In terms of NFL talent, the ACC is one of the best conferences in the NCAA heading into next season. Each Position has a top 100 prospect and there are plenty of first round talents across the board. The ACC has extraordinary depth at Quarterback with five players with the potential of being drafted next year. It will be a fun conference to watch this season leading up to the 2014 Draft.
1st String – Tajh Boyd (Clemson): The way the rankings fall , Boyd is the 3rd best Quarterback prospect and a potential first rounder. While he lacks elite size at 6’1”, he still has good weight at 225 lbs. He is a dual-threat quarterback who can beat you with his arm or his legs. While he is a not the fastest runner, he has good vision and is tough to bring down in the open field. If he is relegated to the pocket in the NFL he has a very strong arm and could win as a pure passer. He needs to improve his decision-making, but his O-line must improve as well to keep him comfortable. However, he has improved every year and seems dedicated to getting better. I have confidence that he will shoot up the boards next year.
2nd String – Stephen Morris (Miami): In his first year as a starter at “The U”, Morris showed off what may be one of the most impressive arms in the NCAA. Morris can truly put it anywhere on the filed and would thrive in a vertical offense with his arm strength. What is worrying is his poor pocket presence. He fails to move around in the pocket very well despite having solid protection and he has lapses in mechanics more times than wanted. He has the athletic ability to manipulate the pocket and escape pressure, he just needs to improve his awareness. However, in his second season starting, I expect huge strides from the gifted Quarterback.
1st String – James Wilder Jr. (FSU): The man. They myth. The legend. Not really, but James Wilder is easily the most physically impressive running back prospect right now. He is 6’2”, 230 lbs, runs a 4.5, benches 450 lbs and has almost no body fat on him. He is a physical specimen to say the least. Hopefully he is featured a bit more in the FSU offense to allow their freshman quarterback to grow a bit. However, Wilder’s lack of touches combined with what he does when he does touch the ball (often scoring) will be very attractive to NFL scouts.
1st String - Jerome Smith (Syracuse): A big back at 6’, 218, Smith wins with vision and size. He is able to find the nooks and crannies all over the field and hit them at full speed. He is not the fastest back, but he has great vision and that is incredibly valuable, just ask Alfred Morris or Arian Foster. Smith needs to add strength as he does not break away from tackles as much as his size suggest he should.
2nd String – Devonte Freeman (FSU): The “other” FSU back, Freeman was actually featured more than Wilder for some reason. Freeman is not bad by any means, but Wilder is the best. Freeman is much smaller at 5’8” and 208 lbs., but he is agile and fast. Has solid No. 2 back potential.
1st String – Sammy Watkins (Clemson): After an electrifying freshman season that elevated his status among the elite receivers in college football, Watkins crashed back to earth with a mediocre season plagued by injuries and off the field issues. Heading for a fresh junior season, there is no denying Watkins ability with the ball in his hands. He is fast and elusive in the open field, outrunning and wiggling away from would be tacklers. He needs to improve his physicality when duking it out with bigger corner, using his 6’1” frame to his advantage and winning 1 v 1s to get the ball.
1st String – Devin Street (Pittsburgh): Street is another piece of this great class of huge receivers. His 6’3’, 192 pound body will be an asset to teams in the redzone. He has a solid all around game and is physically impressive in all facets. However he needs to be more consistent. He would drop out of a game whether it be for his easily catchable drops, getting pushed around by corners or by poor play from his QB. He has shown the ability to do everything on the field, he just needs to keep focused and play at 100% every week to put himself in the conversation as a top 10 receiver.
Slot Receiver – Michael Campanaro (Wake Forest): Campanaro is not the biggest, strongest, or fastest player in the ACC, let alone the NCAA, but he is one of the most reliable. He has fly paper hands and great short area quickness. He runs his routes very well and uses his agility to create after the catch. He brings it on every play and has the work ethic coaches fall in love with.
2nd String – Alex Amidon (Boston College): If Matt Ryan had as talented a receiver as Amidon during his tenure at BC, he would likely have won quite a few more games. Amidon is by no mean the best receiver, but he is incredibly reliable. He makes middling quarterback Chase Rettig look a lot better with his savy underneath work and what he is able to do after the catch. He is an alright athlete but wins more with his on field intelligence rather than physical ability.
1st String – Eric Ebron (UNC): Ebron has all of the talent to become the best player at his position heading into the 2014 draft, but he makes mind numbing mistakes that take him down a few ticks. He is incredibly athletic and is basically a wide receiver in the body of a tight end, but he drops easy passes (sometimes touchdowns) and is an inconsistent blocker to say the least. Ebron has to buckle down this year and stay focused. He has all the making of a 1st round pick, just needs to play that way.
2nd String – Asa Watson (NC State): Despite lack of experience and lack of bulk (235 lbs) Watson is basically a 6’4” wide receiver. In his limited snaps he has flashed big play ability along with good speed for the position. Expect a big year from Watson as he is breaking in a new QB and will most likely be the go to guy.
