Virginia linebacker Max Valles surprised more than a few folks when he announced via Twitter Tuesday afternoon that he intended to apply for early entry into the 2015 draft.
One reason for the surprise is that he had said in December that he was remaining in school for his junior season. Another reason is his relative inexperience: He was at Virginia for only two years (2013 and '14) because he spent 2012, his first post-high school season, at a prep school. He is eligible for the draft because he is three years removed from high school graduation.
Despite his inexperience, Valles (6-foot-5, 240 pounds) is an interesting prospect because of his pass-rushing ability. He had 13 sacks and 18 tackles for loss in two seasons for the Cavaliers; almost 25 percent of his college tackles were tackles for loss(18 of 78, or 23 percent). This season, Valles led Virginia with nine sacks and also had 12.5 tackles for loss, an interception, a fumble recovery, three forced fumbles and four quarterback hurries.
Valles has been productive because of his first-step quickness and sheer speed; he needs a lot of refinement as a pass rusher and must become a more well-rounded player, but he definitely has an upside.
Valles is from New Jersey and originally signed with Virginia as a 208-pound "athlete" in the 2012 recruiting class, then signed again in 2013 as a 240-pound tight end. Valles was not a touted recruit, but he played extensively at outside linebacker as a true freshman in 2013 -- starting four times -- before becoming a fulltime starter this season.
His departure is another hit for Virginia, which also is losing junior defensive end Eli Harold to the draft. Harold had seven sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss this season. In addition, safety Anthony Harris and linebackers Henry Coley and Daquan Romero were seniors, so that is a big talent drain on defense.