|High School:||Maiden (Hickory, North Carolina)|
Surrounded by family, Caleb Fairley announced in a video sent to ESPN and published on social media that he would be opting-out of the 2020 college football season and instead focus his training on the 2021 NFL Draft. The redshirt junior prospect has generated first-round buzz in the NFL Draft community with his sophomore season tape.
Here is former Virginia Tech CB Caleb Farley’a announcement that he is opting out of the college football season to train and turn pro, sent to ESPN: pic.twitter.com/5j4FmQvGKy— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) July 29, 2020
Farley was a 2019 1st Team All-ACC player, who placed second in the league with 4 interceptions and first with 16 passes defended, despite missing the final two games of the season with back spasms. Tech head coach, Justin Fuente, reported that Farley had dealt with a series of spasms all season long. He was redshirted in 2017 after suffering a non-contact ACL tear before the season had started. He’s struggled to stay healthy a good portion of his career, and that is worth noting.
The Draft Network lists Farley as their best cornerback prospect entering the 2021 NFL Draft and their 9th overall prospect. Farley played quarterback in high school and holds the North Carolina state record for most touchdowns scored in a game (8), an effort he achieved twice. He was recruited to Virginia Tech as a wide receiver but was quickly moved to cornerback before the 2018 season.
Farley has hired Drew Rosenhaus to be his agent, one of the top agents in the NFL. Because of this hire, there will be no recanting for Farley.
The Complete scouting Report on Virginia Tech #Hokies CB Caleb FarleyTweet
Scouting Report: CB Caleb Farley, Virginia Tech
Philadelphia Eagles and NFL Draft analyst, Fran Duffy, had nothing but praise for Caleb Farley. Per Duffy, CBS Sports NFL expert, Ross Tucker, pointed out Farley after his first game playing cornerback, against Florida State in 2018, as a guy to watch.
Talking with @BenFennell_NFL & @dpbrugler on the Journey To The Draft Podcast about #VaTech CB Caleb Farley, who declared for the #NFLDraft last week & will opt out of the 2020 season— Fran Duffy (@EaglesXOs) August 5, 2020
This is a TOOLSY player. Got a lot of CJ Henderson vibes https://t.co/eDpgJLJRyX pic.twitter.com/nQ54gRSvwK
The thing to understand going into the tape on Farley is that he is primarily a mirror technique prospect. What I mean by that, for those of you who don’t know, is that Farley will imitate the movement of the receiver in order to stick with him on his routes. His strength is reacting to the movements of the receiver. This technique requires incredible athleticism and body control, which Farley seems to display having.
Caleb Farley, the Va. Tech star who opted out yesterday, is PFF’s top CB in the 2021 draft. Jeff Thomas did this to him last season. pic.twitter.com/wr5ujHnsA2— Zack Cox (@ZackCoxNESN) July 30, 2020
Because of his mirroring technique, it does allow extra room for error (unfortunately). As displayed above, when Farley makes a mistake, it can be devastating. Against stronger and more subtle route-runners and double moves, Farley’s chance to make a mistake increases. NESN’s Zack Cox made sure to show rookie Patriots receiver, Jeff Thomas, torching Farley.
In this particular play, Thomas manages to get Farley to react to what appears to be a corner-post route. By faking a move back to the inside of the field, Farley flips his hips to anticipate the break to the inside. Instead, Thomas cuts back outside and is left wide open on the play for the touchdown.
Despite this playing style and technique, there is no reason to doubt the fact that Farley can be an extremely good NFL cornerback. I think that being the first player to opt-out of the season helps his publicity tremendously. It’s going to make him a fan favorite.
Caleb Farley is silky smooth and quick. He has excellent feet that allow him to move very well. Not only is his footwork very good, but his hips are incredibly flexible and quick. His transitions are clean. He can turn on a dime. There isn’t really anything to see that is wrong with his athleticism.
To me, Farley looks like a guy who is going to run around a 4.45 forty-yard dash. I think that there is a level of top-end speed there and he is going to stick with some of the faster receivers in the league. If he can’t get it any shorter than a 4.5, his stock is going to drop a little bit because of the nature in which he plays his game.
Man Coverage Ability
I’m seeing that Farley isn’t a guy who likes to get physical with receivers in their route. He relies on his speed and athleticism to stay in the play. It’s going to depend on how he tests before a real assumption can be made about his ability to stay in the play in the NFL, but judging from the tape, he’s very quick, very fast, and should test well at the NFL Combine.
Farley a natural in man coverage. He plays well enough to read routes and oftentimes appears to be running the route for his receiver. I like his hand usage as well, although it is something that he can get better at.
