Lavel Davis Jr., WR
It’s hard to forget the ridiculous skills that Lavel Davis Jr. has. For a man standing at 6’7″ and 224 pounds, Davis has plenty of speed and even more surprising elusiveness on his routes. Though his bread and butter is exactly where you think it would be — contested catches — Davis possesses elite body control. After missing last season with injury, he’s back to add a massive element, literally, to this UVA offense.
Billy Kemp IV, WR
It doesn’t matter where you line Billy Kemp IV up, he just wins. A longtime contributor to the Hoos, Kemp had another resoundingly effective — albeit quiet — season in 2021. He’s a lifetime 9.0 yards per catch contributor but is a reliable threat over the middle of the field with an ability to find open spots and use his strong hands at the catch point.
Keytaon Thompson, WR
The leader in receptions for Virginia a season ago, Keytaon Thompson clearly took to his position change after transferring in from Mississippi State. A former quarterback, it’s safe to say Thompson understands coverages perhaps as well — if not better than — any receiver in the country. Thompson utilizes that knowledge to his advantage, navigating to the open holes in zone or finding the weak man over the middle from the slot. He also showcased reliable hands a season ago, something that may have come as a surprise to the uninitiated.
Grant Misch, TE
There aren’t a lot of free targets to go around in this offense, but Grant Misch could certainly eat into those left by Jelani Woods. In doing so, the nimble 6’4″, 245-pounder should make waves as he continues to adjust to the tight end position full time. A former linebacker, Misch is as hard-nosed as they come and possesses an elite ceiling at the position. He’s also a special teams nightmare for the opposition to contend against at the next level.
Jonathan Leech, OT
Playing Virginia’s swing tackle role a season ago, Jonathan Leech steps in for Bobby Haskins on the left side in 2022. It’s an inexperienced line overall for Virginia in 2022, but Leech’s experience at both left and right tackle could pay dividends. We may not see Leech at tackle in the 2023 NFL Draft or even in the 2024 NFL Draft, as he may be a tailormade NFL guard when the time comes.
Derek Devine, G
Though Derek Devine missed last season with injury, he returns as one of just two upperclassmen expected to start this fall for UVA. Devine has experience at both guard spots, albeit limited snaps. Yet, he’s a massive man with a high upside.
Aaron Faumui, DL
Virginia’s leading returner in pressures and sacks, Aaron Faumui is back for one more year of terrorizing ACC quarterbacks. The big man rushes from a variety of positions on the defensive line, finding the quarterback more often than not. He is likely best set to find a home in the NFL on the inside, but that versatility will do him wonders at the next level.
Olasunkonmi Agunloye, DL
With ridiculous size at 6’6″ and 282 pounds, Olasunkonmi Agunloye is a handful for offenses to gameplan against. Agunloye hasn’t quite produced at elite levels for UVA to date, but entering the lineup in a full-time capacity should allow him to slowly build up his pass-rush moves. He’s already a valuable run-stopping lineman for Virginia, and adding pass rushing to his skill set would make him a hot commodity.
Jahmeer Carter, DT
The Hoos’ nose tackle, Jahmeer Carter smothers opposing centers at will. He’ll feast on them in the pass-rushing game but what makes him special is his ability to stop the point of attack in the rushing attack. Carter is a big man and a tough ask to block, oftentimes commanding double teams.
Chico Bennett Jr., LB
Transferring in from Georgia Tech, Chico Bennett Jr. missed the 2021 season at Virginia despite two solid seasons with the Yellow Jackets. Bennett has great size at 6’4″ and 240 pounds, moving off the ball very well in a limited capacity. If he comes into his own at linebacker for the Hoos, Bennett’s ceiling is sky high.
Nick Jackson, LB
Virginia’s leading tackler from a season ago, Nick Jackson is a ball hawk. He’s sound in all facets and flies to the ball from the middle of the field very well. With sound technique, Jackon’s best attributes are his tackling and discipline. He also possesses an elite ability to disguise and time his blitzes with near perfection.
Hunter Stewart, LB
The Cavs are known for versatile linebackers over the past few years, and Hunter Stewart is ready to throw his name into that group. Stewart can play MIKE or rush off the ball from the edge all the same. It’s not a matter of how he’ll impact the game — it’s just how much at this point. Stewart is fast and has great length for his role in this defense.
Darrius Bratton, CB
Manning one side of the field in coverage, Darrius Bratton is back for his sixth year at Virginia. Bratton has sound coverage ability on the outside, sticking with receivers of all different sizes. He also has great length and a good burst to close on the football at the catch point.
Anthony Johnson, CB
Showcasing his skills at multiple times a year ago, Anthony Johnson had a great debut season for Virginia after transferring from Louisville. After three seasons with Louisville, Johnson had his best year in 2021. He’s set to return to the boundary and prove his three-interception season was no fluke. With great length and an ability to keep his receivers in check, Johnson is a major player for one of the top cornerbacks in this class.
Antonio Clary, S
Virginia’s top two safeties are NFL bound, and Antonio Clary steps into the starting role at strong safety for the Hoos in 2022. Clary is a stout 6’0″, 200 pounds playing the position very well through three years. He’s great in run defense and a sound tackler, but improving his coverage ability against a variety of pass catchers is key to his success both in college and for the next level.
Coen King, S
A similar profile — both athletically and in theory — Coen King is set to see a massive uptick in snaps and ultimately impact on the Virginia defense in 2022. King has extensive experience covering the slot from last season but also owns a great ability to cover space at safety. He’s quick to react and has a burst to close on any ball in space as well as come downhill in the run game.