9 players from the ACC were taken in the first round of the most recent NFL Draft which was 2 more than the celebrated SEC. The Pac 12 also had 9 guys picked. SEC has two more schools in their conference than the Pac 12.
My intention is not to slam the SEC, but to set the record straight.
1. Deshaun Watson – Clemson QB: Watson is my number 1 by potential not based on what he has done. But, from what Joe Public has seen Watson is a smooth operator with a very solid arm. He throws a nice deep ball and with the big arm, he also has very quick feet and is clearly a tremendous athlete at the Quarterback position. As a true freshman, Watson was brought along slowly and he split playing time with senior Cole Stoudt. Watson was injured in the Louisville game and then sat out 3 games before coming back against Georgia Tech. Against Tech, he injured his knee in an ugly loss for Clemson. He missed the next game but was back for the South Carolina game and played well. Then, he missed the Bowl game against Oklahoma which was a nice blow out win for the Clemson Tigers. Watson wound up with 1,466 yards passing and 14 Touchdowns. He also ran for 200 yards and 5
Touchdowns. If Watson can stay healthy, he should have a big season in 2015 in spite of the loss of Offensive Coordinator Chad Morris who left to take the head coaching job at SMU.
2. Kendall Fuller – Virginia Tech CB: Virginia Tech has always been known for Special Teams and Defense. Fuller is one of the best Cornerbacks in the country, if not the very best. He was an instant starter as a freshman in 2013 and stood out from the beginning. Fuller had 54 tackles in 2014, with 2 Interceptions, 2 sacks, 4.5 tackles for loss and an impressive 15 pass breakups.. Fuller has excellent size, speed and was a 5 star recruit coming out of high school when he signed with Virginia Tech.
3. Justin Thomas – Georgia Tech QB: Thomas is one of my favorite players to watch on any given Saturday. He is a slick operator almost like a magician with the ball in his hands. The 5-11, 190 Junior from Prattville, Alabama threw for 1,719 yards in 2014 and 18 Touchdowns. He also ran for 1,089 yards and another 8 Touchdowns. Thomas led his Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets to the Coastal Division championship of the ACC and they lost by 2 points against the heavily favored Florida State Seminoles. Thomas has most of his Offensive Line returning and enough talent on both sides of the ball to challenge for the ACC title yet again.
4. Quin Blanding – Virginia DB: 5 star recruit Blanding out of Virginia Beach was every bit as good as advertised. He was one of the top Defensive Backs coming out of high school and now is one of the top young Defensive Backs in college football. He was supposedly 6-2, 209 coming out of high school but was listed at 6-4, 215 on the Virginia roster. Blanding led all Cavalier tacklers with 123
tackles and 3 Interceptions. Blanding is one of the up and coming football players in all of college football.
5. James Conner – Pittsburgh RB: The 6-2, 250 Conner is an old school hard charging power runner for the Pittsburgh Panthers that had a huge season in 2014 with 1,765 yards and 26 Touchdowns. That was after a 799 yards and 8 Touchdowns as a true freshman when he was recruited as a Defensive End out of high school. There was talk last season of Conner playing some Defensive End as well as Running Back, but clearly he was too valuable as an offensive player. Pitt has Chad Voytik returning at Quarterback, outstanding Wide Receiver Tyler Boyd and some good Offensive Linemen to take some pressure off of Conner in 2015.
6. Roberto Aguayo – Florida State Kicker: Nobody knows more about the importance of a kicker than Florida State and Aguayo is the best in the country, by far. Aguayo was 55 out of 55 on extra points and 27 out of 30 on Field Goals. Most reliable kicker in the country.
7. Bucky Hodges – Virginia Tech TE: The former Quarterback took to the Tight End position like a natural last season. College football has gotten away from the Tight End for the most part in recent seasons, but there are still a few programs that see the importance of the Tight End and the mismatches they present to a defense. The 6-6, 250 Hodges caught 45 passes for 526 yards and 7 Touchdowns in his redshirt freshman season.
8. Dalvin Cook – Florida State RB: Cook was one of the top Running Backs in the ACC in 2014 and after a slow start ran for 1008 yards on 170 carries and scored 8 Touchdowns. The speedster out of Miami is back for his sophomore campaign and could put up huge numbers while the Seminoles are breaking in a new Quarterback. One thing that could hold him back is the arrival of sensational true freshman Jacques Patrick. The 6-1, 235 incoming freshman from Orlando, Florida was
outstanding in the Seminole’s Spring game and looks like a future star.
