Headlined by NC State offensive tackle Ikem Ekwonu, who went to the Carolina Panthers with the sixth overall pick, four ACC alums were selected in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft. That trailed only the SEC and the Big Ten for the most number of selections from a conference in this year's opening round.
And next year could be even better. Several ACC stars will get first-round consideration in 2023 including a slew of quarterbacks that rank among the nation's best. Here are 25 players (in alphabetical order) that will be on the radar of NFL teams in 2023.
Note: Pittsburgh wide receiver Jordan Addison would have made this list but he entered the transfer portal on May 3 and may end up at another school, outside of the ACC.
Yasir Abdullah, LB, Louisville (Sr., 6-1, 235)
First-round selection Jermaine Johnson II of Florida State led the ACC in tackles for lost yardage and sacks last season. Second in both categories was Abdullah. A player that has improved each season could see his draft stock soar in 2022.
Deslin Alexandre, DE, Pittsburgh (Sr., 6-4, 280)
On lines that featured Jalen Twyman and Habakkuk Baldanado, Alexandre has never stood out as the primary threat. What Alexandre possesses is the versatility to play inside and out along with a consistency that has been on display for four years.
Brennan Armstrong, QB, Virginia (Sr., 6-2, 212)
The lefty from Shelby, Ohio, had a huge 2021 and considered putting his name into this year's draft. But another year in Charlottesville was probably the right decision, as Armstrong can climb up the quarterback boards with another strong season.
Habakkuk Baldanado, DE, Pittsburgh (Sr., 6-5, 255)
A native of Rome, Italy, Baldonado needed some time to develop. But develop he did in 2021, registering 12 tackles for a loss and nine sacks while earning second-team all-league honors.
Bryan Bresee, DT, Clemson (Jr., 6-5, 300)
Despite playing only four games as a sophomore, Bresee is projected as a high first-round 2023 pick at this early stage. One of the top players in the recruiting class of 2020, the Damascus, Maryland, product has the size, strength, and quickness NFL teams love in a defensive tackle.
Kameron Butler, DE, Virginia (Sr., 6-3, 250)
After a sensational career at Miami (Ohio), where he posted a pair of seasons with double-digit tackles for a loss, Butler has transferred to Virginia. If he can match that production in the ACC, NFL scouts will take notice.
Tyler Davis, DT, Clemson (Sr., 6-2, 300)
If Davis had been able to stay on the field, he probably would have been in this year's draft. But injuries have been a problem and he has to prove that he is durable enough to warrant a first-round selection.
Akeem Dent, S, Florida State (Sr., 6-1, 196)
After a shift from corner to safety, it took Dent a while to adjust. But that happened in 2021 and he finds himself as a possible first-round selection next spring.
Josh Downs, WR, North Carolina (Jr., 5-10, 171)
When a team selects a wide receiver early in the draft, it's usually a tall, outside target. That is not Downs, but his size should not scare anyone. His quickness, smarts, and ball-catching ability make him a prototypical NFL slot receiver.
Zay Flowers, WR, Boston College (Sr., 5-10, 172)
Size-wise, Josh Downs and Flowers are almost identical and they both are their team's top targets. But they do it in different ways. Flowers catches fewer balls but at more than 16 yards per reception during his career, he presents more of a big-play threat.
Tony Grimes, CB, North Carolina (Jr., 6-1, 197)
Grimes showed a lot of promise as a freshman in 2020 and responded with nine pass breakups in 2021. Because he re-classified into the 2020 class coming out of high school, he is young for his class and needs development in 2022 to be ready for the next level.
K.J. Henry, DE, Clemson (Sr., 6-4, 260)
Both Henry and fellow Clemson defensive end Xavier Thomas are in the same boat. Both could have declared for the 2022 NFL Draft and been mid- to late-round selections. But both decided to return to Clemson for another year. Henry, while not possessing as much upside as Thomas, has been the more consistent of the two based on his availability.
Phil Jurkovec, QB, Boston College (Sr., 6-5, 214)
His throwing motion is not textbook and his accuracy could be better. But Jurkovec is a big, strong, mobile quarterback that can make plays. Not expected back in 2021 after injuring his hand earlier in the season, Jurkovec showed his competitiveness by playing in the Eagles' final four contests.
