Academic Standout Sunday: Khalil Herbert, RB, Virginia Tech

It is with great pleasure that the DraftRite team brings you another edition of Academic Standout Sunday. Every Sunday, new DraftRite writer Mike O’Brien brings you a prospect breakdown for players who not only excel on the field but also in the classroom.

“Why?” one might ask. “Who cares about grades?”

To put it simply, players who excel in their academic endeavors deserve to be commended for being outstanding players, students, and people. Some of the NFL’s most dominant football players are well read and versed off the field. The star examples of this would be Andrew Luck, Richard Sherman, and Ryan Fitzpatrick who all found success in the league that can partially be attributed to their mental prowess.

This week we dive into Virginia Tech running back Khalil Herbert, who made the 2020 All-ACC Academic team and overcame quite a bit in his journey through the collegiate ranks. Herbert started his career at the University of Kansas but later transferred to Virginia Tech, becoming the first Hokie since 2015 to rush for over 1,000 yards. His academic accolades aren’t as impressive as other prospects we have studied, but the perseverance is impressive. Herbert earned his degree in business administration and enrolled in graduate courses at Virginia Tech.

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WHAT HERBERT BRINGS TO THE TABLE:

Vision

The most impressive portion of Herbert’s game in my opinion is vision. Often he is able to find gaps before they open. The ability to accelerate through these gaps as they are opening almost looks magic on film. Can he see the future? No. He just has great eyes and can get to the second level in a hurry. Sometimes it looks so nonchalant. The term “natural runner” fits perfectly for Herbert.

Burst

A former track athlete, Herbert can change speeds easily while carrying the rock. The ability to explode and change speeds is going to be a major factor into how he translates to the NFL and will make him an asset, even if he has a nontraditional role in the league.

Elusivity

Defenders at the second level have a really hard time tracking him down because he can shake them off. I like to say Herbert has “subtle juice” where he can make defenders miss with twitch moves downfield. The low center of gravity works to his benefit and he really has potential to be a dangerous open field runner at the next level. This added element

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WHAT NEEDS TO IMPROVE:

Herbert only caught 23 passes during his collegiate career. I think there is some serious potential in that facet of his game yet to be tapped into. Being a shorter back, it might benefit Herbert to have that versatility and the pass catching ability would only be complemented by his natural athletic profile. The physical ability and vision are all there to make him a dynamic weapon as a pass catcher.

PROJECTION:

I think the skillset of Herbert is enticing but I would really like to see him develop as a pass catcher. If his athletic testing ends up being what I think it will be, Herbert receives an NFL Starter grade for me. The pass catching wasn’t on display on film, so he received a pretty significant demerit in that category which could give him a lower grade.

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