Putting together this year’s All-ACC team was a chore. There was serious disagreement all over the roster -- from Deshaun Watson’s late charge at quarterback to the myriad options at defensive end to an email back-and-forth among the ACC writers debating the cornerbacks that went on far too long for our own good.
In other words, there were some particularly deserving candidates that didn’t quite make the list, but we wanted to acknowledge their efforts too. Consider this our honorable mentions:
Clemson QB Deshaun Watson
It’s hard to argue with how Watson finished the year, leading all FBS quarterbacks in total yards and touchdowns since Nov. 1. But a few too many turnovers and a reduced role as a rusher kept his numbers off a bit from the huge season turned in by Louisville's Lamar Jackson. Watson’s is rightfully the second-best QB performance in the country. It just so happens that it's also the second-best in the ACC.
North Carolina C Lucas Crowley
OK, so we’re not exactly experts on grading out offensive linemen, and Crowley was easily UNC’s best according to the Tar Heels’ coaches. He did a terrific job both in pass protection and run blocking, but we gave a slight nod to Georgia Tech’s Freddie Burden given the heftier role the line plays in the Yellow Jackets’ scheme.
Johnson can be a beast, and his reputation was enough to earn him the ACC’s top blocker award. He also got pushed around a good bit this year -- remember the Ole Miss game? -- and the Seminoles’ line overall was a mess in pass protection. Heck was strong all season, and he’s got a bright NFL future ahead of him.
NC State DE Bradley Chubb
How the heck does a guy with 21 tackles for loss not make the cut? It’s a tough year to be a defensive end in the ACC. Chubb’s 9.5 sacks and 21 TFL were exceptional, but Pitt’s Ejuan Price matched the TFL numbers and FSU’s DeMarcus Walker led the nation in sacks (15). And Chubb wasn’t the only edge rusher to get snubbed.
Clemson DE Christian Wilkins
If only there was an all-purpose player spot on our list, Wilkins would have been an easy choice. Heck, he might still be the defensive MVP of the ACC’s best team. But while he adjusted to life as a defensive end after moving from tackle in fall camp, his sack and TFL numbers just didn’t match up to the others. He did make a huge impact in nearly every game, however, and his work on offense and special teams only added to his legend.
Boston College DE Harold Landry
Landry’s 15 sacks tie Walker for the FBS lead, which in any other conference would certainly warrant first-team status. Here though? We had to nitpick. Six of Landry’s sacks came against Wagner and Wake Forest, two of the weakest offensive lines he faced. He’s a beast, but strength of schedule didn’t work in his favor.
Miami CB Corn Elder
No player engendered more debate for us than Elder, who by all rights belongs on the first-team list, but lacked the star appeal of big interception numbers. While FSU’s Tarvarus McFadden led the nation with eight picks and was one of the best corners in the second half of the season, Elder was a stud from Day 1. He allowed just one touchdown all year, led the ACC by allowing just 4.57 yards per target and had 13 passes defended. The problem? Just one INT.
North Carolina CB Des Lawrence
Speaking of turnover troubles, the UNC secondary was as good as any in the country, but it simply couldn’t buy an interception. Lawrence was a star for the second straight season, holding receivers to just 39 percent completions, 4.74 yards per target (second-lowest in the ACC) and only five other Power 5 DBs had more targets without allowing a touchdown this season.
Louisville CB Jaire Alexander
Alexander was exceptional for much of the season, allowing just 4.9 yards per target (third in the ACC) and 42.4 percent completions, but he also allowed six touchdowns, which pushed him off the first team. But his five interceptions and 13 passes defensed certainly offered a good case.
Virginia Tech CB Greg Stroman
If he’d stayed healthy all year, Stroman almost certainly would have been our top corner. He racked up an astounding 14 passes defensed on just 33 targets and allowed just 30 percent of balls thrown his way to be completed, easily the best rate of any ACC DB (minimum 30 targets).
Others of note: Louisville DT DeAngelo Brown, LB Keith Kelsey and TE Cole Hikutini; Clemson DT Dexter Lawrence, C Jay Guillermo and CB Ryan Carter; UNC WR Ryan Switzer and QB Mitch Trubiksy; NC State S Josh Jones and G Tony Adams; Virginia Tech LB Tremaine Edmunds, WR Isaiah Ford and QB Jerod Evans; Wake Forest DE Duke Ejiofor and S Jessie Bates; Duke DT A.J. Wolf; Pitt OT Brian O'Neill and Miami TE David Njoku.