Skip to main content

ACC Football: Top 25 2021 NFL Draft Prospects to Watch

ACC Football: Top 25 2021 NFL Draft Prospects to Watch

ACC Football: Top 25 2021 NFL Draft Prospects to Watch

The ACC had 27 players selected in last week's NFL Draft, down one from their total in 2019. Those numbers are way off the 45 ACC alums that were chosen in 2018.

While this is a trend that fans of the conference don't like to see, expect a rebound in 2021. Clemson will again lead the way with what possibly could be a double-digit number of players picked. Plus, Florida State and Miami are still producing NFL athletes and several other league programs have multiple next-level prospects.

2021 NFL Draft Prospects: Top 50 I ACC I Big 12 I Big Ten I Pac-12 I SEC

Here are the top 25 ACC draft-eligible players (in alphabetical order) for 2021.

Chatarius "Tutu" Atwell, WR, Louisville (Jr., 5-9, 165)

Atwell is small, but he's also lightning quick and exceedingly productive. After a solid freshman season, Atwell exploded as a sophomore with 69 grabs for 1,272 yards and 11 touchdowns. While he has only returned punts in certain situations for the Cardinals, that ability makes him even more valuable.

Carlos Basham Jr., DE, Wake Forest (Sr., 6-5, 275)

The fifth-year senior has a chance to be near the top of many of the defensive lists in the Wake Forest record book. After three productive seasons, Basham is already sixth in program history with 15.5 sacks and he also has 31 career tackles for lost yardage. Last year's 11 sacks ranked second in the ACC and 14th nationally.

Jackson Carman, OT, Clemson (Jr., 6-5, 345)

Carman is a massive tackle that came into Clemson with a lot of fanfare. He appears ready to deliver on that promise after a third-team All-ACC 2019 season. His best performance may have come in the Fiesta Bowl, when he limited Ohio State star Chase Young, the second pick in the 2020 draft, to just two tackles in Clemson's victory.

Andre Cisco, S, Syracuse (Jr., 6-0, 206)

The Valley Stream, New York, native began making an impact the moment he stepped on the Syracuse campus. As a true freshman, Cisco earned All-American honors from several outlets after tying for the national lead with seven interceptions. Injuries hampered Cisco during his sophomore year, but he still had five picks and was named second-team All-ACC.

Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson (Sr., 5-10, 210)

Etienne got off to a rather slow start in 2019, but when he turned it on, he really turned it on. Already the leading rusher in Clemson history, he is just 564 yards shy of Ted Brown's ACC rushing mark and needs only 795 yards from scrimmage to break Dalvin Cook's league mark in that category. There's a very good chance that Etienne is the first running back taken next year.

Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech (Jr., 6-2, 207)

When Farley first arrived in Blacksburg, the coaching staff was unsure whether to play him at receiver or on defense. They made the right choice. In 2019, Farley led the ACC with 16 pass breakups and was second with four interceptions. He has impressive size for a corner, but that also means that he could be switched to safety if needed.

Paris Ford, S, Pittsburgh (Jr., 6-0, 190)

Ford was projected to be a corner when he came to Pittsburgh, but he has not been shy about making big hits as a safety. Having coverage skills and a propensity to initiate contact is a combo that NFL scouts like very much in safeties.

Javian Hawkins, RB, Louisville (So, 5-9, 196)

After redshirting in 2018, Hawkins was a monster in his first season at Louisville, rushing for 1,525 yards and nine touchdowns. He will need to work on his receiving skills as he only caught four passes last fall. Because of his redshirt year, Hawkins will be eligible for the draft following the season and more huge numbers will send him shooting up teams' boards.

Patrick Jones, DE, Pittsburgh (Sr., 6-5, 260)

Jones started for the first time in his career this past fall and he made the most of his opportunity, registering 43 tackles, 12 that resulted in lost yardage, of which 8.5 were sacks. He earned second-team all-conference honors and contemplated turning pro before deciding to return to Pitt.

Brevin Jordan, TE, Miami (Jr., 6-3, 245)

Jordan was named first-team All-ACC and had 35 receptions for 495 yards as a sophomore. And he did that despite an unsettled quarterback situation. This year, Jordan will have Houston transfer D'Eriq King feeding him the ball and his numbers should improve. Many early 2021 mock drafts have Jordan as a solid first-round selection.

Derion Kendrick, CB, Clemson (Jr., 6-0, 190)

The biggest negative against Kendrick at this point is his lack of experience at the position after moving from wide receiver just a year ago. But the skills are there and as he gains valuable reps, he should only get better. Kendrick had nine tackles against Ohio State and followed that up with nine more in the championship game against LSU.

Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson (Jr., 6-6, 220)

The odds-on favorite to be the No. 1 pick in the 2020 draft at this point in time. Lawrence struggled early in 2019, but as he got right, Clemson kicked it into high gear. In two seasons, Lawrence has completed 66 percent of his throws with 66 touchdowns against just 12 interceptions, eight of which came in that seven-game stretch to open last season.

Jimmy Morrissey, C, Pittsburgh (Sr., 6-3, 300)

Early projections have the Pitt center going in one of the first three rounds of next year's draft, which is understandable after a first-team All-ACC performance last fall. Morrissey injured his foot at the end of 2018 but showed no ill effects in '19, proving to be one of the best linemen in the league.

Hamsah Nasirildeen, S, Florida State (Sr., 6-4, 212)

The Concord, North Carolina, native is a very big defensive back that is versatile in that he will creep up towards the line of scrimmage and become another linebacker at times. But he does need work on his coverage skills after breaking up just eight passes in three years in Tallahassee. Still, with his size, Nasirildeen will go early in 2021.

Dazz Newsome, WR, North Carolina (Sr., 5-11, 190)

Newsome is a fast receiver that has seen his productivity steadily climb during his three seasons with the Heels. Last fall, with talented freshman Sam Howell throwing him the ball, Newsome had 72 catches for 1,018 yards and 10 touchdowns. With Howell back, along with the entire receiving corps, Newsome should be even more dangerous as a senior.

Quincy Roche, DE, Miami (Sr., 6-4, 235)

After three marvelous years at Temple, Roche transferred to Miami. Last year for the Owls, Roche was seventh in the nation with 13 sacks and 10th with 19 tackles for lost yardage. Considering the manpower Miami has along its defensive line, Roche may not see a lot of double teams and his stats could be outstanding once again.

Justyn Ross, WR, Clemson (Jr., 6-4, 205)

Ross was responsible for fewer big plays as a sophomore, but he became a more reliable possession receiver. With Tee Higgins now off to the NFL, expect more downfield shots from Lawrence to Ross. The junior has a chance to be the first wide receiver taken in 2021.

Gregory Rousseau, DE, Miami (Soph. 6-7, 253)

Rousseau is considered one of the top overall prospects in next year's draft class. He still has sophomore eligibility after redshirting in 2018, but his one season with the Canes was epic: 15.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for lost yardage. When you combine his edge twitch with that impressive frame, it's easy to see why NFL scouts are salivating over his potential.

Charles Snowden, LB, Virginia (Sr., 6-7, 235)

Snowden is another edge player with a long frame, though his production isn't quite the same as Gregory Rousseau's. Still, he's a solid defender that can get to the quarterback and holds up well in the run game. A smart defender, he should go in the middle rounds.

Chazz Surratt, LB, North Carolina (Sr., 6-3, 230)

Surratt has had an eventful run at North Carolina. He came in as a highly-touted quarterback and started his freshman year. But he lost his job and was then caught up in the UNC shoe scandal. But he showed his resilience by not squawking when he was asked to move to linebacker and then earned first-team All-ACC honors at that position.

Sage Surratt, WR, Wake Forest (Jr., 6-3, 215)

Chazz's brother also will be part of the 2021 draft, if he chooses to give up his final year of eligibility at Wake. Sage was the most productive receiver in the ACC when he injured his shoulder against Virginia Tech on Nov. 9.

Tamorrion Terry, WR, Florida State (Jr., 6-4, 210)

Terry is another big-bodied receiver that put up impressive numbers in 2019. The second-team All-ACC selection caught 60 passes for 1,188 yards and nine scores. With new head coach Mike Norvell bringing his up-tempo style to FSU, Terry should be a primary focus of the Seminoles' 2020 offense.

Xavier Thomas, DE, Clemson (Jr., 6-2, 265)

At some point, Thomas is going to erupt. It has to happen. But we are all still waiting for the incredibly talented end to really emerge. He actually had better stats as a freshman when Clemson had those all-world linemen in front of him than he did as a sophomore when he was asked to do more. But his talent is such that he is still considered an NFL-caliber player.

Jaylen Twyman, DT, Pittsburgh (Jr., 6-2, 290)

If Twyman had decided to leave Pittsburgh after last season, no one could have blamed him. It would have made sense that a defensive tackle that had 41 tackles and 10.5 sacks would want to cash in on his productive year. But Twyman will be back and as a result, will be a top draft candidate in 2021.

Marvin Wilson, DT, Florida State (Sr., 6-5, 310)

Wilson also decided to return to school despite getting inquiries from NFL teams. An injury late in the season may have been a reason, but the massive defensive tackle still would have gone in the early rounds. With another year to get healthy and control the line again, Wilson could be a first-round selection next spring.

— Written by Jon Kinne, who has been part of the Athlon Contributor Network for three years, covering the ACC and Notre Dame. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.