Just in case you’ve just woken up from a coma or finally had your power restored after living in the dark for the past week, the 2014 NFL Draft begins tonight, and Round 1 promises its share of ACC highlights.
In Todd McShay’s latest mock draft, six of the first 32 picks are from current ACC schools, which would be one shy of the conference’s tally from a year ago. But while last year’s draft had just one ACC player go in the first 15 picks (UNC’s Jonathan Cooper), there’s ample reason to think quite a few -- from safe bets Sammy Watkins and Aaron Donald to bigger wild cards such as Teddy Bridgewater and Morgan Moses -- could be early selections this year.
With all that in mind, we figured we’d take a look at how the current ACC members have faired in the draft in recent years.
Looking strictly at which schools have produced elite NFL prospects, the names at the top of the list aren’t overly surprising.
In the last 10 years, no ACC school has churned out more first-round selections than Florida State and Miami. Of course, there are a few noteworthy numbers in that mix, too. Since 2009, Miami hasn’t produced a single first-round pick, and again this year, the Hurricanes don’t have a single name listed in Mel Kiper’s top 100 prospects. (The ACC has 22 players in Kiper’s top 100.)
That stands in stark contrast with the first half of the 2000s, when Miami was a factory for first-rounders, including a whopping 24 from 2001 through 2007.
Meanwhile, the team that ranks third on both of those lists is Boston College, which is unique in that such a large portion of its total draftees were first-rounders. In the last 10 years, 40 percent of all BC players drafted went in the first round. No other ACC school has a ratio half that large.
In fact, when we look beyond the first round, we see that it’s still Florida State and Miami that produce the most draft prospects, while the smaller schools tend to fall toward the bottom.
Florida State had a dip in production in the immediate aftermath of the Bobby Bowden era, but with 11 players taken last year alone, it’s clear Jimbo Fisher has the Seminoles churning out NFL talent at a rate similar to their heyday. In fact, FSU is poised to send as many as a dozen more into this year’s draft, which would put its two-year tally for 2013 and 2014 at 23. Only Miami (24) had more players selected in the previous five drafts combined among ACC teams.
UNC ranks third among ACC teams with 16 players drafted in the last three years, which is, in part, the Butch Davis recruiting effect lingering. Meanwhile, Dabo Swinney certainly deserves some credit at Clemson. From 2004-2008, the Tigers sent 15 players to the NFL. From 2009 through 2013, they sent 23 -- and figure to add at least another four to that total this weekend.
At the bottom of the list, we get more ammunition for critics of Paul Johnson at Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets have had just two players selected in the last three drafts, and one (Anthony Allen) was a transfer not recruited by Johnson. Of course, Jeremiah Attaouchu should add to Johnson’s list of NFL talent this year.
Pitt has had just five players taken in the last three drafts -- none in the last two -- but Donald and Tom Savage assure some early intrigue for the Panthers in 2014, while Virginia (just three players in the last three years) should add to its total with Moses and Brent Urban.
Then, of course, there’s the ACC’s newest addition in Louisville. The Cardinals virtually evaporated from NFL draft boards in the immediate aftermath of Bobby Petrino’s departure, with just four players who were either recruited by or spent the bulk of their careers under Charlie Strong selected. That will change this year with Bridgewater and Calvin Pryor both projected to be taken early. Still, it’s a good reassurance for Louisville fans to remember than Petrino’s heyday of producing NFL talent that he either recruited or coached was pretty bountiful. From 2005 through 2008, Louisville had 19 players drafted.
Of course, all these numbers will be reshuffled in just a few hours, which should make for a long weekend on the couch. Enjoy!