1st String – Sentreal Henderson (Miami): Henderson is a mountain of a man at 6’8”, 345 lbs, but you would never know by the way he moves. He is agile, fast and powerful in both the run and pass game. He was an integral part in Miami’s success on offense this year. He has footwork issues in pass protection, but this is a first rounder.
2nd String – James Hurst (UNC): James Hurst was a big part (literally, 6’7, 305) of the UNC offense. However, it has been prolifically noted that he is not a good athlete. He moves poorly and that will hurt him at the next level. However, he is a phenomenal technician. Everything he does on a technical level is brilliant and that is how he wins. He could be better suited at right tackle or even guard, but as of now he is playing LT. If he moves better in his senior year, he is a 1st rounder, but he is still a smart player regardless.
1st String – Cameron Irving (FSU): A former defensive tackle, Irving has one year of college experience as an offensive tackle. However, one would not know that from watching him. Despite being a bit raw, Irving brings that aggressive nature from his defensive experience and carries it over. He attacks on the offensive line and loves to get in the face of rushers or would-be tacklers. True talent.
2nd String – Morgan Moses (UVA): While Moses is not the best athlete, he is big (6’6”, 330 lbs.) and very strong. It shows constantly, be it if he is stonewalling a defender at the line of scrimmage or putting a guy on his back in the run game. Moses is tenacious and smart. He transitions to left tackle this year and if he does well, he could boost his stock.
1st String – Brandon Thomas (Clemson): One of the lone bright spots on the Clemson O-line. He played a lot of tackle but is much better suited to play guard. He lacks the athletic ability to play tackle and does not have open field blocking ability needed against outside pass rushers. However, he is very intelligent and wins with fundamentals on the inside.
1st String – Malcome Bunche (Miami): At 6’6, 323, Bunche is a large man. He is not really a mover and as a result is moving to guard from his tackle position from last year. His strength and intelligence will suit him much better than at tackle.
2nd String – Brandon Linder (Miami): Linder is one of the better lineman in the ACC, using a good combination of size, strength, agility and technique. Unfortunately, he suffered a knee injury during the spring and it is yet to be seen how he recovers.
2nd String – Tre Jackson (FSU): Jackson was a stud along the FSU line last year. He was third on the team with 22 knockdown blocks, which is a testament to his violence at the position. He is strong and tenacious, coaches should love him.
1st String – Brian Stork (FSU): A true quarterback of the offensive line. Stork’s combination of smarts and leadership makes him one of the best center prospects in the country. While he is not a great athlete, he is still able to win with good angles and handwork.
2nd String – Russell Bodine (UNC): Bodine spearheaded a talented UNC line with his leadership ability. He is light on his feet and is able to get to the block quickly. What he lacks in strength, he makes up for with being able to make the play before the defender does.
4-3 Base Defense
1st String – Kareem Martin (UNC): It seems that every year, another physically gifted defensive lineman is churned out of Chapel Hill. Martin has good size at 6’5, 260 lbs. and he moves very well. He is a great athlete who plays the run very well but still needs to refine his technique as a pass rusher. His ceiling is very high and that will always get any scout drooling.
1st String – Jeremiah Attaochu (Georgia Tech): As he transitions from an outside linebacker as GT switches to a 4-3 defense, Attaochu needs to add bulk to his frame (Listed at 240) in order to win at the line of scrimmage. He is a great athlete with awareness as a pass rusher and a run defender, but got pushed around last year due to his low weight. Putting bulk on paired with learning how to use his hands will be incredibly important to his NFL future. He projects to a rush linebacker right now, but he is on the verge of adding a lot more to his game.
2nd String – James Gayle (Virginia Tech): Gayle is an athletic demon. Despite being 268 pounds, he runs a 4.6 and he also benches 400 pounds… That speed shows up on field as well as his motor. He is relentless as a pass rusher and is always driving towards the ball. He tends to get blocked pretty easily so he may want to add a little weight, but improving his technique could do just as well rather than using pure speed to win.
2nd String – Vic Beasley (Clemson): Clemson is another school known for churning out pass rushers recently. Beasley is another player in that line, as he lead the team in sacks despite not even starting last year. He has a great first step and is a speedy player. However at a measly 225 pounds, Vic needs to add weight to be a more effective every down player. As of now he projects to being a situational rush linebacker, but if he adds weight, he is athletic enough to be on the field more often.
1st String - Timmy Jernigan (FSU): Jernigan was an integral piece to FSU’s brilliant defensive line from last year. He is a quick player with good size at almost 300 lbs. He uses his hands well with a brilliant swim move that works consistently. However, he must learn to use more pass rush moves along with improving his first step to be more effective at the next level.
1st String – Aaron Donald (Pittsburgh): A lot has been said about Aaron Donald’s lack of size at 6’, 275 pounds but Donald brings it every snap. He uses his leverage very well along with his natural strength and quickness to win at the line and penetrate into the backfield. As a sophomore he showed a lot as a pass rusher and improved his running game as a junior. With another full season under his belt, he could prove to be a complete player who could be valuable in a defense giving him single gap responsibility without going head up on a lineman.
