Leading up to April’s NFL Draft, we’ll be taking a look at each ACC‘s school’s prospects and where they’re slated to be chosen. While 43 ACC players were invited to the NFL Draft Combine, those not in attendance also have ample opportunity to hear their name called between April 26 and 28.
Keeping most of their players from 2011’s strong team, the 2012 Florida State Seminoles look to be in great shape. Just six members of last year’s team appear to have a realistic shot of being drafted this year.
Zebrie Sanders, OT, Senior
While the 6’6″, 320-pound tackle certainly has the frame to warrant selection in this year’s NFL Draft, he was also part of a Florida State line that allowed 41 sacks last season (near the bottom of the ACC). Even though his aforementioned size is well-suited for his position, Sanders is showing signs of decline. His strength numbers measure well below what they should be for his build, and he’s gained 13 pounds since the 2011 season opened (not a good sign considering his strength hasn’t gone up). Speed-wise, there’s even more room for concern. If he expects to stop defenders with slow reaction times and a 5.41 40-time, he’s sorely mistaken. So how is he still a second-rounder? Once again, scouts see his frame and believe they can mold him into more of an athlete. If it works out, he’s a steal. If not, he’s a second-round gamble that just didn’t pay out (better than a first, anyway).
Nigel Bradham, LB, Senior
Counter to his teammate above, Bradham’s frame actually inhibits him slightly. At 6’2″ and 260 pounds, he’s carrying a lot of weight for his size — exacerbated by his average-ish speed in the 40-yard dash (4.64). With those numbers in mind, it’s hard to picture him having the athleticism of an NFL outside linebacker. However, given his high volume of tackles (especially toward the close of the season) and a proven ability to play a part in pass defense, maybe a transition to middle linebacker (or playing as part of a 3-4 scheme) would suit him well. While there’s not a whole lot of risk taking him in the late-third or early-fourth, he’ll need to get his speed up to truly excel at the next level.
Andrew Datko, OT, Senior
Slimming down prior to the Draft, Datko did himself a service after a career that’s been unfortunately marred by injuries. And he may be well-suited to shed more to avoid the bevy of shoulder issues he’s endured. On the other hand, the once-touted tackle rarely gave up sacks when he was healthy and has a physical agility that even beats out that of likely second rounder Sanders. Minding the injury risk, teams may not be ready to give him a look until the late-sixth or early-seventh, but if it pans out, he is a true talent.
Shawn Powell, P, Senior
Fairly quick for his position, and physically larger than most other punters, Powell may initially get looks of skepticism. Then again, so did the Raiders’ Sebastian Janikowski, and he’s had quite the career for himself. Averaging 47 yards-per-punt, Powell was one of the best in the country, and will only fail to be drafted if there’s just not a big demand for punters later on (quite possible). Given the growing importance of special teams play in the NFL though, teams in need of some help may not be able to pass him by in the seventh.
Mike Harris, CB, Senior
Harris is undersized for the NFL — calling him 5’11” and 195 pounds would both be generous. Yet, scouts seem to love his intensity and toughness, which he uses along with some great instincts, to compensate. So physically, despite a height disadvantage, his hard-hitting style makes noticeable differences (when he isn’t dealing with some lingering injuries, at least). Another issue with Harris is his obvious lack of speed — just a 4.68 40 — which is nearly unacceptable at the pro level for cornerbacks. His best bet? A switch to safety where he can minimize his faults and work on what he does best — tackle. Still, he’s a seventh-rounder or signs as an undrafted free agent.
Beau Reliford, TE, Senior
Reliford’s had academic issues in the past, and clocks in far too slow in the 40 to be a dynamic factor in any passing game; which is why he’s better suited as a blocker. His 6’6″ and 256-pound frame is perfect for blocking schemes and two tight end sets — a dream for some of the league’s more reserved offensive coordinators. On top of speed though, Reliford also battles an injury history and the fact that he’s the 17th-best tight end in a weak class for the position. His best bet? Sell himself as an efficient blocker and hope a team like Jacksonville gets needy come the final round. Otherwise, he’ll be relying on free agency and training camp in order to play on Sundays this fall.
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