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10 ACC Players to Watch During the NFL Scouting Combine


The ACC had a number of talented players in their conference in 2015. Six from the ACC were named either an AP first- or second-team All-American.

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Now a group of ACC players will take the first step towards hopefully hearing their name called in the upcoming NFL Draft by taking part in this week’s Scouting Combine. Who are the top 10 players from the ACC to keep an eye in Indianapolis this week?

1. Jalen Ramsey, DB, Florida State

It is rare to say that a defensive back could be the best player in the NFL Draft, but arguably you could say that about Ramsey. He is versatile enough to play cornerback or safety, though his best fit in the NFL is likely at safety or as a nickel corner.

In a hybrid safety role for Florida State in 2014, Ramsey recorded 79 tackles, 9.5 tackles for a loss, three sacks and two interceptions. In 2015, Ramsey moved to cornerback full-time and was a second-team All-American after recording 52 tackles and 10 pass breakups.

Ramsey is a tall, gifted athlete that has the speed to stay with receivers while having enough strength to be a factor as a run-stopper. His skills and versatility remind scouts of  Arizona Cardinals defensive back Tyrann Mathieu.

2. Mackensie Alexander, CB, Clemson

A two-year starter at Clemson, Alexander could move into top-10 consideration with a great showing at the Combine. Alexander lacks ideal size for a corner (5-10, 195), but he makes up for it with his toughness and sound technique.

He is great in man-to-man coverage and at anticipating receivers’ routes. Alexander's lack of production is a bit of a concern (zero interceptions in 2015), but part of that was because quarterbacks refused to throw his way.

Alexander has the tools to be the first cornerback taken off the board in the draft. How he performs in Indianapolis could go a long way in determining his future destination.

3. Shaq Lawson, DE, Clemson

Lawson was a difference-maker for the ACC champions this past season, as he led FBS with 24.5 tackles for a loss and finished second in the country in sacks with 13.

Lawson has the quickness and agility to get around NFL offensive linemen. His quick hands, strong upper body and a high motor, are also attributes NFL scouts will love. If Lawson has one weakness, it is how he plays against the run. He is slow to read and react to running plays inside.

Lawson has been projected to go anywhere from the top 10 to first 20 picks in the draft. That projection could change after the Combine depending on how he performs.

4. Sheldon Rankins, DT, Louisville

Rankins was a two-year starter for the Cardinals, who also contributed all four seasons he was on campus. While many analysts didn't have Rankins as a high draft pick before 2015, he has steadily climbed draft boards after an excellent showing during the Senior Bowl.

Last season, Rankins posted 58 tackles, 13 tackles for a loss and six sacks. For a man that's 6-foot-2, 304 pounds, Rankins is very explosive against the run and in passing situations.

Rankins could become a factor on an NFL team's defensive line from day one. He projects well as a three-down defensive tackle, which could potentially help him be selected in the first round.

5. Kevin Dodd, DE, Clemson

While teammates Mackensie Alexander and Shaq Lawson received a lot of praise for the success of the Tigers’ defense, Dodd also had an impressive 2015 season. He finished with 12 sacks (tied for 7th in FBS) and 23 tackles for a loss. Because of this, Dodd has gone from a virtually unknown prospect to a potential first-round selection.

Dodd has outstanding size (6-5, 280) while also possessing the length and athleticism scouts love at the next level. His explosive first step along with his quick hands makes him an excellent pass rusher.

Some believed Dodd benefited from playing on the opposite side of Lawson since he rarely faced any double teams. Indianapolis will be a very good time for Dodd to prove the naysayers wrong while improving his draft position.

6. Artie Burns, CB, Miami

Burns was a two-year starter for the Hurricanes, and also ran track while at Miami. While in Coral Gables, Burns ran the 60 meters in 7.68 seconds, which broke a 38-year-old American Junior record, so he is obviously fast.

Burns also has good size (6-0) for a cornerback and solid ball skills. He was a sound tackles in the open field during his collegiate career.

The biggest knock on Burns is he relied on his athletic ability too often. His weaknesses are teachable, while the same can’t be said about his speed and athleticism. The total package could be appealing enough for some to take a chance on Burns as early as the second round, especially if he has a good showing at the Combine.

7. Tyler Boyd, WR, Pittsburgh

Boyd started three years for the Panthers, and played with as many quarterbacks during his tenure. Despite the carousel at quarterback, Boyd's production was consistent, as he averaged 85 receptions and 1,120 yards in his three seasons.

Boyd has good height (6-2), and the ability to explode off of the line, making it harder for defensive backs to jam or disrupt his intended path. A natural route-runner, Boyd has the agility and ability needed to fake out defenders.

Boyd’s size at 200 pounds may be a concern, but it isn’t something that he can't potentially improve on with weight training.

8. Jeremy Cash, S, Duke

After originally committing to Ohio State, Cash transferred to Duke and he became one of the best safeties in the country. Cash recorded three straight seasons of 100 tackles, capping his collegiate career with 101 total stops, 18 tackles for a loss and 2.5 sacks. Cash has a lot of versatility as he also can line up as a nickel cornerback near the line of scrimmage.

One of Cash's biggest strengths is his ability to lower his shoulders and drive a ball carrier to the ground. Cash could be one of the first two or three safeties off the board.

9. Kendall Fuller, CB, Virginia Tech

Fuller could be the next from his family to make an impact in the NFL. His three older brothers (Vincent, Corey and Kyle) all starred at Virginia Tech and eventually played in the NFL. Kendall could be the most talented of all of the Fuller brothers, which is saying something.

Last season was an injury-riddled one for Fuller, as he tore his meniscus during preseason camp and he never got completely healthy. He decided to shut it down after playing in just three games. In 2014, Fuller recorded 4.5 tackles for a loss, two interceptions and 15 pass breakups.

Fuller will need to show scouts he is 100 percent healthy. If he does, he could be a potential steal in the second or third round.

10. Roberto Aguayo, K, Florida State

Aguayo had one of the best careers any specialist has ever had in FBS history. He left Florida State as the most accurate kicker in NCAA history, connecting on 96.73 percent of his attempts in three seasons.

One knock on Aguayo is he was just 5-of-9 on field goals from 41 yards and beyond in 2015. Also, he only attempted six field goals of more than 50 yards during his career. If he has an excellent showing at the Combine, he could move up far enough on some team’s draft board to possibly merit consideration to be taken at some point on Day 2 (second or third round).

— Written by Antwan Staley, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and has extensive experience covering Florida sports teams. Staley has written for Bleacher Report, Pro Player Insiders and is a reporter for Sports Talk Florida. Follow him on Twitter @antwanstaley.