2nd String – Tim Jackson (UNC): At 285 pounds, Jackson is another bit of a tweener. However, he is a great athlete who was bale to use his speed to penetrate as Sly Williams was getting a lot of the attention next to him. It is yet to be seen how he can succeed without Sly next to him this year.
2nd String – Thomas Teal (NC State): At 315 pounds, Teal played a lot of 1-tech last season for NC State. He is pretty quick for a man his size and is able to use that speed to penetrate and create plays behind the line.
1st String – Telvin Smith (FSU): Despite playing second team on occasion, Telvin was third on the team in tackles last year. He is an intelligent player who sniffs out the play and uses his speed to close on the ball. He should take over full time this season in the middle of the FSU front and is on track to put up big numbers.
2nd String – Jack Tyler (Virginia Tech): Despite being a walk on, Tyler has exploded, leading the team in tackles and tackles for a loss. He is not a great athlete, but he flows to the ball very well. Not necessarily a starter at the next level unless given a strong defensive line in front of him.
1st String – Christian Jones (FSU): Jones is a freak. He is a stud outside linebacker who can come up and hit in the run, but has the fluidity and speed to keep up covering receivers and tight ends. He is a bit raw, but with a bit more coaching (Looking at you Jimbo Fisher), Christian has the talent to be the top no pass rushing linebacker in the country next year.
1st String – Denzel Perryman (Miami): Perryman is a smart player who uses his instincs and speed to flow to the ball. He is a bit small at 5’11”, 230 and tends to get swallowed up by blockers more often than not. He is best suited to a weakside role.
2nd String - Justin Jackson (Wake Forest): Jackson is one of many ACC players to be on Bruce Feldman’s annual “Freak List” and it shows. Jackson is fast (apparent 4.4 speed) and very strong. While he needs to add weight to his 220-pound frame and improve on field awareness, Jackson has great potential to play inside in a 3-4 with his speed.
2nd String – Dyshawn Davis (Syracuse): Another fast/strong combo package, Davis is a true athlete who uses that ability to shoot gaps and play in the backfield of the opposition. He needs to add bulk to improve his versatility, but he has high potential being a great athlete.
1st String - Antone Exum (Virginia Tech): Exum suffered a knee injury in the offseason and it to be seen how he recovers Exum is a big corner a 6 foot and plays with a true mean streak. He is incredibly aggressive, getting in the face of the receiver and throwing off his timing. Sometimes that aggression can be his downfield as fouls will get called on him as he gets tangled up. He brings a similar mentality when attacking the ball, aggressive, sometimes to a fault. He may need to reel it in a bit, but his tenacity and motor are pluses.
1st String – Kyle Fuller (Virginia Tech): The 2nd half of the VT corner tandem. Fuller comes up to the line of scrimmage to play the run and do it well quite a bit, something that is rare and valued in a corner. He is a solid athlete but will get caught flat footed in coverage a bit, but he is a smart player who reads the play well and could be the lead guy in the VT secondary heading into the season.
2nd String – Jamea Thomas (Georgia Tech): Thomas is a feast or famine player for Tech as he was used in a “rover” role a la Charles Woodson for the Jacket’s defense last year. He is a good athlete who flows well to the ball in the run game and in coverage, but his freelancing got him in trouble occasionally. He has the ability to hold up in press and it should be interesting as he is relegated to a more conventional corner position.
2nd String – Ross Cockrell (Duke): Flat out, Cockrell lacks the speed to play outside in the NFL. He is very physical and willing to be aggressive in the run game, but he comes in too hot at times, taking himself out of the play or missing tackles. He needs to focus his energy a bit more and learn to wrap up and take better angles.
1st String - Lamarcus Joyner (FSU): Joyner is 5’8”, but if someone called him small I am sure he’d put them on their back. Joyner flies all over the field at full speed, taking out ball carriers like it is the last thing he’ll do. His energy is reminiscent of Brian Dawkins. While he is moving to corner this season, which may be his position at the next level, his range and hitting ability as a safety make people forget his height.
2nd String – Tre Boston (UNC): Boston is a great athlete and a speed freak. He uses his speed to move across the defensive backfield and make plays in coverage. He is one of the better coverage safeties in he draft, but his run support and tackling leave a lot to be desired. He is best suited as a single high safety when he is given a load of coverage responsibilities.
1st String – Karlos Williams (FSU): Williams plays an interesting safety/linebacker role for FSU. He does a lot of down in the box work and has good size to do so at 6’1”, 230. He is built and hits like a linebacker and is more than willing to come up in run support. While his coverage needs a little work, this is another athlete on the FSU defense that has a high ceiling.
2nd String - Kyshoen Jarrett (Viriginia Tech): At 5’11” and 195, Jarrett is not the biggest safety and could add some weight. However, this kid flies all over the field with high level speed and tenacity. While he still has a ways to go as a safety, his speed is valuable on special teams, as he was one of his teams premier returners.
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