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Khalil Herbert, RB, Virginia Tech – NFL Draft Player Profile

Does Virginia Tech running back Khalil “Juice” Herbert have what it takes to be an early draft pick in the 2021 NFL Draft?

Khalil Herbert, RB, Virginia Tech - NFL Draft Player Profile
Khalil Herbert, RB, Virginia Tech - NFL Draft Player Profile

Running back nicknames are strangely reliable when it comes to communicating a running back’s specific skill set. Beast Mode. The Bus. All-Day. Tractorcito. Does Virginia Tech running back and 2021 NFL Draft prospect Khalil “Juice” Herbert carry on this trend? Here’s a look at his NFL Draft profile, and how he might project to the professional level.

Khalil Herbert NFL Draft Profile & Senior Bowl Measurements

For updates from the 2021 Senior Bowl, click here for our 2021 Senior Bowl Practice Report: American Team or 2021 Senior Bowl Practice Report: National Team.

  • Position: Running Back
  • School: Virginia Tech
  • Current Year: Redshirt Senior
  • Height: 5’8 7/8″
  • Weight: 204 pounds
  • Wingspan: 71 3/4″
  • Arm: 30 1/8″
  • Hand: 8 5/8″

Until the 2020 season, Khalil Herbert was largely an unknown. He took a different path than most to his NFL Draft ascension, and for a time, he wasn’t even on the radar. Herbert began his football career in Plantation, Florida, serving as a running back for American Heritage High School. There, Herbert did enough to earn a three-star billing in the 2016 recruiting class.

Herbert had a 35-inch vertical on record, but he lacked elite size and speed. Thus, he didn’t receive a great deal of Power Five interest. Most of his offers came from lesser-heralded schools like Fordham, Florida Atlantic, Appalachian State, and Georgia State. For the better part of a year, Herbert held out for better offers. And late in the process, the Kansas Jayhawks swooped in and presented a match for Herbert. He signed with Kansas, eager to play on the Power Five stage.

Khalil Herbert’s journey to becoming a Virginia Tech running back

Herbert logged playing time early in his career, but he never quite broke out as a premier threat with the Jayhawks. In 2016, Herbert earned 189 yards and three touchdowns on 44 carries. In 2017, he went for 663 yards and four touchdowns on 120 attempts.

When 2018 came around, Herbert’s production dipped again. After increasing his yards per attempt to 5.5, Herbert came in with just 499 yards and five scores on 113 attempts in his true junior season. As a true senior in 2019, Herbert was little more than an ancillary threat.

Nevertheless, he showed off his upside, going for 384 yards and two touchdowns on just 43 attempts. That 2019 season, while less involved, would prove crucial in granting Herbert’s next opportunity.

Herbert’s lone season with the Virginia Tech Hokies in 2020

Herbert gained valuable educational insight at Kansas, graduating with a degree in business administration. However, on the field, the juice simply wasn’t worth the squeeze.

Ahead of the 2020 season, Herbert entered the portal as a graduate transfer, aiming to increase his prestige as a draft prospect. Choosing between Nebraska and Virginia Tech, Herbert ultimately chose the Hokies. And it was with Virginia Tech that the running back had his best season.

The Hokies used Herbert at a much higher clip, and he logged career-highs in almost every category in 2020. Playing in 11 contests, Herbert amassed 1,183 yards and eight touchdowns on 155 attempts, good for 7.6 yards per carry. He also caught ten passes for 179 yards and a touchdown. The Virginia Tech running back was a third-team All-ACC selection, finally earning the recognition he’d lacked at Kansas.

After his breakout 2020 campaign, Herbert declared for the 2021 NFL Draft. He also accepted an invite to the Reese’s Senior Bowl in 2021.

Analyzing Khalil Herbert’s NFL Draft profile

Khalil Herbert is a fun runner to watch. He definitely brings some kind of juice, and it isn’t citrus. Herbert has a good amount of explosiveness in the open field, and he also has exceptional long speed.

He’s not an all-out burner, but he should clock in somewhere in the 4.4s or early 4.5s. With that speed, Herbert can elongate space and extend plays, and he can modify his angles well with his lean. He can also hold his own in footraces against most defensive backs and linebackers.

Featured | Hodgkinson’s 4-Round 2021 NFL Mock Draft

Herbert compounds his speed and explosiveness with solid vision. He doesn’t throw himself into the pile on every run. Rather, Herbert is patient in the backfield. He’s decisive when he sees a lane, and when he doesn’t, he has enough speed to stay alive as he roams toward the sideline. When Herbert has space to turn upfield, that’s where his burst shines for real. With little slivers of space, Herbert can get over five yards with abrupt quickness.

At 5-foot-9, 212 pounds, Herbert doesn’t have great size, but it’s enough for a running back of his mold. With his relative density, Herbert is proficient at shaking off arm tackles. Additionally, his leg churn and foot speed allow him to maximize his frame, and he has enough fluidity in crowds to sneak away and get to the open field.

What are the potential issues with Herbert?

A lot of Herbert’s positive traits also allude to potential limitations. While Herbert has great explosiveness over open spaces, his short-area burst isn’t as sudden. He needs a bit of a runway to gain speed. Even at his maximum, some defensive backs might be able to stick with him.

Additionally, while Herbert has some slippery traits in congestion, he doesn’t have consistent contact balance. Herbert is more of a space runner. As mentioned earlier, Herbert has enough elusiveness to shake off weaker arm tackles. However, he’s not very elusive or resilient against solid contact. He also doesn’t have very much lateral twitch or agility. This naturally limits his capacity to create.

Furthermore, Herbert can show more as a receiving threat. He flashed a bit in 2020, but in five career seasons, he averaged well under ten catches per year. Herbert’s game theoretically translates well to the screen game, but the Virginia Tech running back isn’t yet a proven commodity there.

Khalil Herbert’s best fits in the 2021 NFL Draft

Herbert’s a nice player. He has a stable center of gravity, and overall, he brings good speed, long-range explosiveness, and visit. Having that in mind, Herbert also doesn’t show much suddenness laterally, and he doesn’t have a ton of contact balance at his size. Thus, he might not project as a full-time starter in the NFL.

Of course, in the modern NFL, there’s always a chance for running backs to emerge. The position has the most churn each year, and Herbert has some of the qualities that help running backs produce with limited opportunities.

Nevertheless, Herbert doesn’t have the completed profile to be an early pick, and he doesn’t have the proven receiving utility to boost his stock, either. For the moment, Herbert looks like a mid-to-late Day 3 pick, who could rise into Round 4 with a good offseason.

How might Khalil Herbert mesh with NFL teams?

In the later rounds, Herbert brings a lot of appeal. He’s a bit older as a rookie running back. However, he still brings a good change-of-pace skill set, and in time, he could show more comfort as a receiver out of the backfield.

Additionally, Herbert is a willing blocker. While his size doesn’t always fare well in that phase, he at least has some utility there. Teams in need of another running back in their stable, for a cheap price, could do a lot worse than the Virginia Tech star.

Even with his projection somewhat limited, Herbert has a chance to improve his stock at the Senior Bowl. There, he’ll join a talented cast of running backs. He won’t be the only sleeper in attendance, but with his dynamic traits in space, he can potentially set himself apart.

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