ACC has fewer players drafted in 2016, but that shouldn't start a trend

The ACC ended up with 26 players drafted in 2016, a far cry from the 47 that got drafted a year ago.

But the dip in the numbers -- the ACC's lowest total since expanding to 14 teams -- does not necessarily mean the league is producing less talented players. For instance, Florida State only had two players drafted. But that has everything to do with 1) losing 29 players over the last two years and 2) returning one of the most experienced teams in the ACC that is sure to get many more players drafted over the next few years.

You could say the same about Louisville, which saw a school-record 10 players drafted a year ago. This year, only Sheldon Rankins got drafted. But four underclassmen decided to stay in school so the draft numbers for the Cards should increase again in 2017.

Miami had seven players drafted in 2015; that number dipped to two in 2016. But quarterback Brad Kaaya could end up being a high selection in 2017 if he decides to leave school early. There is veteran talent at several other positions as well, so next season could be a bigger draft year for the Canes.

It should be no surprise, then, that Clemson had nine players drafted, second in the nation behind Ohio State. The Tigers clearly had talent, making it to the national championship game, but they also had six players declare early. Five of those players got drafted.

North Carolina, meanwhile, got shut out of the draft for the second consecutive season. The Tar Heels should have multiple players drafted in 2017 considering the talent that returns to the team this year.

The smaller draft class was to be expected. The most unexpected development over the weekend was seeing ACC Defensive Player of the Year Jeremy Cash go undrafted. There are a few reasons why: multiple injuries left him unable to practice at the Senior Bowl or run at the combine. He also is a cross between a linebacker and safety, and it is harder to find an NFL defense that fits his skill set. Still, ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. had Cash ranked the No. 140 prospect available in the draft.

For a comparison, Kiper also had Oklahoma linebacker Eric Striker ranked the No. 125 prospect, and Striker went undrafted. Neither expected that outcome.

Cash ended up signing a free-agent deal with Carolina, and told the Charlotte Observer, “It’s really hard to fathom everything and realize, hey it’s coming down to the end and I haven’t been drafted." Still, he had 20 teams show interest in signing him as a free agent, and he chose the Panthers for a reason.

“They’re a winning organization and I think I can come in and help contribute early, even if it’s on special teams,” Cash said. “That’s not something I would have a problem with doing. It’s right in the backyard of Durham and just a short drive away. “I’ve been in North Carolina for four years and I hope to be here just a tad bit longer.”

Quick tally of draft picks by ACC team:

Clemson: 9

NC State: 3

Boston College, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Miami, Virginia Tech: 2 each

Louisville, Pitt, Syracuse and Virginia: 1 each