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 50 ACC players were invited to the NFL Draft Combine, those not in attendance also have ample opportunity to hear their name called between April 25 through 27.
In 2012, Florida State enjoyed its most successful season in quite some time, riding a collection of senior leadership all the way to ACC and Orange Bowl titles, respectively. The result of that, of course, is a huge crop of players that could potentially find themselves selected in this year’s NFL Draft. The ‘Noles saw 13 (!!!) players invited to the scouting combine in Indianapolis back in February, and a grand total of 15 former FSU standouts could end up having their names called later this month. With so many players to go through, let’s dive in…
Bjoern Werner, DE, Junior (Projected: First Round)
Werner’s one of the best pure pass-rushers in this year’s draft, yet due to the depth of talent available all across the defensive line, he still may end up going in the latter half of the first round. While he’s certainly put up the numbers to warrant a top-10 selection (13 sacks last season), his late-season injury and lack of size in comparison to other DEs (a smaller 6’3″ and 266 pounds) has teams willing to wait. Without true breakout speed — only runs a 4.81 40-yard dash time — it’s tough to see him transitioned to an outside linebacker spot, which means he’ll be playing his natural position wherever he goes. I’d contend that concerns aside, the product out of Germany has less mileage on him than most prospects, which will make a huge difference in his long-term durability.
Cornellius “Tank” Carradine, DE, Senior (Projected: First Round)
Werner’s partner in crime on the defensive line, Carradine’s had a meteoric rise since the start of 2012, when he was just a reserve. Just 11 starts and 11 sacks later, “Tank” is universally projected to be a first-round draft pick. Like Werner, he did have a small injury problem at the end of the season. But without starting for the past three or four seasons, I’d give Carradine the same credit towards durability I also gave his counterpart. He’s got less mileage on him, hence will be more durable in the long run. Besides, with some huge paws and height, it’s tough to reason letting this elite pass-rusher slip through, especially as the NFL’s emphasis on throwing the ball increases.
Xavier Rhodes, CB, Junior (Projected: First Round)
Rhodes doesn’t necessarily have “unique” size for his position, though his 6’2″ 210-pound frame would certainly make him one of the larger corners in the league. But what really sets him apart is his speed. He’s clocked a 4.39 40-yard dash and it’s that same speed that’s acted as a major deterrent for teams looking to throw the ball against FSU these past few seasons. In 2012, he was avoided so much that teams rarely threw the ball in his direction. And yet, he still managed three picks and 27 tackles. He’s one of the top two or three players at the position in this draft, and his high selection is likely to reflect that.
Menelik Watson, OT, Junior (Projected: Late First/Early 2nd Round)
Originally from England, with experience in basketball and boxing, Watson may be one of the most interesting players in this year’s draft. And while admittedly, he’s still a bit rough around the edges when it comes to football, his athleticism and mastery of the game in such a short time playing are what have scouts so excited. At 6’5″ and 310 pounds, he’s a hulking individual capable of playing either offensive tackle position, and his time in the ring and on the basketball court also give him a footwork advantage no other player can touch.
EJ Manuel, QB, Senior (Projected: Second/Third Round)
No part of Manuel’s physical make-up is in doubt prior to the NFL Draft, that’s for sure. At 6’5″ and 237 pounds, he’s one of the larger and more athletic passers available — a huge boost for him as the NFL appears to be headed further in that direction. As anyone who’s watched Florida State football over the past few years will tell you, though, the questions are in his mental ability. Under duress, Manuel’s had a penchant for making poor decisions, and it’s that type of mediocre performance under pressure that has scouts worrying. If a team’s willing to put in the work with him, he could eventually grow into a starting role, though he’ll need the right coach to help him make those smarter defensive reads and passes.
Brandon Jenkins, DE, Senior (Projected: Fifth Round)
Jenkins was supposed to be the ACC’s breakout pass-rusher in 2012, but a Lisfranc injury ended up sidelining him in the first game of the year (still recorded one sack and defended a pass). Still, I’m tempted to believe he’s got what it takes to be an NFL defensive end, even if some scouts would prefer to see him transition to outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme. The senior has had one of the best first steps off the line for several years now, and I don’t believe one freak injury should allow teams to forget it. If a team is willing to tailor some blitzes for his length and speed, he could make himself a very valuable commodity in the pros.
