1) Mario Edwards Jr., Florida State (Jr.) – If Edwards’ National Championship Game performance was an indication of things to come then ACC Offensive Tackles will have their hands full in 2014. Unlike other pass rushers on this list, Edwards has NFL size and strength (6’3/294). He’s best suited to play the RDE or strongside defensive end position and he has a knack for making the big play in key situations. Edwards has first round talent if he puts it all together.
2) Vic Beasley, Clemson (Sr.) – An explosive and dynamic pass rusher that can beat just about any Offensive Tackle off the edge. Beasley can rush the passer as well as anyone, but has some significant flaws in his game. His point of attack power, ability to set the edge, and ability to take on blocks in the run game leave a lot to be desired. Many project him in the first round, but unless he drastically improves in the run game, I see him as a pass rush specialist in the NFL.
3) Lorenzo Mauldin, Louisville (Sr.) – Versatile edge rusher coming off a Junior Season that saw him produce double digit sacks. Mauldin will step into the role vacated by 1st Round pick Marcus Smith and use his athletic ability to create pass rush pressure from a variety of different looks.
4) Eli Harold, Virginia (Jr.) – If any pass rusher on this list can rise higher on this list by the end of the season it’s Eli Harold. He broke out in a big way during the 2013 season, amassing 15.0 TFL and 8.5 sacks. Harold is just scratching the surface and I’m looking for him to elevate his game to even another level in 2014. He’s built like a hybrid DE/OLB, so as he gets bigger and stronger he’ll be even tougher to block.
5) Anthony Chickillo, Mami (FL) (Sr.) – Started 34 straight games at Defensive End and possesses traditional 4-3 Defensive End measureables. He’s not an explosive pass rusher and defintiely lacks some of the initial explosion that the other guys on this list have. Chickillo relies on effort, motor, and power to push the pocket. He’ll never be a star, but he has the type of skillset that finds a way to stick in the NFL.
1) Eddie Goldman Jr., Florida State (Jr.) – Just like FSU DE Mario Edwards, Goldman is poised for a major breakout effort in 2014. The former 5-Star High School recruit is by far the most talented Defensive Tackle in the conference. He brings DE/DT versatility and has flashed pass rush potential in the past. Goldman has high NFL Draft potential if he can follow a similar career path as Timmy Jernigan.
2) Grady Jarrett, Clemson (Sr.) – Highly productive Defensive Tackle. Posted 85 tackles and 11.0 TFL last season from his interior position. He lacks ideal size, but Jarrett can create disruption and has shown an ability to pressure the QB from the inside.
3) Luther Maddy, Virginia Tech (Sr.) – A three year starter and disruptive presence on the defensive line. Maddy is listed a 6’1, but that might be a stretch. He’ll get knocked for his size, but there is no disputing his ability to push the pocket as evidenced by his 6.5 sacks last season.
4) Nile Lawrence-Stample, Florida State (Jr.) – Started most of the season opposite Timmy Jernigan and more than held his own. He doesn’t offer much in terms of pass rush, but he has the girth necessary to hold the point of attack and clog run lanes.
5) Thomas Teal, North Carolina State (Sr.) – Posted 11.0 TFL in 2013 and was names a team captain. Like Maddy and Jarrett he lacks ideal height and length, but should be the most productive player on the North Carolina State DL in 2014.
1) Denzel Perryman, Miami (FL) (Sr.) - Perryman is #1 on this list on pure talent. He’s coming off an All-ACC season in which he recorded over 100 tackles and was Miami’s best defender in 2013. Perryman is barely 6’0″ tall and will get knocked for his lack of height-length, but it’s tough to look past his production over the last few seasons.
2) Dyshawn Davis, Syracuse (Sr.) – Already ranks 8th on Syracuse’s all-time TFL list (31.5), Davis is poised to move further up the ranks in 2014. Davis plays on the Weakside and is capable of flying around the field making plays. He has a knack for finding his way into the backfield to disrupt run plays and processes his keys quickly. It will be interesting to see if he added more weight since last season and how that effects his ability to make plays.
