When it comes down to deciding whether they'll return to Virginia Tech for another season or not, it's really a simple evaluation process for running backs Darren Evans and Ryan Williams.
Just how bad does the National Football League want them right now? That's the question for both players.
Evans, a junior, and Williams, a redshirt sophomore, have both submitted paperwork to the NFL Draft Advisory Board that will help each player receive an educated guess about where they might be drafted in April if they decide to forgo remaining college eligibility. If both players find out they could be chosen in the early rounds, there's a chance both could decide to leave Tech after this season.
In order to find out what one NFL inside source thinks about Evans and Williams, as well as Tech senior quarterback Tyrod Taylor's chances of getting drafted, the Daily Press got a few comments from a scout with a National Football Conference team. Since no NFL team wants to play its hand in the pre-draft process, the scout wished to remain anonymous.
Though he missed 4 1/2 games this season with a partially torn hamstring, Williams is the Tech underclassman that's drawing the most attention from the NFL. He has 473 rushing yards this season, after running for an Atlantic Coast Conference first-year player record 1,655 yards last season.
"He's a talented guy with a good body for the NFL," said the scout, who added he projects Williams to be a second or third round pick if he enters the 2011 draft. "His speed is average, but he runs hard and has good feet and vision. He gets yards after contact."
ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper rates Williams as the nation's second-best underclassman running back, behind only Alabama's Mark Ingram. The NFLDraftScout.com website rates Williams the third-best running back available in what would be the '13 draft class if he stayed in college through his senior season, behind Alabama's Trent Richardson and Oregon's LaMichael James, respectively.
"With the season that I've had, if the paperwork comes back and I'm not satisfied, then, of course, I'd like to come back (to Tech) and prove to people more about my abilities on the field and get back up to the round I want to get in," Williams said.
Underclassmen have until Jan. 15 to decide if they want to give up their remaining college eligibility to enter the draft. Of course, there's a possibility the threat of an NFL lockout could affect the decisions of underclassmen.
As for Evans, he has had a successful season after bouncing back from a torn anterior cruciate ligament that robbed him of his entire '09 season.
"He isn't real fast, but he's quick," said the scout, who projected Evans to be a third or fourth round pick if he comes out for the '11 draft. "He's a one-cut guy. He has good vision and good hands."
Evans leads No. 12 Tech (11-2), which will play Jan. 3 in the Orange Bowl against No. 5 Stanford (11-1), with 817 yards and 11 touchdowns. He's averaging 5.9 yards per carry.
"I'd say I've just got to think about it," Evans said. "I still have two classes to take, and I'd just hate to miss out on that opportunity (to finish up a degree). That's basically my mindset…just figuring out what's the best opportunity for me."
Taylor, a Hampton High graduate, has put himself in position to at least get some looks from NFL personnel after completing 61 percent of his passes for 2,521 yards, a Tech single-season record 23 touchdowns and four interceptions in a senior season that saw him win ACC Player of the Year honors. At 6-foot-1 and 216 pounds, Taylor may still have to show some NFL types he's quarterback material in the league.
Taylor is rated the ninth best senior quarterback in the nation by NFLDraftScout.com, behind Washington's Jake Locker, FSU's Christian Ponder, Delaware's Pat Devlin, Nevada's Colin Kaepernick, Iowa's Ricky Stanzi, Texas Christian's Andy Dalton, Alabama's Greg McElroy and North Carolina's T.J. Yates. Taylor is projected to be a sixth or seventh round selection by the website.
"He's draftable because of his athleticism, but we're not sure if he's a quarterback," said the scout, who also referred to Taylor as a late round selection.