Virginia senior cornerback Bryce Hall made a big decision last winter to stay in school and finish his college eligibility with the Cavaliers. That decision, he said, was rooted in gratitude for how much he's gotten from the university throughout his time on campus -- and for the faith Virginia provided Hall as one of just two FBS schools to offer him an athletic scholarship. The other? Coastal Carolina.
“I wanted to finish what I started here,” Hall said. “This program gave me so much. Before I leave, I want to give everything I have to them.”
Hall has blossomed during his time in Charlottesville to become one of the top cornerback prospects in the entire country -- and this past weekend he lived up to his word. He gave the Cavaliers everything he had. And then some. Hall was carted off the field in Virginia' 17-9 loss to the Miami Hurricanes with a left leg injury. That injury, which Hall has already had an operation for, was a ghastly one for certain. Hall's left leg was rolled up on during a punt return in the second quarter of the contest and just like that, Hall's college career is over.
It serves as the latest reminder that the football gods are a cruel bunch. Because Hall, by all accounts, is an outstanding young man and a terrific student athlete. He deserves so much better than to have his swan song at Virginia ended like this. And yet here we are, with Hall shelved for the rest of the year and potentially for the foreseeable future. His return timeline is impossible to predict from the outside looking in and his body's recovery is the only thing that will provide significant clarity on this front in the coming months. The 2020 Reese's Senior Bowl is 3.5 months away. The 2020 NFL Combine is 4.5 months away. The NFL Draft? 6 months away. It's difficult to speculate on what Hall could possibly be cleared for.
Then-Washington QB Robert Griffin III suffered a dislocated ankle in Week 2 of 2014 and was back as the starter by December. Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Ronald Darby dislocated his ankle early on in the 2017 NFL season and missed two months before a return to the field.
But the medical details of Hall's injury haven't been established and it would be unfair to place expectations on Hall to be ready to rumble for any of the pre-draft process. Should he heal in time for any of the events? What a blessing that would be for Hall in his bid to join the pros this spring. But this is something for doctors and medical professionals to determine and certainly not for guesswork.
What we do know? This is a loaded crop of cornerbacks for the 2020 NFL Draft -- and we'd already begun to see some rumblings via insiders that Hall may not have the top-shelf standing some consider his ceiling should warrant. Tall, long, physical corners are all the rage -- but all of that size and stature comes with a cost, typically in the way of long-speed and short area quickness. Hall's value can be optimized on certain teams that like specific coverage responsibilities, but he isn't going to be considered a universal prospect. And more often than not, scheme specific prospects (regardless of position) see slightly diluted value in the NFL Draft.
Pair that with Hall's latest development in the way of an ankle injury of to be determined severity and a deep crop that could possibly include viable 1st-round prospects in Ohio State's Jeffrey Okudah, LSU's Kristian Fulton, Stanford's Paulson Adebo, Alabama's Trevon Diggs, Ohio State's Shaun Wade and perhaps even others? There's a domino effect here that's going to be felt not just by Hall in suffering his injury and the subsequent recovery but also by numerous other corners in the 2020 NFL Draft.
The most important thing right now at this moment is that Bryce Hall focus on his recovery and maintain the positive mindset he's already adopted in the brief time between his season-ending injury and now.
“Can’t express how much all the love, support and prayers have meant for everyone has reached out,” Hall wrote on his Instagram page on Sunday. “All is well. I know God’s got my back and He works all things together for the good. All pain has a purpose and I will be back stronger than ever from this!”
With this level of focus, positive energy and faith in his journey, Bryce Hall is going to be just fine. He may end up lingering on the draft board a little longer than he may have otherwise -- but we've seen time and time again that draft status is just a number and it isn't one that serves as the be all, end all. It's going to be very easy to gloss over Hall in the coming months when discussing the 2020 NFL Draft's cornerback talent. Don't do it. Because in the right scheme, Hall can be a star. And he's already proving he's got the mental fortitude to cut it when the pressure is on.