3) Norkeithus Otis, North Carolina (Sr.) – Otis could be place in the edge rusher list, but because I limited myself to only 5 prospects per category I put him in the traditional LB category. Otis is a very good athlete that thrives on running free to make plays. He’s shown the ability to get into the backfield and disrupt at times. He also has significant experience on Special Teams units, which will aide his NFL chances when the time comes.
4) Stephone Anthony, Clemson (Sr.) – Anthony is an Inside Linebacker who was named to the All-ACC team last season after posting some impressive numbers. He recorded over 130 tackles and 4.0 sacks as a Junior. I’ve seen Anthony play quite a bit over the last two seasons and he’s always showing up around the football.
5) Terrance Smith, Florida State (Jr.) – Smith began to emerge in the second half of last season once he was moved into the Mike LB role. He’s got great size and has plenty of experience as an edge rusher. He’s still very raw and still trying to figure out which position he’ll fit long term, but it’s pretty clear he has NFL potential.
1) P.J. Williams, Florida State (Jr.) – One of the top CB prospect in the country, Williams could be headed for a 1st round selection with another solid season in 2014. Williams possesses ideal CB measureables and has impressive speed, fluidity for a 6’0″ cornerback. His pure cover skills and natural athletic ability have him on the fast track to NFL Stardom. He was named Defensive MVP of the National Championship Game and more than held his own vs. top prospect Sammie Coates.
2) Ronald Darby, Florida State (Jr.) – Coming off the ACC Rookie of the Year Award in 2012, Darby was overshadowed a little bit by Williams in 2013. None the less both guys are top tier NFL prospects and both have the speed, fluidity, and cover sense that NFL teams covet. If you haven’t figured it out by now, Florida State is absolutely loaded once again in 2014.
3) Tracy Howard, Miami (FL) (Jr.) – The #1 CB recruit coming out of High School in 2011, Howard has played in all 25 games since arriving on campus. While he hasn’t had the same type of impact as the Florida State tandem, Howard has the talent to become a high NFL Draft pick with further development.
4) Charles Gaines, Louisville (Jr.) - Led the Cardinals extremely talented secondary with 5 interceptions last season and found a way to score three touchdowns in three different ways. Gaines is flying under the radar a bit and could move himself up the list now that he is clearly the #1 guy in the Louisville secondary.
5) Kevin Johnson, Wake Forest (Sr.) – The first Wake Forest appearence on the list is made by one of the most intriguing prospect in the conference. Johnson has great size for the position and flashed strong ball skills during last season. Record 12 pass breakups and was named an Honorable Mention All-Conference performer. While he’s unlikely to generate the same buzz as the other guys on the list, he’s a player that could get himself invited to the Senior Bowl and get drafted in a respectable position.
1) Anthony Harris, Virginia (Sr.) – Led the NCAA with 8 Interceptions as a Junior. He’s now paired with UVA uber-recruit Quin Blanding to form one of the best Safety tandems in college football.
2) Durrell Eskridge, Syracuse (Jr.) – Eskridge has impressive size for a safety and was able to led a talented Orange defense in tackles as a Sophomore. Syracuse has produced some quality NFL draft picks over the last few years and Eskridge could be the most talented of the bunch.
3) Jeremy Cash, Duke (Jr.) – Plays the “strike” position in the Duke defense and stuffs the stat sheet with impact plays. In 2013 Cash posted 121 tackles, 9.5 TFL, 4 INT, 2 FF, and 2 Fumble Recoveries. The former Ohio State Buckeye has NFL measureables and along with Laken Tomlinson could give Duke two high draft picks for the first time in… forever.
4) Kysheon Jarrett, Virginia Tech (Sr.) – Plays Rover in the vaunted Virginia Tech secondary. Jarrett along with teammate Detrick Bonner and future first round CB Kendall Fuller give the Hokies a talented secondary that should be the strength of their defense.
5) Detrick Bonner, Virginia Tech (Sr.) – Started 30 games over the last four seasons at Free Safety. Bonner never comes off the field and is also a standout on Special Teams.
2014 Projected All-ACC Team