How far could Caleb Farley slip in the 2021 NFL Draft?

How far could Caleb Farley slip in the 2021 NFL Draft?

He was once considered as the best cornerback in the 2021 NFL Draft class and a lock to be selected in the first round. However, following offseason back surgery, Caleb Farley’s draft projection is far from clear. According to league sources close to Pro Football Network’s Chief NFL Draft Analyst Tony Pauline, the Virginia Tech cornerback could fall to the second round.

Speaking on the April 7 episode of Draft Insiders, Pauline told PFN’s Chief NFL Analyst Trey Wingo that:

“There are already teams that have a second-round grade on Caleb Farley. They already have him graded as the No. 4 cornerback in this year’s draft after Patrick Surtain, Jaycee Horn of South Carolina, and Greg Newsome of Northwestern.”

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Caleb Farley plummeting down draft boards

Virginia Tech’s talented cornerback Farley entered the 2021 NFL Draft process battling Surtain for the right to be the first CB off the board. Colleges recruited the former high school quarterback as a wide receiver before he ultimately emerged as a star cornerback in 2019. He earned first-team All-ACC recognition after allowing a completion on less than 50% of his targets and securing 4 interceptions.

Unfortunately, Farley’s play on the field — and resulting draft projection — has to be tempered by his chequered injury history. He lost his freshman season due to an ACL tear. More troublingly, his 2019 campaign ended prematurely following a back injury. The microdiscectomy surgery that Farley has undergone this offseason only compounds those injury concerns.

Although the procedure is considered minor, and he appears confident he will be ready for training camps, Wingo urges caution.

“Once you have back surgery, you’re probably going to have more. So, the idea of a ‘one and done’ for Caleb Farley — just historically based on how this injury plays out — is very unlikely. There is no such thing — in my opinion — as minor back surgery.”

Could other factors impact his draft projection, too?

His injury history is causing complications for his draft projection, as many analysts touted him as a top-10 pick just a few months ago. There was a legitimate chance he would be the first defensive player selected in this year’s draft.

Now, it seems like he may be the fourth cornerback taken and could even drop into the second round. It isn’t just the injury history impacting his draft projection, however. Citing health concerns around the global situation, Farley became the first player to opt out of the 2020 college football season. Some teams have reportedly been vocal in their opinions of opt-out players.

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Whether that alone impacts his draft projection is less relevant than the fact that some players have taken the opportunity to significantly elevate their stock through this last year, as Pauline explains.

“Remember, he also opted out. All those other guys played tremendously this year. Surtain. Jaycee Horn especially. Greg Newsome. It’s not just the fact that he’s got the back issue, the back surgery. He also opted out, and there are other cornerbacks that teams like a lot.”

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Oliver Hodgkinson is a staff writer for Pro Football Network. You can follow him on Twitter at @ojhodgkinson.