Devin Leary, QB, NC State (Sr., 6-1, 212)
He may not be as heralded as some of the other quarterbacks in a conference loaded with star passers, but Leary's numbers stacked up with the best in the ACC last fall. His 35:5 touchdown-to-interception ratio stands out by itself and only increases his appeal as a potential pro prospect.
Will Mallory, TE, Miami (Sr., 6-5, 245)
When it comes to the Hurricanes' tight end, results have lagged a bit behind expectations. But he has one more season to show his worth and with Tyler Van Dyke throwing the ball and receivers Charleston Rambo and Mike Harley moving on, Mallory should have plenty of opportunities.
Jordan McFadden, OG, Clemson (Sr., 6-2, 310)
A second-team All-ACC selection in 2021 as a tackle, McFadden's size makes him more of a guard prospect in the NFL. He has played in 42 games during his Clemson career and was on the field for more snaps than any Tiger in 2021.
Myles Murphy, DE, Clemson (Jr., 6-5, 275)
Murphy came to Clemson as a top-five overall recruit and he has not disappointed. In two seasons, he has 25 tackles for lost yardage and 12 sacks. Equally adept against the run and pass, Murphy should hear his name called early in next year's draft.
Zion Nelson, OT, Miami (Sr., 6-5, 316)
A true left tackle, Nelson has the size and athleticism to excel at that position. He is still a bit of a raw prospect despite starting for the Hurricanes since his freshman year and definitely needs some refinement, but his physical tools cannot be taught. A strong campaign this fall could lead to a first-round selection.
Robert Scott, OT, Florida State (Jr., 6-5, 315)
Scott has started 18 games at Florida State, but this is still more of a projection based on what could happen rather than what he has accomplished. Scott didn't even make the honorable mention list among the All-ACC teams in 2021, but his frame and movement skills could push him up many draft boards.
Trenton Simpson, LB, Clemson (Jr., 6-3, 230)
Like Bryan Bresee and Myles Murphy, Simpson was a member of Clemson's highly regarded 2020 recruiting class that made an impact immediately and will not only be eligible for the 2023 NFL Draft, but may go in the first round. Last season, the Charlotte product was second on the team in tackles for lost yardage behind Murphy.
Tyrique Stevenson, CB, Miami (Sr., 6-0, 214)
Stevenson spent two years as mostly a reserve at Georgia before transferring to Miami. He earned honorable mention All-ACC recognition last season and may have been drafted late this year if he had entered his name. Now he has an opportunity to really boost his draft stock with a strong season.
Sean Tucker, RB, Syracuse (Jr., 5-10, 209)
Averaging 125 yards per game, Tucker finished fourth nationally in rushing and also caught 20 passes for the Cuse. The running back position is not valued as highly as it once was but for teams that need a ball carrier, Tucker will be a top choice.
Tyler Van Dyke, QB, Miami (Jr., 6-4, 224)
Due to a redshirt season, Van Dyke actually has three years of eligibility remaining. But the Miami quarterback is already getting a lot of attention from scouts. With a pro-style frame, Van Dyke could emerge as the third quarterback in the 2023 class after C.J. Stroud and Bryce Young.
Jared Verse, DE, Florida State (Jr., 6-4, 251)
Verse is a big mystery heading into the fall. He was a coveted prospect when he put his name into the transfer portal after registering 10.5 sacks with FCS UAlbany in 2021. NFL scouts are certainly aware of his skill level and will be anxious to see how he performs on a much bigger stage with the Seminoles.
Garrett Williams, CB, Syracuse (Jr., 6-0, 189)
Coming out of high school, the 247Sports Composite ranked Williams as the nation's 1,766th prospect. But the Syracuse cornerback has had two extremely productive seasons which included being part of The Athletic's Freshman All-American Team in 2020. If he continues to develop, he could be in a position to forego his senior season for a shot at the NFL.
Podcast: Jordan Addison Enters the Portal, 2022 NFL Draft Reaction, Looking Ahead to the 2023 QB Class, and More
– Written by Jon Kinne, who has been part of the Athlon Contributor Network for three years, focusing on the ACC and Notre Dame. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.