The ACC has long been one of college football’s most talent-rich conferences, yet its reputation has been shaky due to weak performances on the big stage. “Clemsoning” has become a staple of the college football vernacular, and when one of your league’s prominent members has been spun-off into a verb synonymous with collapse, it is a black eye on your entire organization. Florida State’s recent title has brought some shine back, and ultimately, the perception of the league is of no consequence to developmental league owners. We just want an influx of talent, and the ACC is poised to provide that.
Tyler Boyd, WR Pittsburgh Panthers
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Pittsburgh’s Tyler Boyd is perhaps the most well-known devy asset in the ACC after indoctrinating himself into the national consciousness following a superb freshman campaign. He wins with elite ball skills and agility that enables him to shake defenders off the line of scrimmage and dominate in the open field. He has cemented himself as a very good prospect, though at the moment he falls just short of the elite.
Dalvin Cook, RB Florida State Seminoles
It wasn’t just that Dalvin Cook was better than Karlos Williams. It is that he was so superior in every facet that the Seminoles offense did not truly click until he took over as feature back (health and shuffling along the offensive line helped, too). The former five star recruit has elite feet and balance and despite not possessing a large frame, he finishes runs with authority. He is one of college football’s most natural runners and could be a top five devy commodity at this time next year.
Mike Williams, WR Clemson Tigers
When evaluating Clemson’s Mike Williams, it is best to take the Bill Parcells approach of simply referring to him as “the player”. The mere utterance of his name conjures up the ghosts of Mike Williams’ past in a tale that not even Charles Dickens could weave a happy ending for. Much like Matt Saracen, I’ll just refer to Williams as “Seven” to avoid opening old wounds. Seven is silky smooth despite a 6’4” frame and even with a bit of inconsistency in his game, he shows dominant skills at times. If he can become more aggressive at the catch point he is a darkhorse to be the first receiver off the board in 2016.
James Conner, RB Pittsburgh Panthers
James Conner is the nation’s preeminent power back. With a 6’2” frame that pushes 250 pounds, it easy to see how he succeeds between the tackles. He’s got more long speed than given credit for, though he may benefit from a little weight loss once he reaches the NFL. Given his feet and bullish frame, he’s a potentially elite back with an ounce more quickness.
Deshaun Watson, QB Clemson Tigers
It is tough to tell if the 2014 season was harder on Deshaun Watson or those forced to watch the Clemson offense with Cole Stoudt at the helm. Watson’s true freshman season featured streaks of electric play along with extended bouts with various ailments. We saw just enough of him to cement him as one of the better quarterback prospects in college football, yet not enough to invest heavily.
Bucky Hodges, TE Virginia Tech Hokies
He’s less ballyhooed than O.J. Howard or Hunter Henry, yet the nation’s top draft-eligible tight end from a devy perspective is Bucky Hodges. With prototype size and elite movement skills, he’s a potentially dominant tight end and the clichéd mismatch nightmare. If he can add a little piss and vinegar to his game, he has an unlimited ceiling.
Artavis Scott, WR Clemson Tigers
The Tigers are undoubtedly stacked on offense. Along with Seven, Clemson features sophomore Artavis Scott, who produced at a high clip during his inaugural campaign. He was essentially an extension of the running game, utilizing short screens to compensate for shaky quarterback play. We saw his explosiveness in space, which is enough to buoy him in the devy community.
Ready To Emerge
Mavin Saunders, TE Florida State Seminoles
In addition to Rashad Greene, the Seminoles lose 2014 Mackey Award winner Nick O’Leary, which leaves immense opportunity at the tight end position. Enter Mavin Saunders, a jumbo tight end with premier athleticism and unstoppable redzone traits. Even with rising talent at receiver, it is feasible that Saunders emerges as Everett Golson’s top target in 2015.
Deon Cain, WR Clemson Tigers
Clemson has been a hotbed for receiving talent lately, and they usher in one of the nation’s elite in Deon Cain. A high school quarterback, Cain nonetheless demonstrated advanced receiving skills to go along with a college-ready frame during off-season all-star events. There’s room for three premier receivers if Watson can stay on the field, and Cain could be poised for a breakout freshman season.
Joseph Yearby, RB Miami Hurricanes
Dalvin Cook’s high school teammate ain’t so bad himself. Joseph Yearby is a slashing runner with plus receiving skills, and has a great shot at huge production in a Brad Kaaya led offense. There’s certainly a lot of issues at Miami these days, but raw talent is not one of them.
This is a tough group when selecting an overrated player. Even if they’re a bit higher than I’d care to choose them, they’re all within shouting distance. With that said, I’ll tab Artavis Scott, who through no fault of his own has not had a chance to at demonstrate his full range of skills. There’s a chance he’s a receiver you need to manufacture touches for, and that is not someone I’d care to invest heavily in.
While a completely abhorrent human being, Bobby Petrino can cobble an offense together. He has one of the nation’s more underrated backs in Brandon Radcliff, whose name you never hear mentioned as a devy commodity. With an additional year of growth in the Louisville system, Radcliff could explode and establish himself as the league’s third best runner behind Conner and Cook.
ACC Top 10
- Mike Williams, WR Clemson Tigers
- Bucky Hodges, TE Virginia Tech Hokies
- Dalvin Cook, RB Florida State Seminoles
- Tyler Boyd, WR Pittsburgh Panthers
- James Conner, RB Pittsburgh Panthers
- Bug Howard, WR North Carolina Tar Heels
- Deon Cain, WR Clemson Tigers
- Artavis Scott, WR Clemson Tigers
- Brad Kaaya, QB Miami Hurricanes
- Deshaun Watson, QB Clemson Tigers