Travis Etienne could be one of Clemson's next first-round picks a year from now
Even though Clemson had six players selected this year, the defending national champions also figure to factor heavily in the ACC's represenation in the 2020 NFL Draft. To the surprise of no one, the Tigers placed three defensive linemen in the first round of this year's draft, a trio headlined by No. 4 overall pick Clelin Ferrell.
But while Clemson's defensive front may not be as star-studded this fall, the Tigers don't lack for talent on either side of the ball. But it's not the just the Tigers providing NFL players from the ACC either. Duke (Daniel Jones), Boston College (Chris Lindstrom), Florida State (Brian Burns), and NC State (Garrett Bradbury) also contributed to the conference's seven first-round picks. All told, the ACC had 28 players selected in this year's draft.
Here’s a list of 25 (in alphabetical order) of the top ACC prospects for the 2020 NFL Draft.
Cam Akers, RB, Florida State (Jr., 5-11, 212)
Last season did not go according to plan for Akers, but that doesn't mean he's still not on NFL teams' radars. The nation's top running back recruit coming out of high school showed a glimpse of that talent by setting a FSU freshman record with 1,024 rushing yards in 2017. He's averaged nearly five yards per carry in his first two seasons and will have a chance to follow in the footsteps of fellow Seminole backs like Dalvin Cook and Devonta Freeman.
Trajan Bandy, CB, Miami (Jr., 5-9, 188)
In his first season as a starter, Bandy earned third-team All-ACC recognition after posting 36 tackles with three interception and two fumble recoveries. He wore the Hurricanes' well-known "Turnover Chain" five times, the most of any player. Bandy is the only returning starter in Miami's secondary so the other defensive backs will look to him for leadership, meaning scouts will be paying close to attention to him even if he's not on the field.
Essang Bassey, CB, Wake Forest (Sr., 5-10, 190)
Bassey may not be the biggest corner, but he doesn't let his size get in the way of him making plays. He finished second in the ACC with 15 pass breakups last season and has been credited with 34 in his career. He's also recorded four interceptions, returning one for a score in 2017. If he continues to impress in pass coverage, NFL teams may be able to look past some of his other measurables.
Mekhi Becton, OT, Louisville (Jr., 6-7, 355)
It figures to be a tough season as the Cardinals are starting over under new head coach Scott Satterfield, but at least he has a building block up front in Becton. The massive tackle from Virginia is entering his third year as a starter and his size alone is enough to attract plenty of attention from scouts.
Kendall Coleman, DE, Syracuse (Sr., 6-3, 252)
The Orange were second in the ACC and seventh nationally with 43 sacks last season and Coleman was responsible for 10 of them. He set a school record with three in the bowl victory over West Virginia and could be in a position to take his pass-rushing skills to the next level if he puts together a strong senior season.
AJ Dillon, RB, Boston College (Jr., 6-0, 250)
Dillon put himself on the NFL radar after exploding for nearly 1,600 rushing yards as the ACC Rookie of the Year in 2017. Injuries hindered him last season, but he still earned first-team All-ACC recognition after posting another 1,100-yard season. He's shown he can handle a heavy workload (averaged 23 carries per game last season), so in Dillon's case, it's probably just a matter of where he'll be taken in the draft not if, should he choose to go pro early.
Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson (Jr., 5-10, 215)
There's not much else the reigning ACC Player of the Year needs to prove after averaging 8.1 yards per carry and scoring 26 total touchdowns. As long as Etienne stays healthy there's a strong chance he could go in the first round next April.
Jonathan Garvin, DL, Miami (Jr., 6-4, 250)
While much of the attention along the Hurricanes' defensive front was paid to Gerald Willis III and Joe Jackson last season, Garvin was right there in terms of production. He was second to Willis (and tied for third in the ACC) with 17 tackles for a loss and third on the team with 5.5 sacks. Both Willis and Jackson are gone, so the spotlight now belongs to Garvin, who could really improve his draft stock by taking another big step forward this fall.
Mark Gilbert, CB, Duke (Jr., 6-1, 175)
Gilbert made several preseason All-America lists entering his true junior year and then suffered a season-ending hip injury in the second game. Assuming the surgically repaired hip doesn't hinder him too much; Gilbert will look to re-establish himself as one of the nation's top cornerbacks. He has six interceptions and 17 pass breakups over 27 career games.
Bryce Hall, CB, Virginia (Sr., 6-1, 200)
Hall was projected by many as a possible first-round pick in this year's draft, but he decided to return to school. It just gives him one more opportunity to pad his resume after leading the country with 22 pass breakups. Nothing's guaranteed but don't be surprised to hear Hall's name called by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell next April 23 when the draft takes place in Las Vegas.
Charlie Heck, OT, North Carolina (Sr., 6-8, 310)
Set to be a three-year starter at tackle, Heck has been a mainstay up front for the Tar Heels. His size combined with his consistency could help him find a home in the NFL.
Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson (Jr., 6-4, 205)
Higgins led the Tigers in receptions (59) and touchdown catches (12) last season, earning second-team All-ACC honors in the process. A big play waiting to happen, Higgins averaged 16 yards per grab and caught a TD pass in each of the two College Football Playoff games this past season. The opportunity to put up big numbers with Trevor Lawrence as his quarterback combined with Clemson's national profile will only help Higgins improve his draft stock.
Dane Jackson, CB, Pittsburgh (Sr., 6-0, 190)
Entering his third year as a starter, Jackson was among the ACC leaders in both pass breakups (14) and forced fumbles (four). If he can continue to excel in coverage and show a knack for causing turnovers, Jackson could get a closer look from some NFL teams.
Jarius Morehead, S, NC State (Sr., 6-1, 220)
The Wolfpack's second-leading tackler each of the past two seasons, Morehead has shown he's not afraid of doing what it takes to a make the stop. The most seasoned member of NC State's defense, Morehead has one more season to show NFL scouts that he has the tools necessary to play on Sundays.
Michael Pinckney, LB, Miami (Sr., 6-1, 220)
Pinckney has received honorable mention All-ACC recognition each of the past two seasons as he teams with Shaquille Quarterman and Zach McCloud to give the Hurricanes one of the top linebacking trios in the country. Pinckney has been consistent when it comes to stuffing his stat sheet, as he's recorded exactly 11 tackles for a loss, 3.5 sacks, and an interception in each campaign. Consistent production across the board is something all NFL teams look for in a linebacker.
Nyles Pinckney, DT, Clemson (Jr., 6-1, 305)
After playing behind four NFL draft picks, Pinckney will get a chance to shine as a starter on the Tigers' revamped defensive line. A rotational player his first two seasons, Pinckney has still found a way to make an impact when he's been on the field. He was credited with a tackle for a loss on a fake field goal attempt by Alabama in the most recent national championship game.
Shaquille Quarterman, LB, Miami (Sr., 6-1, 235)
All Quarterman has done is make plays since stepping onto the field as a starter in his very first game. An All-ACC honoree all three years, Quarterman finished with a career-best 14 tackles for a loss and six sacks last season. He has been as reliable as they come while anchoring the middle of the Hurricanes' defense and is a fairly safe bet to continue in this role for an NFL team.
Alton Robinson, DE, Syracuse (Sr., 6-4, 257)
The other half of the Orange's sack exchange, Robinson tied Kendall Coleman for the team lead in 2018 with 10 QB takedowns. In 24 games, he has 15 career sacks and 24 tackles for a loss. If he builds on last year's production, Robinson is sure to attract some attention from NFL scouts based on every team's desire to find effective pass rushers.
Isaiah Simmons, LB, Clemson (Jr., 6-4, 225)
Simmons made the move from safety to linebacker last season and didn't miss a beat, leading the team in tackles with 97 and returning his lone interception for a touchdown. Athletic enough to be factor against the run and in pass coverage, Simmons' versatility should be appealing to NFL teams, especially if he puts together another strong campaign.
John Simpson, OG, Clemson (Sr., 6-4, 330)
Simpson made the most of his first year as a starting guard, helping the Tigers pile up the yards and points on their way to winning another national title. Simpson, as well as linemates Tremayne Anchrum and Sean Pollard, is sure to be on scouts' radars if for no other reason the success Clemson has enjoyed in recent seasons. Simpson's size, especially as a guard, doesn't hurt his prospects either.
Charles Snowden, LB, Virginia (Jr., 6-7, 225)
Snowden enjoyed a breakout 2018 season, his first as a starter. Snowden led all linebackers nationally with nine pass breakups and 11 passes defended. If he can take that next step as a junior, he could positon himself as possible draft pick, especially considering his appealing height at the linebacker position.
A.J. Terrell, CB, Clemson (Jr., 6-2, 190)
A first-year starter, Terrell made his share of plays last season, including a pick-six for the first points in the national championship game against Alabama. Terrell will have a chance to not only pad his stats but also follow in the footsteps of Trayvon Mullen, Cordrea Tankersley, and Mackensie Alexander as Tiger cornerbacks that get drafted.
Tamorrion Terry, WR, Florida State (So., 6-4, 203)
Terry will be a draft-eligible sophomore and considering the impression he made last season, he may choose to forgo his final two seasons of eligibility. He led the team with 744 receiving yards and eight touchdowns on just 35 catches. His 21.3 yards per reception average was one of the best in the nation and one reason why he may be a Seminole just one more season.
Rashad Weaver, DE, Pittsburgh (Jr., 6-5, 265)
In his first year as a starter, Weaver made the quite the impression. He led the Panthers in sacks (6.5), tackles for a loss (14), and fumble recoveries (three). He also was credited with four pass breakups and two forced fumbles. A two-way player who also starred at tight end in high school, Weaver has made the most of his athleticism and it could help him get a shot in the NFL.
Marvin Wilson, DT, Florida State (Jr., 6-5, 314)
The nation's No.1 defensive tackle prospect coming out of high school, Wilson has developed into one of the top interior linemen in the country. He registered 3.5 sacks and a forced fumble last year and has a chance to really improve his NFL stock when you consider that 21 defensive tackles were taken in this year's draft.