ACC Football: 11 Players Who Will Replace NFL Draft Early Entrants in 2020

Cam'Ron Harris should take over the lead back role in Miami's backfield

LSU, Alabama, and Georgia will lose a combined 20 players with remaining eligibility to the 2020 NFL Draft. In comparison, the 14 ACC programs will say a premature good-bye to just 14 guys. That does not mean, however, that Atlantic Coast Conference teams will not feel the effects of NFL early entries.

 

Three key members of the Clemson Tigers chose to head to the NFL instead of remaining in school and four Miami Hurricanes did the same. And while Travis Etienne will play his senior season at Clemson, four other ACC running backs, including two of the nation's best ball carriers, will forego their last year of college.

 

Here's a look at 10 ACC players that have declared for the draft and the players that are expected to fill those voids.

 

Clemson

Gone: Isaiah Simmons, LB

The Clemson offensive stars may have gotten the majority of the headlines this fall, but Simmons may have been the best Tiger. He's part linebacker, part safety, part defensive end, and a complete game-wrecker. The stats are only a tiny part of the story as Simmons was the most impactful Clemson defender every moment of every game.

 

In: Mike Jones, rising redshirt sophomore

Let’s be fair to Jones: no one person is replacing Simmons. Not effectively at least. Defensive coordinator Brent Venables will use a rotation of players, something with which he is experienced at doing. Jones is similar to Simmons in that he is a big safety, smaller linebacker that can move. In 10 games, Jones had 18 tackles with three resulting in lost yardage. He will be a very nice player, but Simmons was arguably the best linebacker in all of college football last season.

 

Boston College

Gone: AJ Dillon, RB

Despite spending just three years on the Heights, Dillon owns all of the major Eagles rushing records. Considering that Dillon battled injuries during his time at Boston College and that running backs, in general, have a short shelf-life, moving on after 1,685-yard, 14 rushing touchdown season seems like the smart move.

 

In: David Bailey, rising junior

New head coach Jeff Hafley is fortunate to have an experienced player with a similar skill set ready to assume a larger role. Like Dillon, Bailey is a big, between the tackles back that a team can build around. His 844 yards and seven scores wouldn’t have been second fiddle at many places.

 

Florida State

Gone: Cam Akers, RB

Akers is heading to the NFL for many of the same reasons as AJ Dillon. Plus, if he ran behind that Florida State offensive line for one more season, he may have been damaged goods before even getting to the league. Besides being a gifted runner, Akers can also make an impact as a pass catcher at the next level.

 

In: Lawrence Toafili, incoming freshman

Deonte Sheffield, Khalan Laborn, and Treshaun Ward are all young backs that saw some action in 2019. But Toafili comes in with more accolades than any of those returnees. Freshmen are able to make an impact at running back and Toafili was courted by schools like Alabama, LSU, Ohio State, and Florida.

 

Clemson

Gone: Tee Higgins, WR

After three sensational years at Clemson and a sure-fire first-round selection in the cards, Higgins decided to jump to the NFL. A big body with good speed and sure hands, Higgins should become a productive NFL pass catcher much like former Tigers DeAndre Hopkins, Sammy Watkins, Mike Williams, and Hunter Renfrow.

 

In: Joseph Ngata and Frank Ladson, rising sophomores

Of course, this is Clemson, so when one big, speedy receiver leaves, there are two more waiting in the wings. Ngata saw more time this fall, catching 17 passes to Ladson's nine. But both were borderline five-star prospects that will have an increased role in 2020.

 

Louisville

Gone: Mekhi Becton, OT

On size alone, replacing the 6-foot-7, 369-pound Becton will be nearly impossible. Couple his frame with surprising athleticism and you have a player that could be one of the first five picks in this year's draft.

 

In: Adonis Boone, rising redshirt sophomore

When Becton decided to skip the Music City Bowl, Boone stepped in and helped the Cardinals beat Mississippi State. Originally projected as a guard, Boone will probably go into spring at the top of the depth chart at left tackle.

 

Clemson

Gone: A.J. Terrell, CB

Even after a rough night against LSU, Terrell still could be selected in the first round because of his length and athleticism. While the national championship game wasn’t pretty, his body of work for the season led to the Clemson corner earning first-team All-ACC honors.

 

In: Andrew Booth, rising sophomore

Because of the logjam of talent in the Clemson secondary, Booth didn’t make a huge impact as a freshman. But he was the big prize in Clemson's 2019 signing class and at 6-foot, Booth has perfect corner size.

 

Miami

Gone: DeeJay Dallas, RB

Dallas had a couple of solid seasons for the Canes and that was enough to entice him to look beyond Coral Gables. We will see if a couple of 600-yard seasons impressed NFL scouts.

 

In: Cam'Ron Harris, rising junior

In reality, Harris split time with Dallas last year, carrying the ball just one fewer time while catching two more passes. More will be expected next fall, especially with touted freshman Dan Chaney arriving on the scene.

 

Florida State

Gone: Stanford Samuels, CB

Samuels was an honorable mention All-ACC selection after picking off two passes and registering 60 tackles. At 6-foot-2, his size could be appealing to NFL teams that need a big corner.

 

In: Akeem Dent, rising sophomore

The Seminoles' top recruit in the class of 2019 gained some seasoning this year as he played in reserve role. He will be aided by Assante Samuel, one of the nation's top corners that will lock down the other side of the field.

 

Miami

Gone: Trajan Bandy, CB

Bandy entered the 2019 campaign as a projected first-team all-league corner. But things didn’t turn out the way he hoped, both personally and from a team perspective. Still, he elected to move on to the NFL.

 

In: Christian Williams, rising sophomore

Williams played in every Miami game this season, including the Walk-On's Independence Bowl loss to Louisiana Tech. The four-star prospect out of Daphne, Alabama, had offers from Alabama, LSU, Texas A&M, and Auburn.

 

Virginia Tech

Gone: Deshawn McClease, RB

Everyone thought McClease was gone last year when he entered his name into the transfer portal. After returning for one more season, there is no turning back now after declaring for the draft.

 

In: Keshawn King, rising sophomore

King showed enough as a freshman to have Hokie fans wondering if he can be an upgrade to McClease in 2020. An offensive line that gained experience this fall could help King put up big numbers in his second year.

 

— 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.

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