Why Undrafted?: Jermaine Waller, CB, Virginia Tech

This series was created in response to questions about why certain well-known prospects went unselected in NFL drafts. For these articles, I reach out to sources with NFL teams to find out why their organizations passed on drafting a given player, and/or, what were the reasons for other teams to pass on that prospect. The positive response to “Why Undrafted” and questions from readers about why prospects were drafted lower than the media expectations led us to create the parallel series “Why the Slide?”

Both series are back this year. Feel free to email me requests for Why the Slide? and Why Undrafted? at [email protected]. I can’t promise to get to all of them, but I will do my best and definitely will respond to the email.

Virginia Tech has had a strong tradition over recent decades of pumping out quality cornerback prospects for the NFL. Waller looked like he was poised to continue that trend after a breakout 2019 season in which he notched three interceptions, 10 passes broken up and 46 tackles. After playing in just three games in 2020, Waller continued his ball production in 2021 with four interceptions, five passes defended and 45 tackles. Waller is 6-foot and possesses established ball skills so it was surprising that he slid to the undrafted ranks.

During the draft process, Waller had some fans in the scouting community who liked his ball skills, length and quickness. There were far more skeptics, however, who saw the 175-pound Waller as too thin. They felt he needed to get significantly stronger for the NFL because he was pushed around and boxed out at the catch point. Those concerns were the issues that led to Waller going undrafted.

After going undrafted, Waller signed with the Detroit Lions, which was a great landing spot. The Lions entered the 2022 NFL Draft needing cornerback talent and did not select one until the late rounds. Former general manager Bob Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia selected Jeff Okudah with the third-overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, but Okudah has been a massive disappointment and may not make the team. Aside from Okudah, Detroit only has one established starter in Amani Oruwariye. But even Oruwariye has an uncertain future in Detroit because he is in the last year of his contract. Hence, Waller landed with a team that has a wide-open competition for playing time and roster spots. He also benefits by signing with an excellent coach to learn from in defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn, who had very good career in the NFL at cornerback. Waller might need a year to develop physically and get stronger, but he has a real opportunity to stick in the NFL with the Lions.

2024 NFL Mock Draft - April 23

NFL Power Rankings - Feb. 22

Fantasy Football Rankings - Feb. 19

NFL Picks - Feb. 12