Press Coverage Ability
Don’t go into a game expecting Farley to jam at the line of scrimmage. He is a hands-off cover corner, which is good because it will limit the number of penalties that he will draw. Because of his mirroring technique, he is susceptible to a great release. Farley’s style is very self-confident, he believes he has the athleticism to stay in the play if he loses off of the release.
Because of this lack of desire to play physical football, Farley won’t be a desirable cornerback for a few teams around the league. Some schemes want corners to jam, and that’s not a technique that Farley is comfortable doing.
I absolutely love the way that Farley plays release moves off of the line of scrimmage. He keeps the receiver in front of him and reacts, switching seamlessly between a trail technique and his mirroring. I think NFL teams will find this attractive too.
Zone Coverage Ability
Virginia Tech didn’t play a lot of zone coverage last year. For the most part, Farley was good. That being said, he did struggle at times to make proper reads and fill the correct zone. There were a few blown assignments scattered throughout the zone repetitions, mostly all mental, where Farley didn’t correctly read the play. He hasn’t quite developed that natural feel for what is around him. Farley will take his eyes off of the quarterback to locate the receiver around him, and lose where he is in the play.
This is expected for someone like Farley, who has only been playing the position for two years at the collegiate level. It can only be assumed that Farley will only get better at his position with more experience.
I think that Farley plays a deep zone much better than he does a shallow. He will keep receivers in front of him and rely on his incredible athleticism to make the play on the football.
Farley is a capable receiver in the back-end. Yes, I used that term. Farley is a former receiver, and he was explosive as a dual threat quarterback in high school. Because of his offensive experience, he shows incredible ball skills. He attacks the ball extremely well and is very good at locating it.
Doing my evaluation of Caleb Farley. Through 7 quarters, he’s been targeted 7 times. He was called for 1 pass interference. He has allowed 0 catches. He has 2 PBU’s. And THREE INTERCEPTIONS. This kid is the real deal!— Alex Simpson (@Alex2TheSimpson) July 30, 2020
Production doesn’t normally tell the full story, but it can give you a very good idea of what is going on the field. Farley finished the 2019 season with 4 interceptions and 16 passes defended in just 11 games. In 2018, as a redshirt freshman, he intercepted 2 passes and defended 9.
From what I have seen, Farley needs to clean up his tackling technique. He’s more willing than some cornerbacks that I have seen recently (like CJ Henderson), but he doesn’t have a solid technique.
That being said, I don’t see Farley being much of an impact in run defense. He was largely a non-factor on run plays. When he does move to make a tackle, I think his angle is a little bit off as he seems almost afraid to take on contact, especially with bigger bodies.
In 24 career games over his two seasons at Virginia Tech, he collected just 56 total tackles.
Farley is an incredibly smart football player. That’s very clear with his ability to stay in the hip pocket of receivers so well. He reads and reacts very well when in man coverage, and is rarely caught out of position.
That being said, he’s still learning to be instinctual when in coverage. I mentioned this in the zone coverage aspect, that because he doesn’t have the natural feel for the play around him, he struggles to feel the play around him. His attempts to locate the receivers around him remove him from the play and he can become ineffective in zone coverage.
Caleb Farley plays with a tremendous amount of passion and energy for his teammates. He’s constantly mouthing off on the field, usually in support of his teammates. He’s fun to watch and, from what I can tell, had much respect in the locker room.
There is also much more energy when Farley is in coverage than when he is in run defense. The energy level is vastly different and noticeable, even when the run play is moving toward him.
Caleb Farley is going to be a good football player in the NFL. He’s very athletic, he’s built at the prototypical size, and he’s produced at a high level. We’ve seen players similar to his mold go early in the draft, and if he tests as well as I anticipate him testing, he’s going to be a top 15 pick.
That being said, Farley is not a perfect fit for every team. He would struggle to find the field in defensive schemes such as Pete Carroll’s defense in Seattle, or Dan Quinn’s defense in Atlanta. I don’t think he will be as high on teams draft boards that rely more on zone coverage.
The floor for Caleb Farley in the NFL is a very good slot cornerback. I think the ceiling is a top ten cornerback in the league. I don’t think you can play him as your number one cornerback right away, but he can impact your team in some role immediately. Unless, of course, you want him to learn through suffering, he will get toasted against some of the top route-running receivers in the league.
I don’t think you’re expecting to put him on top receivers right away, you want him to learn to better react to double moves and fakes. He’s going to be a very good corner in the league.
Grade: Immediate Impact