Everett Dawkins, DT, Senior (Projected: Fifth Round)
Dawkins has plenty of speed for a tackle (5.01 40-yard dash time), but a lot of that is due to his size (6’2″ 292 pounds). The question is how much teams will discount him for the latter. Since he comes out of an aggressive defensive scheme at FSU, and obviously knows how to excel at his position, I’m tempted to believe he’ll get the benefit of the doubt and hear his name called early on day three. While he’s certainly no elite pass-rusher from the tackle spot, it’s his run-stopping ability that should have teams excited, especially if they’re looking to keep the rotation fresh on short-yardage sets.
Dustin Hopkins, K, Senior (Projected: Sixth Round)
Hopkins was the best kicker in the college game for the past two seasons and the highest-scoring plackicker in FBS history with 466 points over his career. With a strong leg and some impressive athletic ability for his position (runs a 4.71 40-yard dash), he’ll be an asset for any team that chooses him. Considering how much NFL teams have struggled to find accurate, durable kickers lately, there may even be a chance he goes earlier than the sixth round — especially for a team dying for a good leg.
Lonnie Pryor, FB, Senior (Projected: Sixth Round)
Pryor put up some impressive numbers during his senior season (376 yards and eight scores), but that is where his strength lies — short yardage situations and actually carrying the football. He’s not an elite blocking fullback, and with a relatively small build (6’0″ and 227 pounds), it will be hard for him to ever become one. That said, if a team is looking for a strong receiving option out of the backfield or a goal-line ball-carrier, Pryor presents an interesting opportunity in the later rounds.
Anthony McCloud, DT, Senior (Projected: Seventh Round)
Battling some injury problems his senior year, McCloud’s stock certainly took a bit of a dip in the eyes of scouts. But with his decent size (6’2″ 305 pounds) and speed (5.23 40-yard dash), he should be able to grab some attention in the later rounds. Teaming up with Dawkins, the pair made for a formidable run-stopping duo and that’ll likely be his selling point while under consideration on day three. It’s also been noted that his large hands could play a role in him evolving in the right pass-rush scheme (deflecting passes at the line).
Vince Williams, ILB, Senior (Projected: Seventh Round)
Obviously, Williams’s job in college was made a bit easier by a superior defensive front, but nonetheless, he made his presence known, recording 59 tackles in 2012, including 10 in the Orange Bowl. While he was well-respected in scout circles following the regular season, it’s his postseason work that really has people excited. Multiple accounts highlighted him as one of the most impressive players at this year’s Senior Bowl, displaying his abilities as a tireless worker who can get involved in both run- and pass-stopping. It may not be ’till late, but he will be selected.
Rodney Smith, WR, Senior (Projected: Seventh Round)
In college, Smith had all the physical attributes to be an elite receiver, but things never came together for him. Now, scouts are already starting to develop the same thoughts about his pro potential. At 6’5″ and 225 pounds, with a 4.43 40-yard dash time, Smith should honestly be one of the best in the draft at his position. Instead, because he struggles to use that size and speed to his advantage and gain separation from defenders, he picks up a lot of question marks as a late-round pick. Though he looks too good to pass up on paper, any team that selects him must be willing to wait for him to develop into an NFL-caliber receiver.
Greg Reid, CB, Senior (Projected: Undrafted)
Reid, who was dismissed from FSU prior to the 2012 season, could’ve been a high selection in last spring’s draft. Now, after tearing his ACL prior to starting his final collegiate season with Valdosta State, he’s unlikely to be drafted at all. Getting another chance to impress scouts at Florida State pro day, he proceeded to pull his hamstring while running, too. Whether bad luck, or just a career gone south, it’s going to be tough for Reid, a former preseason All-American, to convince anyone at the pro level he’s both healthy and back on the straight-and-narrow.
Nick Moody, OLB, Senior (Projected: Undrafted)
At just 6’1″ and 236 pounds, Moody is certainly undersized for the outside linebacker spot, be it a 3-4 or 4-3 scheme. But perhaps his relative speed (4.7 40-yard dash time) helps make up for it a bit. While struggling to stay healthy this past season, he did make some significant contributions, including an Orange Bowl effort featuring a sack and a pass deflection. It’s highly unlikely he’ll be drafted, but if he puts on some more muscle to go with his speed, he could find himself contending for a roster spot this summer.
Chris Thompson, RB, Senior (Projected: Undrafted)
Thompson spent all four years at FSU struggling to stay healthy, a fact that’s certainly not lost on observers prior to the NFL Draft. While he showed glimpses of impressive speed and a nice ability to see the field, his size (5’7″ and 192 pounds) is another major sticking point, and the first thing evaluators will point to regarding his injury history. It’s not out of the question he’ll receive an invite to camp — especially after catching 21 passes out of the backfield in eight games last year — but there’s just too much standing in the way of Thompson hearing his name called on draft day.