In what felt like a down year for the ACC, 11 of the 14 teams in the conference qualified for Bowl game with just North Carolina, Florida State and Louisville closing the season with losing records. From an NFL Draft perspective, there were some prospects that truly emerged while some that failed to meet expectations.
I learned a ton this year scouting the ACC. Let's examine.
5 Best Prospects
1. Clelin Ferrell, EDGE, Clemson
Ferrell is a long, lean and athletic edge rusher that simply knows how to affect quarterbacks. His variety of moves and physical upside should lead to him being a highly impactful playmaker in the NFL. Ferrell enters the Playoffs with 16 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks to his credit on the season.
2. Brian Burns, EDGE, Florida State
Burns is a lean pass rusher but he ran circles around ACC offensive tackles all season long en route to 15.5 tackles for loss, 10 sacks and three forced fumbles. His blend of length, burst, flexibility and ability to string together pass rush moves should make him a coveted prospect.
3. Kelvin Harmon, WR, NC State
Logging back-to-back 1,000-yard receiving seasons, Harmon has been one of the ACC's most productive receivers over the last two seasons. He is a true alpha with dominant play strength and underrated athletic ability.
4. Bryce Hall, CB, Virginia
Hall checks a LOT of boxes. He's long, athletic, physical and brings exceptional ball skills to the table. He had a dominant season in coverage, making routine plays on the ball and working from a variety of techniques. A converted wide receiver, Hall offers an exciting ceiling given his newness to the position and how he's already performing.
5. Chris Lindstrom, iOL, Boston College
A four-year starter for the Eagles dominant rushing attacks, Lindstrom has the play strength needed to create movement in the run game and his experience outside at tackle lends itself favorably to his ability to pass protect. Lindstrom can help fortify an NFL interior offensive line right away.
5 Most Over-Hyped Prospects (From The Pre-season)
1. Levonta Taylor, CB, Florida State
Taylor had a sensational sophomore season, leading many to believe he was destined to be a first-round pick with another strong season. Injuries severely limited Taylor in 2018 and he underperformed, likely leading to another season in college to try and recapture his momentum as a prospect
2. Ryan Finley, QB, NC State
Finley has been a productive passer and distributes the football effectively to a terrific supporting cast behind an excellent offensive line. With that said, studying his physical traits and evaluating his processing skills leave much to be desired. He profiles as an NFL backup.
3. Shaq Quarterman, LB, Miami
If Quarterman has a clear path to his target, he's lights out and makes physical plays. His issues stem from a lack of quick play diagnosing skills, below average range, struggles working off blocks and inconsistent angles.
4. Lukas Denis, S, Boston College
Coming off a junior season where Denis' logged 7 interceptions and 10 pass breakups, there was plenty of excitement about Denis as a prospect and his ability to make game-changing plays on the ball. Lost in his 2017 ball production was an extremely inconsistent tackler and processor playing forward. With only 1 interception and 2 pass breakups this season, Denis lost his momentum as a prospect.
5. Mitch Hyatt, OT, Clemson
Hyatt is a highly decorated prospect with an abundance of high-level starting experience but a thorough look at his skill set reveals a truly limited prospect. There have already been hints that he will get a chance to play some center at the Senior Bowl.
5 Most Improved Prospects
1. Dexter Lawrence, DT, Clemson
Lawrence was limited by injury in 2017 which blended poorly with his massive frame and modest mobility. While I would still love to see Lawrence drop weight and improve his athletic ability, he looked much more explosive this season.
2. Wyatt Ray, EDGE, Boston College
With Harold Landry in the NFL, Ray took full advantage of his opportunity to see more time on the field and logged 11.5 tackles for loss and 9 sacks this season. While he has plenty of room to grow, he showcases a good variety of pass rush moves that put him on the radar.
3. Qadree Ollison, RB, Pittsburgh
Ollison stared his career with a standout freshman season that included over 1100 yards and 11 TDs but faded in 2016 and 2017. He’s re-stablished himself as a senior and rushed for 1134 yards and 10 TDs, showcasing an exciting blend of size, power, vision and acceleration.
4. Gerald Willis, DT, Miami
Willis had his share of troubles with disciplinary issues at Florida and then Miami after his transfer, but he cleaned things up and was a standout performer in 2018. Racking up 18 tackles for loss and four sacks, Willis was a disruptive interior force that could challenge to be a top-75 selection in April.
5. Hamp Cheevers, CB, Boston College
Cheevers is on the small side and projects as a slot corner in the NFL but his 7 interceptions certainly turned heads this season. A ball magnet, Cheevers plays bigger than his frame and exploded onto the scene with a standout season.
5 Least Improved Prospects
1. Tyree St. Louis, OT, Miami
In a conference lacking in offensive line play, St. Louis really intrigued me in summer scouting and in a lot of ways he still does. Getting the chance to play left tackle as a senior, I was expecting a breakout season from St. Louis and instead he had some struggles and he didn't take the step forward I hoped for.
2. Tommy Sweeney, TE, Boston College
Sweeney offers an all-around skill set but he's just limited and maxed out athletically. I like his effort as a blocker and soft hands but he just doesn't impress with his athletic ability enough to get excited about his potential.
3. Ben Humphreys, LB, Duke
Humphreys was a highly-regarded recruit that brings a lot of energy to Duke's defense but he just continues to not impress with his athletic ability, modest play strength and inconsistent processing skills. His NFL valuation is underwhelming.
4. Ravian Pierce, TE, Syracuse
Pierce's flashes in 2017 got me excited about a possible breakout season for Pierce in 2018 given the high-volume passing game Syracuse features but he struggled with injuries and was overlooked as a pass catching option. He likely has not done enough to get drafted unless he tests extremely well.
