Accomplishing anything for 33 years in a row is impressive, so the fact Virginia has produced at least one pick in every NFL Draft since 1984 is something the program rightly celebrates.
Only Miami has a longer streak among ACC programs and the Cavaliers have had 89 players drafted in that time. Prior to missing out in 1983, Virginia had a 12-year draft streak and many experts expect Taquan Mizzell to make it 34 straight years for the Cavaliers this week.
UVA’s track record for producing NFL talent spans multiple decades and seven head coaches. The era has spawned the careers of All-Pros such as Herman Moore and Tiki and Ronde Barber, along with Pro Bowlers Heath Miller and Matt Schaub.
It also raises questions about why the Cavaliers have not won more with all that talent. The past three decades of UVA football has produced two pre-expansion ACC titles, three weeks atop the AP Poll and some mid-level bowl games.
How much does a program value hanging with Miami and Florida State in this category, but falling well short in terms of championships? Would the Cavaliers trade the draft streak for a bowl game streak even half as long as Virginia Tech’s? Note: The Hokies have made a bowl game in 24 consecutive seasons.
Some years the streak has stayed alive because the Cavaliers had one or two players sneak into the late rounds. That will be the case this year, too, if it improves to 34 — likely Smoke Mizzell. But Virginia has had star players, too.
Between 2005 and 2011, the Cavs had eight players taken in the first two rounds. D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Chris Long, Branden Albert and Eugene Monroe were all top-15 picks. But during that period, Virginia also had four losing seasons with two head coaches, went 1-2 in bowl games and lost every game to Virginia Tech by an average of 24 points. (Yikes)
The point is, Virginia has plenty to be proud of on fall Sundays, but it has not made Saturdays any more enjoyable. Producing pro players can boost recruiting and the walls of NFL jerseys in the interview room at Scott Stadium is striking.
Former UVA coach Mike London had plenty of top 35 recruiting classes, but not many teams that were even among the 50 best in FBS.
Does Bronco Mendenhall have the formula to turn pro prospects into college winners? He did fairly well on both accounts at BYU, but for whatever reason it seems to be particularly challenging at Virginia.