The ACC is coming off a huge year in which Florida State claimed the National Title from Auburn and Clemson had a great Bowl win over a very good Ohio State. The conference lost some key players to the NFL draft with stud Clemson receiver, Sammy Watkins, going fourth overall and the highly decorated Aaron Donald going 13th overall. Despite losing a lot of big name players, the ACC has a stacked crop of players, mostly underclassmen, who could hear their name called next May.
Jameis Winston (FSU): Winston truly has everything you want in an NFL signal caller. He has great size (6-4, 235), a huge arm, very good athletic ability and fantastic poise. He has a great field IQ and played at a level well above his age last year. Only real concern comes in consistent footwork and a long release. If he can progress and tighten up his mechanics, he could compete with Marcus Mariota as the best quarterback in the class and the first player taken in the draft.
Second Team: Anthony Boone (Duke)
Karlos Williams (FSU): When Williams was moved from safety to running back last year, many people, including myself, were upset at the move. After all, who wouldn’t want a 6-1, 220 pound, incredibly athletic player at the safety position? Well, it turns out there is a reason Jimbo Fisher is a head coach of a national title team as Karlos Williams exploded as a running back and is one of the most gifted players at that position in the country. Williams has incredible burst, long speed and strength. His vision improved massively from game to game next year and if he can continue to learn the nuances of the position, he has a chance to be a special NFL back.
Duke Johnson (Miami): Johnson has been the talk of Miami ever since his freshman year and this could be the year he finally puts on a show for the country as his sophomore year was shortened by an ankle injury. Johnson has fantastic acceleration, agility and possesses very impressive vision. He is a much tougher runner than his diminutive stature (5-9, 205) would lead to believe. He needs to improve his pad level to avoid injury and make himself harder to bring down. Johnson needs to stay healthy, but he is incredibly talented and could be in the mix for one of the top backs in this very talented class.
Second Team: Kevin Parks (UVA), Michael Dyer (Louisville)
Davante Parker (Louisvile): One of the most underrated Quarterback-Receiver tandem in the country last year was Parker and 2014 first rounder, Teddy Bridgewater. Parker has great size (6-3, 209), with strong hands, and incredible focus at the catch point. He dominates contested situations and is very underrated after the catch. He does not have great long speed and isn’t very quick through his routes so he depends on his possession ability to be open while he is not. If he can get off the line quicker and improve his route runner, he should be in the conversation for the top receiver. However, he wins and loses in very similar ways to former Texas A&M receiver, Mike Evans, who went seventh overall last year. Regardless of how much he improves this year, parker should be hearing his name called very early next year.
Rashad Greene (FSU): Despite former first rounder, Kelvin Benjamin, got all the hype last year, it was Greene who was the top receiver on the Florida State team. Greene lacks elite size (6, 178) but he has incredible speed and agility. He is a fluid route runner who does not lose speed through his cuts and he does a very good job of catching the football, though he should try to use his hands more to catch. He should put on some weight to help with durability in the NFL, but he plays very big and has great speed. He should have a long NFL career.
Second Team: Jamison Crowder (Duke), Quinshad Davis (UNC)
Gerald Christian (Louisville): In his first year at Louisville, Christian had a very solid season catching passes from Teddy Bridgewater and could be an even bigger factor this year with a new quarterback and possible improvement from himself. Christian is a bit undersized (6-3, 242) but he is a very smooth athlete and is a receiving threat from anywhere on the field with athletic ability and soft hands. He needs to improve as a route runner, but he is a good athlete who also is an effective blocker so he should get many looks in the NFL draft.
Second Team: Braxton Deaver (Duke)
Cameron Erving (FSU): The former defensive tackle was the best player on one of the best lines in the country last year. He has great size and length (6-5, 305) with great natural strength, a strong punch, good speed downhill and a relentless, violent playing style. He is a monster in the running game and can anchor very well. He is a physical specimen, but I worry about his technique and lateral agility. There is not much to do about his agility, but he gets lazy with footwork and his hands and relies too much on his natural tools. There is no doubt he is talented, but he needs to take advantage of his great tools to take it to the enxt level.
Sean Hickey (Syracuse): While Hickey ahs good size (6-5, 300) he lacks the elite athletic ability that a lot of the top tackles in the country have but does a good job compensating with clean footwork and a strong punch. He needs to improve his pad level and stay on his feet against stronger pass rushers. There is a legitimate concern with his lower body strength, but it something he is able to improve.
Second Team: Jamon Brown (Louisville), Ian Silberman (Boston College)
Laken Tomlinson (Duke): At 6-3 and 320 pounds, Tomlinson is a monstrous presence in the inside of that Duke offensive line. Tomlinson has it all from a physical perspective with great size, quickness and natural strength. Tomlinson needs to learn to use his hands better, but he flashes dominance at the guard position and could be primed for a big year.
Josue Mathias (FSU): Mathias is not talked about as much as he should but he is a physical specimen (6-6, 331) with impressive burst and overall strength. It is rare to see a man of Mathias’ size move the way he does but I’d like him improve his pad level, though it is a bit difficult for a guard of his height. Regardless, he is incredibly talented and should start garnering hype during the regular season.
Second Team: Tre Jackson (FSU), John Miller (Louisville)
Jake Smith (Louisville): The leader for the Lousiville line, Smith lacks elite traits but makes up for it with fantastic fundamentals and intelligence. He uses his hands very well, uses leverage affectively and has quick, light feet. Stronger defenders can overmatch him, but his intelligence and mechanics could make him a valuable NFL player.
