Over the last few weeks, we took a look at the ACC players that would find themselves selected in the 2012 NFL Draft, which begins this Thursday, April 26. And now, that day is nearly here, and we can finally end the charade of these athletes not getting paid to do what they do (only half-joking)…
If you’d like to take a more thorough look at how each of these prospects stack up, feel free to glance over all 14 teams’ draft preview posts, which you’ll find links to in the series’ final post for Wake Forest. As for this post, however, we’ll be listing the top 10 prospects, with a quick note on their skill set, and where they could possibly end up. Feel free to disagree with these, of course, since no one actually talks about when projecting out the NFL Draft.
Top 10 ACC Prospects for the 2012 NFL Draft
As the top linebacker in the 2012 NFL Draft class, Kuechly could go to a myriad of teams, depending on need, but consensus says he’s a surefire top-10 selection. With this in mind, his most likely destinations (barring trades) are the Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins or Carolina Panthers.
The New York Giants have proven continuously that a consistent pass rush can lead teams single-handedly to the Super Bowl — a strategy that will benefit players like Coples this year, who know how to get after the quarterback. Nearly every team in the middle of the first round could use him, but odds are on the New York Jets, Cincinnati Bengals or San Diego Chargers.
Again, Jones is another player who knows how to sack the quarterback, and he also possesses both the speed and strength to transition to the outside linebacker position as well. Over the past few months, scouts have altered their opinions of the former Orange star, and it looks like he’ll be selected by any team from the Chargers at 18, on down to the Houston Texans at 26.
Branch’s stock has fallen in the eyes of some pundits of late, but with a stress on pass-rushers highly likely on Thursday night, he may actually maintain his first-round status, albeit barely. The Patriots will have two shots at him late in the first, but if they pass, the Indianapolis Colts could sure use him in their rebuilding effort come the second round.
Should there be a run on this year’s relatively weak wide receiver class, Hill may hear his name called in the first round. With his combination of size and speed, teams are overlooking the fact that his college offense never threw the ball, seeing some impressive skills to work with. If the Patriots don’t grab him before the first ends, any of the first five picks in the second could easily call him as well.
Based on the type of numbers he put up at Virginia Tech, Wilson appears to be a workhorse back headed for a league that now much prefers the split-backfield system to using a featured guy. Still, his style of play will translate well, and he’ll be a great 20/25-carry guy with plenty of upside. Cleveland, St. Louis or Seattle are his most likely landing spots in the early second round.
Miller’s speed screams at scouts, though his consistency may not. Still, much of his game is built on big gains, and most teams in the NFL would kill for a homerun halfback to bring in for big third-down situations. Miller may go to whomever doesn’t select Wilson before him, or could fall pretty swiftly through the round if all RB needs are met.
8. Brandon Thompson, DT, Clemson (Projected Round: 2)
Smart, big and quick, Thompson looks to have the skill set that will make one NFL team very happy for years to come. And lucky for them, they’ll be getting him at a second-round discount. From the Panthers at 40, to the Eagles at 46, any of these are likely destinations.
Sanders appears to have the size and ability to make it as an NFL lineman, now it’ll all come down to who gets chosen before him. Everyone needs O-line help in some form or another, but teams will start giving some serious consideration to selecting Sanders starting around 41 with Buffalo.
10. Zach Brown, LB, North Carolina (Projected Round: 2)
A natural athlete, Brown is the type of player that can contribute at multiple positions, excelling in all facets of the game. In college, he was a jack-of-all-trades, getting after the quarterback, playing in coverage and making stops all over the field — exactly what the NFL needs. With his speed, he should go mid-second round to the Eagles, Bengals or Texans, while the Packers could also be in play.
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