Clemson's Deshaun Watson could go first overall next year
As the 2016 NFL Draft comes to a close, even though it’s early, it’s time to look forward to 2017.
The ACC had 26 players drafted in 2016, good for fourth among all conferences, with Clemson leading the way with nine players selected. In the next cycle, look for the loaded Tigers to again carry the flag. The top overall pick of the draft could be Clemson quarterback Deshaun Watson, but there are plenty of other players worthy of mention.
Power Five Conference 2017 NFL Draft Prospects to Watch
ACC I Big 12 I Big Ten I Pac-12 I SEC I Notre Dame
Here is an early projection for the top 25 prospects from the ACC, listed alphabetically.
Adam Bisnowaty, OT, Pittsburgh (Sr., 6-6, 300)
An All-ACC performer at left tackle, Bisnowaty was one of the top draft-eligible players to stay in school and figures to be a hot commodity this time next year.
Quin Blanding, S, Virginia (Jr., 6-2, 205)
One of the bright spots for a struggling Virginia program, Blanding should be one of the first safeties off the board. A first-team All-ACC selection, Blanding made 115 tackles as a sophomore.
Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State (Jr., 5-11, 206)
The running back class as a whole is outstanding, but along with LSU’s Leonard Fournette, Cook is right up near the top. The speedster became the Seminoles’ all-time single-season rushing leader as sophomore with 1,691 yards.
Ken Ekanem, DE, Virginia Tech (Sr., 6-3, 255)
Can find a home somewhere either at defensive end or as a 3-4 outside linebacker. Has started 26 consecutive games and posted totaled 26 tackles for a loss with 14 sacks over the last two seasons.
Brandon Facyson, CB, Virginia Tech (Jr., 6-2, 191)
Will have to answer some injury questions, as he suffered a broken leg in 2014 and was granted a medical hardship waiver. A third-team All-ACC performer in 2015, he broke up 10 passes opposite Kendall Fuller, who was just drafted in the third round by Washington.
Devonte Fields, OLB, Louisville (Sr., 6-4, 245)
Isaiah Ford, WR, Virginia Tech (Jr., 6-2, 190)
Wayne Gallman, RB, Clemson (Jr., 6-1, 215)
Gallman could no doubt be overshadowed by the number of top-shelf prospects at the position in the 2017 class, but his production could lure some interest, as he rushed for 1,565 yards and 13 touchdowns last season.
Josh Harvey-Clemons, SS/OLB, Louisville (Sr., 6-5, 212)
Jon Heck, OT, North Carolina (Sr., 6-7, 300)
Has started 37 of a possible 39 games for the Tar Heels since his redshirt freshman year. A second-team All-ACC player last year, Heck has been a starter at right tackle during his time at UNC.
Bucky Hodges, TE, Virginia Tech (Jr., 6-7, 245)
Roderick Johnson, OT, Florida State (Jr., 6-7, 307)
Brad Kaaya, QB, Miami (Jr., 6-4, 210)
After his true freshman year, many considered Kaaya a potential top overall pick. After some inconsistencies as a sophomore, Kaaya is still seen by many as the second-best QB option behind Clemson’s Deshaun Watson.
Keith Kelsey, ILB, Louisville (Sr., 6-1, 233)
Jordan Leggett, TE, Clemson (Sr., 6-5, 255)
Nick Linder, C, Miami (Jr., 6-3, 300)
Derrick Nnadi, DT, Florida State (Jr., 6-1, 303)
Caleb Peterson, OG, North Carolina (Sr., 6-5, 300)
James Quick, WR, Louisville (Sr., 6-1, 191)
A highly recruited player coming out of high school, Quick has begun to live up to the hype over the last two seasons with 75 receptions for 1,190 yards and eight touchdowns.
Artavis Scott, WR, Clemson (Jr., 5-11, 190)
Cordrea Tankersley, CB, Clemson (Sr., 6-1, 195)
DeMarcus Walker, DE, Florida State (Sr., 6-3, 273)
Carlos Watkins, DT, Clemson (Sr., 6-3, 300)
Deshaun Watson, QB, Clemson (Jr., 6-2, 205)
Mike Williams, WR, Clemson (Sr., 6-3, 205)
— Written by Adam Kurkjian, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and is a reporter for the Boston Herald. He has covered the World Series, Super Bowl, Stanley Cup playoffs, Boston Marathon and Little League World Series, among other events from the high school, college and pro ranks. Follow him on Twitter @AdamKurkjian.