The top pro talents reside in Tallahassee, but Clemson pass rusher Vic Beasley could push for a spot in the top 10 picks.
In regard to the NFL Draft, the ACC is loaded conference thanks to Florida State. The national champions had seven players taken in the draft this year, and may have just as many in 2015.
Leading the way, of course, is Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston. The redshirt sophomore quarterback will be scrutinized the same way Johnny Manziel was last season and Andrew Luck was two years ago. Despite coming off as season where he threw for 4,057 yard and 40 touchdowns and 21 more scores, Winston is going to get picked apart. He doesn’t make enough adjustments before the snap. He doesn’t always go through progressions. His delivery needs work.
The last one is the realest of the three issues. Winston tends to drop the ball before looping it back around, needlessly elongating his release. It’s something he’s worked on during the offseason to correct:
Jameis Winston on his long delivery: "This yr I will be holding the ball higher so I won't be so elongated." #fsu— Bruce Feldman (@BruceFeldmanCFB) July 20, 2014
Unless Winston regresses terribly this season, he’s a top 10 pick. His size (6’4, 230), arm strength and playmaking ability lend credence to high developmental potential. He’s going to be a very high pick. At some point. Head coach Jimbo Fisher has already said he thinks Winston will play two more seasons for Florida State. His father, Antonor Winston, has also said he wants Winston to play two more years. Winston’s name will be called quickly on draft day, whenever he decides to go pro.
Florida State’s array of prospects is much more than just Winston. The lead running back job for FSU is Karlos Williams' and the senior should shine. After transitioning from safety before last season, Williams ran for 748 yards and 11 touchdowns while sharing carries with Devonta Freeman and James Wilder Jr. Williams can run defenders over and has speed in the open field, evidenced by his nearly eight yards per carry in 2014.
The Seminoles' top receiver, Rashad Greene, should be on an NFL roster this time next year. He's quickly ascending the school's record book and is in the top seven in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns. Greene's not big -- he's listed at 6-foot, 180 pounds -- but he has sure hands and can get open underneath. There's not much flash to tight end Nick O'Leary's game. The Seminoles have a monstrous NFL-style offensive line as well, with left tackle Cameron Erving leading the way. He should be a first-round pick, and guard Tre Jackson could be as well.
The talent is deep on Florida State's defense too. Cornerbacks P.J. Williams and Ronald Darby have NFL size and skillsets. Williams is more advanced cornerback, but Darby arguably has more natural talent. Junior defensive lineman Eddie Goldman can play inside or out, which is incredible considering he’s listed at 320 pounds. Fellow lineman Mario Edwards is the next great pass rusher for the Seminoles. He flashed his potential in the BCS National Championship Game with six tackles, three tackles for loss and a sack. Like Goldman, Edwards is versatile and can be used a seven-technique or be utilized as a wide nine rusher.
Photo credit: Rich Barnes - USA Today Sports
If the ACC has a top 10 pick who doesn’t wear garnet and gold, it could be Clemson pass rusher Vic Beasley. A defensive end for the Tigers, Beasley should smoothly move to outside linebacker in the NFL. He’s not quite as explosive as Von Miller of the Denver Broncos, but it’s close. Beasley’s pursuit skills are dangerous. Tigers senior Stephone Anthony is a classic stat-stuffing middle linebacker who comes off a season of 131 tackles and 13.5 tackles for loss. He’s similar in ways to Jasper Brinkley of the Minnesota Vikings in that he can get to the hole in a hurry and stuff the run. In what should be a packed group of defensive tackles in 2015, Clemson’s Grady Jarrett will have to separate himself with his ability to fill a gap.
Louisville may no longer have Teddy Bridgewater, but the Cardinals have a few NFL talents. Notably, wide receiver DeVante Parker could push for the first round with another good season. Parker has a penchant for getting open over the top, or making incredible leaping catches like this one:
After this season, Lorenzo Mauldin should be known for more than just his amazing red dreadlocks. Switching to a 3-4 under coordinator Todd Grantham should benefit Mauldin. The senior is moving to outside linebacker in Grantham attacking defense. Mauldin is a good pass rusher who will be able to show his versatility better in space.
Remember what many thought about Larry Warford a couple years ago at Kentucky? Think the same thing about Duke guard Laken Tomlinson. A mammoth power blocker, Tommlinson can get low and move defenders backward. Blue Devil’s wide receiver Jamison Crowder holds several team records and could add onto them this season. He’s very good with the ball in his hands and could be a solid slot receiver.
After having just five players drafted the past two years, Miami could come close to that number in 2015. Running back Duke Johnson, when healthy, is a slippery speed back with decent receiving skills. Offensive tackle Ereck Flowers is a fleet-footed pass protector with experience starting on both sides of the line. Linebacker Denzel Perryman is a prototypical weak-side player who could have a future inside for some 3-4 teams. Tight end Clive Walford may not be a top 100 choice, but he projects as a solid backup at the position.
Offensive tackle Sean Hickey has added some needed power to his frame and that should help his draft stock. Hickey may not be a left tackle in the NFL, but he may haven a future on the right side or moving to guard if he gets more aggressive as a run blocker. Safety Durell Eskridge has been getting some attention and and may be a potential breakout player. He has length at 6-foot-3, and should continue adding strength to his frame. He was Syracuse’s leader in tackles and interceptions in 2013, and considering a lingering hand injury that should be considered impressive. He had a nice performance against Northwestern last season in the Sports Journalist Bowl:
Virginia’s Anthony Harris coming off an All-American season that included eight interceptions. Harris isn’t the most physically imposing at 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds, but he’s obviously sure handed and has some range deep.
Get ready for this terrible comparison
Jameis Winston is Cam Newton 2.0! You know it’s going to happen. Embrace it.
Know the name
Corey Crawford, DE, Clemson: Beasley gets the headlines for Clemson, but Crawford is developing into a good prospect himself. He led Clemson with 16 quarterback pressures last season and has a good combination of size and length. Crawford won’t blow you away with his athleticism, but he’s a dependable all-around player at the left end position.
Top conference game for prospects
Florida State vs. Clemson, Sept. 20: This is notable because it features Beasley likely going against Erving. Beasley was largely a non-factor in Clemson’s 51-14 loss to Florida State last season. Another down performance against a top team and scouts may think twice about Beasley.