5. Kelly Bryant, QB, Clemson
Bryant's limitations as a passer hurt Clemson against Alabama in last year's playoffs and it continued in 2018 leading to Bryant getting benched and his eventual transfer. Despite his success as Clemson's QB, he couldn't keep Trevor Lawrence on the bench.
5 Best Developmental Prospects
1. Germaine Pratt, LB, NC State
Pratt had a great season and is likely a Day 2 draft pick, but he only started for his senior season after transitioning from safety. While he still had plenty of time on the field in 2017 in sub-packages, he is still developing as a linebacker and offers a high ceiling.
2. Garrett Bradburry, C, NC State
Bradburry was a standout this season and should be a Day 2 draft pick. With that said, he is still relatively new to playing offensive line after making the switch from tight end in 2015. His technique and mobility are outstanding and I get excited for what he can become with more time at the position and increased strength.
3. Bryce Hall, CB, Virginia
Hall was the best corner in the ACC this season and made routine splash plays. Although he is in the first-round conversation assuming he tests well, Hall is still new to playing cornerback after switching over from wide receiver in 2016.
4. Essang Bassey, CB, Wake Forest
You probably don't know this but Bassey has 30 pass breakups, 4 interceptions, 8.5 tackles for loss and 155 tackles over the last two seasons. His ball skills are top-notch, he has quick feet and he's incredibly competitive. Now you know.
5. Tanner Muse, S, Clemson
Muse has a great frame and good athletic ability while flashing playmaking potential. With that said, his role as a deep safety on a dominant defense hasn't led to him making a major impact. His skill set is intriguing and he could end up being a more prolific pro than college player.
5 Prospects I Still Question
1. Ryan Finley, QB, NC State
Finley is a sixth-year senior that turns 24 this month with a ton of experience but his modest physical upside and slow processing skills are very limiting. His ceiling is very low.
2. Daniel Jones, QB, Duke
Jones has incredible intangibles, an ideal frame and a dual-threat skill set but he struggles to work his progressions and come off his first read. He flashes some vertical accuracy but if his first read isn't available, the results are often poor. He needs work.
3. Joe Jackson, DE, Miami
Jackson has racked up double digit tackles for loss in three consecutive seasons while compiling 22.5 sacks. While his production is intriguing, he's a bit of a slow burn pass rusher that struggles to consistently win around the outside hip of the offensive tackle. Does he have the burst and bend to be an impact pass rusher in the NFL?
4. Mitch Hyatt, OT, Clemson
Hyatts' resume couldn't be more impressive but he is a technical nightmare with underwhelming physical upside. Yes, he absolutely has to kick inside to have a chance in the NFL but is his skill set even worth investing in?
5. Zach Allen, DL, Boston College
I like Allen and think he will be a terrific rotational player in the NFL but he has limitations both inside and on the edge. He lacks the juice and flexibility to be a consistent edge rusher and he doesn't have the mass and power to win against the run on the inside.
5 Biggest Sleepers
1. Essang Bassey, CB, Wake Forest
Ball Skills? Check. Quick feet? Check. Fluid hips? Check. Production? Check. Bassey isn't discussed often but he's been a consistent performer across the last two seasons for the Deacs. He has the upside to be a starting slot corner in the NFL.
2. Jakobi Meyers, WR, NC State
Don't look now but Meyers just broke Tory Holt's school-record for receptions in a season. Recruited as a quarterback, Meyers switched to wide receiver just prior to the 2016 season opener and has blossomed into a legit NFL prospect. He makes some circus catches.
3. Olamide Zaccheaus, WR, Virginia
Zaccheaus is small but he re-wrote the record books for UVA wide receivers. I think he has exciting potential as a slot receiver in the NFL that can be an x-factor to an offense.
4. Hunter Renfrow, WR, Clemson
Renfrow won't wow you with his physical traits but he's a nuanced route runner with the best hands I've ever scouted. The dude catches everything and wins in contested situations with unbelievable consistency. He's a winner that I would want on my team.
5. Reggie Floyd, S, Virginia Tech
Floyd has a stocky frame, good athletic ability and plays the game with impressive physicality. I think he has a future as a hybrid defender in the NFL but he isn't often discussed.
5 Prospects I'd Pound The Table For
1. Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson
Wilkins is a talented player destined to become a top-50 selection as a penetration-style three-technique. The energy and enthusiasm he brings to the table on every snap is what truly wows me. Wilkins is on the punt team and field goal team for Clemson and you can tell he just loves being on the field. The way he plays leaves little doubt how much he loves the game.
2. Kelvin Harmon, WR, NC State
Harmon's play strength that enables him to beat press coverage and win at the catch point is blue-chip caliber. I think he's very smooth for his size and can be a Davante Adams-like performer in the NFL.
3. Bryce Hall, CB, Virginia
Hall might be the most competitive player I watched all season. From how he mixed it up with Kelvin Harmon to when he chased Travis Homer down to keep a touchdown off the board from 50? yards away, Hall plays with unmatched enthusiasm and passion to pair with his tantalizing skill set.
4. Garrett Bradbury, C, NC State
Bradburry shows advanced technique for a tight end convert, but his lateral mobility to leads to hitting reach blocks on three techniques is unbelievable. I love his range and ability to work in space. And while he isn't the most powerful blocker, he has a knack for finding leverage points on defenders and creating movement.
5. Juan Thornhill, S, Virginia
Thornhill flipped to safety from corner this season and blossomed into an exciting prospect. I love his versatility on the backend, range, physicality and ball skills that should make him a productive playmaker in the NFL. He isn't talked about enough but whoever drafts him will love what they get.