9. Tyler Boyd – Pittsburgh WR: The last time Joe Public saw Tyler Boyd, he was dropping a pass that would have brought his team back for a last minute win in their bowl game loss to Houston in the Armed Forces Bowl. But, that wasn’t the real Tyler Boyd. This is a big play guy that hauled in 78 receptions a year ago for 1,261 yards and 8 Touchdowns. Boyd returned punts and kick offs, plus running for 63 yards. Pitt returns Boyd, Running Back Conner and Quarterback Voytik and should be a dangerous opponent.
10. Mike Williams – Clemson WR: Yet another big play ACC Wide Receiver, Williams averaged over 18 yards a catch and teamed up with true freshman Artivus Scott to form one of the better receiver combos in the country. With a healthy Deshaun Watson throwing them passes in 2015, look for Williams and Scott to have outstanding seasons. Williams caught 57 passes for 1,030 yards which averaged 18.07 per catch.
11.Jalen Ramsey – Florida State CB/DB: First true freshman since Deion Sanders in 1985 to start at Cornerback for the Seminoles. Ramsey probably should be higher ranked on this list. He was a 5 star recruit coming out of Brentwood, Tennessee and has lived up to the hype. Ramsey is also a track star and ran a 10.5 100 meters in high school with a 21.44 200 meters, a 48.02 400 meters, a 6-8 high jump and over 25 feet in the long jump. He threw the shot over 49 feet and triple jumped over 47 feet. The guy is a remarkable athlete and it carries over onto the football field. Ramsey will be one of the top players in the nation this next season and a possible 1st round pick. As a sophomore, Ramsey had 80 tackles and 2 Interceptions.
12. Brad Kaaya – Miami QB: Kaaya was one of the bigger surprises in the country last season with 3,198 yards passing as a true freshman out of West Hills, California. The 6-4, 210 sophomore
completed 221 passes out of 378 passing attempts. He also threw for 26 Touchdowns against 12 Interceptions. Kaaya looks like one of the nation’s bigger and brighter new stars.
13. Marquis Williams – North Carolina QB: Offense was never a problem in 2014 for the Tar Heels. Williams led the offense with 3,073 yards and 21 Touchdowns. On the ground, Williams had 783 yards rushing and 13 Touchdowns. Williams has taken huge steps of improvement every year in Chapel Hill and if he continues, then 2015 could be an outrageous year for him. The Tar Heels finished 6-7 in 2014 and it wasn’t all about the defense being awful, but a lot of it was. They hired Gene Chizik, the former Auburn head coach as their new Defensive Coordinator which could help the Tar Heels tremendously in 2015.
14. Nate Andrews – Florida State DB: Another big time ACC Defensive Back and yet another star at Florida State. In state rival, Florida, is fighting with LSU to be called DBU and Florida State has more NFL Defensive Backs in the NFL than Florida does presently with Andrews and Ramsey soon to be there as well. Andrews was second on the team in tackles with 93 and he picked off 3 passes.
15. Lorenzo Featherston – Florida State OLB: The Seminoles have recruited lights out the past few years, and Featherston is one of their bright young stars. He is a tall and skinny young talented athlete with great speed and quickness coming off the edge. He will fill out with work in the weight room and the dining hall and be a force at Florida State in 2015 and beyond. People think that Florida State will be down because of the loss of Jameis Winston, but they have a lot of talent in the last two classes. They should be nationally competitive for years to come.
Roderick Johnson -Florida State OT
Travis Rudolph – Florida State WR
Artivis Scott – Clemson WR
Jacoby Brissett – North Carolina State -QB
Adam Gotsis – Georgia Tech – DT
Jon Hilliman – Boston College RB
Jayron Kearse – Clemson Safety
Shaq Lawson – Clemson DE
Jeremy Cash – Duke Safety
DeVon Edwards – Duke Safety
George Campbell – Florida State WR
Reggie Northrup – Florida State LB
Ryan Izzo – Florida State TE
Paul Davis – Georgia Tech LB
DJ White – Georgia Tech DB
Brandon Radcliffe – Louisville RB
Will Gardner – Louisville QB
Keith Kelsey – Louisville LB
Joseph Yearby – Miami RB
Gus Edwards – Miami RB
Stacy Coley – Miami WR
Artie Burns – Miami CB
Ryan Switzer – North Carolina WR
Shadrach Thornton – North Carolina State RB
Bo Hines – North Carolina State WR
Adam Bisnowaty – Pittsburgh OT
Isaiah Ford – Virginia Tech WR
Dadi Nicolas – Virginia Tech DE
Ken Ekanem – Virginia Tech DE
Ryan Janvion – Wake Forest DB