Twenty-five ACC players chose to declare for the 2018 NFL Draft before their eligibility had expired. Many of these early entrants were superstars that will be difficult to replace. But the bigger impact for ACC programs will be seniors that have to move on.
Here are the 10 ACC players that will be the hardest to replace in 2018, seven of which are seniors and five that went to college in Virginia.
Lamar Jackson, QB, Louisville
The conference’s biggest loss is an underclassman. Jackson did not repeat as the Heisman Trophy winner this past fall, but his 2017 may have been even more impressive than 2016, especially considering the changeover in offensive personnel between the two seasons. Jawon Pass will take over and he was a celebrated recruit in the class of 2016 that has shown considerable promise. But Jackson was a different kind of special.
Bradley Chubb, DE, NC State
The Marietta, Georgia, product put up incredible numbers during his time in Raleigh. During the past three years, Chubb (above, right) had 25 sacks and 54.5 tackles for lost yardage. The Wolfpack loses nearly all the production from its defensive front and Chubb’s departure will clearly hurt the most.
Derwin James, S, Florida State
The junior from Haines City, Florida, was second on the team in tackles, tied for the team lead in interceptions, and led the squad in pass breakups. But it is more than the stats when it comes to James. Florida State has plenty of athletes, but guys with James’ tools are rare even for the Seminoles.
Harold Landry, DE, Boston College
Landry had some injury issues this fall and as a result his numbers slipped. Still, when he was on the field, the projected first-round pick was always the focus of the opposing offensive line. While Boston College usually fields tough, gritty defenses, they don’t often get athletes like Landry.
John Wolford, QB, Wake Forest
During his first three years at Wake, Wolford’s adjusted yards per passing attempt were 4.6 and he had a 30:35 touchdown-to-interception ratio. As a senior, those numbers went to 9.4 and 29:6. As a result, the Demon Deacons’ offense soared to unexpected heights and now is tasked with trying to maintain that level of performance without Wolford.
Micah Kiser, LB, Virginia
Over the past three seasons, no player in college football had more tackles than Kiser. The senior linebacker was sensational on some bad Virginia defenses and helped spark an 80-yard per game improvement for the 2017 Cavaliers.
Quin Blanding, S. Virginia
Blanding was right there with Kiser every step of the way. Like Virginia’s star linebacker, the 6-foot-2, 215-pounder could have turned pro after the 2016 season but chose to return and was rewarded with a spot in the Military Bowl, the program’s first postseason appearance since 2011.
Cam Phillips, WR, Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech’s all-time leading receiver was banged up at times this season and missed the Camping World Bowl with a sports hernia. Still, Phillips caught 71 passes for 964 yards and seven scores. The Hokies have young talent coming back at the position, but they will greatly miss Phillips’ guidance as well as his productivity.
Tremaine Edmunds, LB, Virginia Tech
The Hokies’ defense will have to deal with the departures of cornerbacks Greg Stroman and Terrell Edmunds, defensive tackle Tim Settle, and linebacker Andrew Motuapuaka. But Edmunds package of athleticism, playmaking ability and leadership will be the most difficult to replicate. After a bit of a slow start, Edmunds had a huge second half of the year and was a Butkus Award finalist.
Wyatt Teller, OG, Virginia Tech
Four Virginia Tech offensive linemen that started against Oklahoma State in the Camping World Bowl will move on and by far the most important is Teller. A first-team All-ACC selection, the 6-foot-5, 308-pounder is considered one of the top guard prospects in this draft class.
12 Others That Will be Missed
(in alphabetical order)
Jaire Alexander, CB, Louisville
Parris Bennett, LB, Syracuse
Tyrone Crowder, OG, Clemson
Duke Ejiofor, DE, Wake Forest
Nyheim Hines, RB, NC State
Steve Ishmael, WR, Syracuse
Dorian O'Daniel, LB, Clemson
Brian O'Neill, OT, Pittsburgh
Jaylen Samuels, TE, NC State
Cam Serigne, TE, Wake Forest
Greg Stroman, CB, Virginia Tech
Jordan Whitehead, S, Pittsburgh
— Written by Jon Kinne, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a college football fanatic. Kinne has been writing about recruiting for the Irish Sports Daily for 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.