Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
If there's one thing the ACC can brag about when it comes to competing against the other BCS conferences, it's NFL draft picks, and this year should be no exception. Over the past three years, the ACC has led all conferences with 25 players chosen in the first round of the NFL draft and the most players drafted overall (115). Half of the ACC could be represented in the first round this year.
The ACC has three of the top five NFL draft prospects, according to Scouts Inc.'s ranking of the top 32 draft-eligible players:
1. Aaron Curry, linebacker, Wake Forest
2. Michael Crabtree, wide receiver, Texas Tech
3. Jason Smith, offensive tackle, Baylor
4. B.J. Raji, defensive tackle, Boston College
5. Eugene Monroe, offensive tackle, Virginia
Florida State defensive end Everette Brown isn't far behind at No. 13, North Carolina receiver Hakeem Nicks is No. 26 and Maryland receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey is No. 27. Wake Forest cornerback Alphonso Smith made the cut at No. 32.
The fact that two Wake Forest players are even on the list -- let alone a possible No. 1 overall pick -- is evidence that the coaching staff has an eye for talent, and it is possible to lure players like Smith and Curry to Winston-Salem. Same with Boston College. Never in the history of the program has Wake Forest had a No. 1 overall pick. (Norm Snead was No. 2 in 1961). Their last first-round pick was defensive end Calvin Pace in 2003. In fact, Curry would be only the third player ever from Wake to be chosen in the first round.
Only Wake Forest and East Carolina showed an interest in Curry. At just over six feet, he was undersized, but ran really well. The staff liked his work ethic and love for the game. They took a chance on him because of those two qualities. There were a few other linebackers in the state that year -- Chase Rice went to UNC and Chase Bullock went to Maryland. Obviously neither of them had a career like Curry.
Detroit seems to be torn between former Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford, Jason Smith and Curry. The Rams will probably take a lineman because they just cut Orlando Pace, so Curry probably won't go there, and could fall to No. 3, Kansas City. Regardless, it will be a huge paycheck for Curry and will pay dividends in recruiting and exposure for Wake Forest.