After several months of hard work following an up and down season, several UVA football players could potentially hear their name called in the 2022 NFL Draft, which begins on Thursday night. Despite the Cavaliers’ struggles towards the finish line and not playing in the Fenway Bowl due to COVID, the Hoos will have the opportunity to celebrate the careers of several former players that hope to find NFL homes over the weekend. Since 1983, the Cavaliers have had players drafted in all but two NFL Drafts and would love nothing more than to add to that this weekend. With that said, here are some of the top UVA prospects on team’s big boards.
TE Jelani Woods
The 6’7, 265 pound TE from Oklahoma State made an immediate impact in his sole season with UVA to truly establish himself as one one of the best players at his position not only in the ACC but in all of College Football. For the season, Woods played in 11 of the Hoos’ 12 games and recorded 44 receptions for 598 yards to go along with 8 TDs. His 8 TDs were second on the team and fourth in the country at his position, as Woods established himself as one of the best red zone threats in all of College Football. His large size and catch radius helped himself become one of the best TEs in the country this past season and could result in him hearing his name as early as Thursday night in the first round. However, he is more likely to be a round two or three pick as one of the first TEs off the board.
DE Mandy Alonso
Despite the defense not quite living up to expectations this past season, Alonso was one the best pass rushers in the ACC, as he led the Hoos in sacks with 3.5. He also finished second on the team with tackles for loss with 6.5, just 1.5 back from team leader Noah Taylor. Overall, in his five years with the UVA program, Alonso was a model teammate that served as one of four captains this season in his final year with the team. Even though it is unlikely that Alonso will be selected in the first two days of the draft, he certainly could hear his name called in the final three rounds of the draft, and I would definitely expect him to sign with a team if he happens to go undrafted.
CB Nick Grant
Another guy that spent five years with the UVA program, Nick Grant has put himself in position to potentially hear his name called this weekend after enjoying arguably the best year of his career. This past season, Grant had career highs in tackles for loss, passes deflected, and forced fumbles despite only playing in a total of 10 games. He also was fourth on the team in tackles with 48 and provided some key experience as a Senior for UVA’s largely young secondary. Despite not being projected to be a day two or three pick like Alonso, Grant’s athleticism and experience should garner him interest from teams in the final rounds of the draft.
S Joey Blount
After missing much of the 2020 season with an injury, Blount bounced back with maybe his best season to date as a Cavalier this past season. Overall, Blount picked up right where he left off from his success in 2019, as he finished second on the team in tackles in 2021 with 86 and led the team in INTs with 3. He also finished the year with a sack to help lead the Hoos to another bowl game appearance. With all of Blount’s success this season, he has earned himself an opportunity to get drafted this weekend, and he could very well be drafted towards the final picks and rightfully so after an impressive career with the UVA football program.
OT Ryan Nelson
Overall, Nelson finished off his UVA career as a four year starter on the offensive line and was a key blocker in both the passing and running game. In his four years as a starter, Nelson moved around on the offensive line and turned into one of the anchors for the unit. With his 6’6 and 325 pound frame, Nelson could wind up being an enticing project for a team wanting to take the chance. It is more than likely Nelson does not get selected, but his size and improvement makes him an attractive undrafted free agent target.
The NFL Draft is always an exciting time for college prospects, and it gives these Cavaliers an opportunity to start the next stages of their careers. These potential draftees had successful stints at Virginia and have a chance to translate their skills at the next level.