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Draft day is here, ladies and gentlemen, and the ACC has a ton of talent on display in the Windy City. The ACC has shown consistent success in producing NFL caliber players over the years.
In fact, beginning with the 2006 NFL Draft, the ACC has had 51 players selected in the first round, the second highest total by any conference. Last year, there were 42 ACC players selected in the 2014 NFL Draft, also the second highest total for any conference nationally.
This season, the ACC has just over 70 eligible players that can be chosen in this year’s draft. Let’s take a look at some of our top prospects and see how they compare to NFL players (both current and retired) who also played on present ACC teams.
Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State
Jameis Winston is a flat out winner. During his two seasons as Florida State’s QB, Winston went 26-1. He was named the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner and went on to win the 2014 national championship that same season.
Jameis Winston is an outstanding pocket passer with a great arm. He has the height to see over the offensive line and the thickness to shake off tackles. Winston has a natural ability to find windows on the field that other QBs normally don’t see.
There have been major concerns surrounding Jameis Winston’s decision-making ability, both on and off the field. Obviously, there were numerous situations on FSU’s campus when Winston behaved very immaturely. We’ve all heard the stories.
Jameis Winston’s biggest weakness on the field is also his decision making. Sometimes, as we saw in last year’s semifinal loss against Oregon, Winston will force throws into impossible windows rather than throwing it away.
Winston threw 18 interceptions last season at Florida State. Since 1996, only one quarterback threw more interceptions in his final college season and was selected in the first round.
That aforementioned quarterback was former Boston College QB, Matt Ryan. “Matty Ice” threw 19 picks in 2007 at BC and was the third overall pick in the following NFL draft.
Coincidentally, Jameis Winston and Matt Ryan share similar traits as quarterbacks. Both QBs measure in at 6-4, while Winston weighs five more pounds (227 lbs) than Ryan did coming out of college.
In Matt Ryan’s best season at BC in ’07, he threw for 4,507 yards with 31 TDs and 19 INTs. Ironically, in Jameis Winston’s Heisman season in 2013, he also threw for exactly 4,507 yards with 40 TDs and 10 INTs. If Winston goes #1 overall to Tampa Bay, these two ACC QBs will face each other twice a year.
Vic Beasley, OLB, Clemson
Vic Beasley is a running back in a linebacker’s body. In fact, the 6-3 OLB used to play running back in high school. Beasley is an explosive edge rusher with extremely quick feet for his size. His experience as a running back paid off as Beasley is able to change directions and burst to the target.
Vic Beasley absolutely dominated the linebacker’s group at the NFL combine. He ranked 1st at the 40-yard dash with 4.53 seconds. Beasley also ranked 1st in the bench press with 35 reps, while registering in at 3rd in the vertical at 41 inches.
Vic Beasley’s knock as a pass rusher has always been his size. In order to be an impactful player at the next level, Beasley will need to add more bulk. It will be difficult for him to transfer his speed to power against NFL tackles.
Beasley’s freakish athletic ability compares relatively well to former ACC superstar, Julius Peppers. In fact, Beasley’s 40-yard-dash time of 4.53 seconds was better than Peppers’ time of 4.68. Both players have relatively large hands, at about 10 inches each. Obviously, Vic Beasley is not as big as Julius Peppers but they both share similar athleticism and explosiveness out of the gate.
DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville
Although he missed the first seven games of his senior season, DeVante Parker still caught 43 passes for 855 yards and 5 TDs in Louisville’s final six games. This kid can flat out ball. Parker has phenomenal size at 6-3 and uses that to his advantage. He has incredible body control and soft hands. In fact, Parker has only been credited with three drops since 2012.
DeVante Parker sometimes lack sharpness in his route running. The 22-year-old from Louisville, Kentucky has never been a great run blocker because he lacks strength. In order to succeed in the NFL, Parker will have to bulk up because he will struggle against a more physical style of press coverage.
Watching DeVante Parker play reminds a lot of ACC fans of former UNC standout, Hakeem Nicks. Like Nicks, Parker does his best work when the ball is in the air. He uses his height and wingspan to make amazing plays. Also like Nicks, Parker has the ability to post ridiculous yards-per-catch numbers, which we saw at Louisville. DeVante Parker has the raw potential to become a legitimate lead receiver, preferably for a West Coast offense.
Kevin Johnson, CB, Wake Forest
Don’t let Kevin Johnson’s smaller frame fool you. The 6-1 CB from Clarksville, MD is a naturally gifted pass defender. Johnson plays much stronger than his listed weight of 175 lbs. Kevin Johnson is very disruptive in press coverage as he is able to mirror almost any complex route. He also has the pure athleticism and speed to recover when beaten. Johnson’s performance at the NFL combine shot him up the draft boards as he ranked first in the vertical jump, broad jump, 3-cone drill and 20-yard shuttle.
While his frame should not be major concern, Kevin Johnson has a very thin lower body. His thin frame concerns a lot of NFL scouts in terms of run support. He’ll need to clean that aspect of his game up if he wants to be a premier cornerback in the NFL.
Kevin Johnson compares relatively well to former Miami (FL) player, Sam Shields. Both players are very effective open-field tacklers but neither will wow you with their physicality or shedding blocks. Shields experience at wide receiver at Miami (FL) helped shape him into an excellent coverage defender. Johnson’s value lies with his coverage skills.
Eddie Goldman, DT, Florida State
Eddie Goldman was one of the most dominant interior linemen in college football over the past two seasons. Goldman shows incredible power at the line while maintaining enough burst to get to the QB. He also shows a lot of scheme versatility, meaning he can play in a 3-4 or 4-3 defense with no restraints.
Goldman’s biggest question mark to NFL scouts is his consistency as a pass rusher. Sometimes he plays too tall when attacking offensive linemen. Goldman also needs to work on his burst up field.
If you want a pro-player comparison to Goldman, it would be former Miami (FL) Hurricanes and current Hall of Fame DT Warren Sapp. Both DTs are big, powerful and athletic players who can really disrupt things with power, speed and agility.
Goldman’s power and ability to shed blockers rather than eating up space will make him a first round draft choice.