Leading up to this month’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.
Given the current state of Miami Hurricanes football, it’s amazing that there are only eight players on this list. Yet, they all create massive holes that the team must fill this spring as they try for a successful season amidst controversy. No one blames the players below for departing, however. Faced with a potential multi-year postseason ban, how could you?
Lamar Miller, RB, Sophomore
While Miller may lack that true “breakaway” speed (he ran a 4.45 40-time at the Draft Combine), he does have a strong early burst to the line — allowing him to quickly gain leverage against would-be defenders. As a sophomore last year, he proved himself a workhorse for an inconsistent offense, eating up over 1,500 all-purpose yards and scoring 10 touchdowns. While not overly fast or strong, his instincts and vision served him well while at Miami, and they translate well to the NFL. Ideally, he’d serve a LaDainian Tomlinson-type role in a West Coast offense as a prime target out of the backfield as well. He’s currently projected as a late-first or early-second round pick, and sure starter as a pro.
Sean Spence, LB, Senior
From his physical appearance (5’11”, 231 pounds) and basic Combine numbers (4.71 40-time, 12 reps on bench), Sean Spence appears to be a lower-tier prospect with little upside. Yet, the linebacker has managed All-ACC selections and is a monster tackler — among the surest in wrapping up in the conference, to be precise. While he lacks the speed, size and strength that many project as vital to NFL success, he’s a player whose instincts keep him on par with his competition. A team leader for Miami, Spence of course raises some questions. But for those willing to insert him on at least a limited basis, they could be plenty surprised with this potential late-second or early-third round pick.
Brandon Washington, OG, Junior
While at Miami, Washington put in time at both guard and tackle — versatility that will serve him well at the next level. A proven run-blocker, he’s shown himself able to bring marked improvement to each of his three seasons on the Hurricanes. And while he’s NFL-ready, size-wise (6’4″, 320 pounds), his pass-blocking still needs some additional help. Any team that takes a shot at him in the third round will probably be pushing for some extra film study time early on.
Marcus Forston, DT, Junior
Part of the NCAA’s ongoing investigation into the goings-on at Miami this past decade, Forston comes into the NFL Draft with the type of baggage teams are beginning to avoid more and more these days. Add to that a history of injuries throughout his three years (he played just three games in 2011), and it looks like you’ve got a mess of a prospect. While some scouts think his 6’3″, 300-pound frame outweigh those negatives, others aren’t as sold. Though many projections see him as a fourth-round pick, behavioral concerns could watch him drop to the fifth.
Tommy Streeter, WR, Junior
Tommy Streeter appears to have all the intangibles to be a successful wide receiver in the NFL — great size (6’5″) and amazing speed (4.4 40-time) — which is why he could be rising on a lot of draft boards. The big problems, however, are consistency and durability. Streeter only caught 52 balls in three years (46 of those in his junior year) and has only truly put together one season of any consequence. While that’s not a deal-breaker, there are scouts all over that would’ve preferred to see him in action over another season. Still, he’s a likely early-fifth round pick who could come on strong as a third receiving option for the right team.
Olivier Vernon, OLB, Junior
Another player caught up in the shenanigans going on around the program, Vernon was suspended six games in 2011, thus severely curtailing his productivity. If you take a look at 2010 though, his 10.5 sacks speak much louder than this past year. Vernon’s likely to be converted to outside linebacker (from his college position of defensive end) in a 3-4 system, which is where the question marks truly begin. His 4.8 40-time is fantastic for a DE, good for an OLB but he’s never been a phenomenal tackler and has very little experience wrapping up in the open field. His strength and leaping ability caused double-takes around the internet however, which should bode well for him to maintain his fifth-round pick status.
Jacory Harris, QB, Senior
Harris has taken his fair share of lumps throughout (and since) his time at Miami, and that won’t stop here. While he has size (he stands at 6’3″), he only weighs in at around 200 pounds — not an ideal situation for teams; putting a lanky rag doll in the backfield. Though he’s coming off his most efficient season of his career, it also appeared to be his most inconsistent. From game-to-game, the Harris you saw under center would change completely, highlighted by his final three games, in which he had a two-to-five touchdown-to-interception ratio. Add in the lackluster speed for someone of his size (a 4.72 40-time for a QB once considered at least a bit mobile), and suddenly Harris comes with a similar package of questions to most of his counterparts above. He’s still likely to get selected, but chances are that time comes in the sixth round.
Travis Benjamin, WR, Senior
While at Miami, Benjamin was the type of receiver who could never completely take over a game, however would occasionally break for a big gain or just have a quietly effective outing. And yet, the senior ran a better time than the more well-regarded Tommy Streeter — the type of thing that’s starting to jump out more and more for halfbacks only. Benjamin’s biggest problem is size (or lack thereof). Standing at just 5’10” and weighing about 175 pounds, it’s hard to imagine him excelling at the pro level. Gain any weight and he risks losing some speed. Fail to put on any weight, and he’s actually in danger of getting clear knocked-out by any safety or linebacker in the league. As a seventh-rounder, he’ll get a shot to prove himself in camp, but no promises he makes a team come the fall.
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