Second Team: Shane McDermott (Miami)
Vic Beasley(Clemson): Beasley burst onto the scene last year for the Clemson defense, spending most of the season in the opposition’s backfield, terrorizing quarterbacks. Beasley has a diminutive frame (6-2, 235) and can struggle when tackles can get their hands on him; however, he is just too quick for blockers to react to him. He has incredible burst off the line and bends beautifully. Against stronger players, Beasley does a great job of converting speed to power to push blockers around. He needs to play in space in order to use his excellent burst because his size allows him to get washed out against the run as he lacks ideal lower body strength. If he can play out in space and attack, he should be a tremendous player in the NFL.
Mario Edwards (FSU): Edwards could be listed at a bunch of different positions due to his NFL ready size (6-3, 290) and superb athletic ability. Edwards displays excellent burst, lower body strength, hand placement, awareness all over the field and he has very light feet for a man his size. He has the ability to power through a blocker, but also has the flexibility to bend the edge and create pressure on the perimeter. He needs to improve his anticipation and his pad level, but Edwards is a player who could play various positions in the NFL at a high level if he cleans up his game.
Second Team: Lorenzo Mauldin (Louisville), Norkeithus Otis (UNC)
Interior Defensive Lineman
Luther Maddy (Virginia Tech): While Virginia Tech had the most talented secondary in the country last year, their defensive line, specifically Luther Maddy, played a huge part in the Hokies’ defensive success. Maddy is not imposing in size (6, 292), but he all kinds of terrifying in his play. He has excellent burst off the line and strong, violent hands, impressive overall quickness and superb use of leverage. Maddy also has a very strong base that he does a great job of anchoring against the run with. He tends to get a bit high out of the snap, which needs to be fixed but aside from that, Maddy is a superb defensive player and could go a lot higher than people are talking about right now.
Grady Jarrett (Clemson): Jarrett is a big-bodied player (6-2, 295) with a strong base that he does a good job of holding up against the run with. He has decent quickness and active hands, but lacks the anticipation and initial burst to be an impacting pass rusher. If he can time the snap better to improve his get off, he will take the next step as a complete interior defender.
Second Team: Olson Pierre (Miami), Ethan Farmer (UNC)
Denzel Perryman (Miami): The standout on the Miami defense last year, Perryman lacks ideal height (5-11, 242) but is an explosive and intelligent linebacker. Perryman has great recognition ability and does a fantastic job of exploding into running lanes and punishing ball carriers. He is a strong, fundamental tackler, is great at tacking great angles, and has strong hands to disengage blockers so he can make plays. He isn’t a fantastic athlete, but he still is a good coverage player due to his intelligence. Ideally he is playing inside of a defense where he can quarterback the unit and make plays downhill.
Dyshawn Davis (Syracuse): Davis looks and plays a lot more like a rocked up safety than a linebacker (6-2, 220). Davis has excellent range and burst with decent instincts. Too often he is found trying to weave around blockers to make plays due to his size and gets washed out if players get their hands on him. He is definitively a player who can make an impact in the NFL as a weak side linebacker or a big nickel, but he just needs to find his niche.
Kelby Brown (Duke): Brown exploded onto the scene after missing the entire 2012 season with an ACL injury and now heads into the 2014 season as one of the best linebackers in the conference. Brown is a smart, instinctive player who does a great job in coverage due to his ability to diagnose plays. He is a bit light (6-1, 230) and isn’t very quick, but he improve another year removed from the ACL injury. He is a high motor player who flies all over the field, so if he can fully recover from his injury and put on a little weight, he could find himself taken as high as Day 2.
Second Team: Cameron Lynch (Syracuse), Quayshawn Nealy (Georgia Tech), Todd Thomas (Pitt)
PJ Williams (FSU): The first year starter was the best secondary player on the field last year for the Noles. Williams has good size (6, 194), agility, burst and long speed. He is very physical and has no issues getting into it with the receiver. He needs to improve his instincts in coverage, but he is young and the sky is the limit for him.
Ronald Darby (FSU): The second half of Florida State’s talented corner, tandem, Darby has good size (5-11,195) with long arms and great long speed. He does a very good job of attacking the ball and is very active at the line. He and Williams have similar potential and they could both hear their names in the top 50 next year.
Second Team: Ladarius Gunter (Miami), Demetrious Nicholson (UVA)
Anthony Harris (UVA): Harris led the nation with 8 interceptions last year and is now buzzing heading into 2014. He has a lean frame (6-1, 190) with good burst and decent long speed. Harris does a good job of recognizing plays from deep coverage and uses his burst to make plays on the ball. He is a liability against the run, often taking poor angles and not finishing plays, but his ability to make plays over the top make him an asset in the NFL. If he wants to get his name called early in the draft, he will need to improve his run defense,, but he is a natural deep safety.
Kyshoen Jarrett (Virginia Tech): Jarrett is a bit undersized (5-11, 195), but he is a very fast moving, fast thinking player with abilty to play over the top and in the box. He is a tough, smart player who can get moved all over the field and impact the game. Teams are going to worry about his height, but I think he will contribute as a good player in the NFL.
Second Team: DeDe Bonner (Virginia Tech), Tim Scott (UNC)
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