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.
The well for NFL talent’s not doing so hot at Pittsburgh, but that’s what happens when you have a coaching carousel for an extended period of time. Players prefer consistency and a proven track record of successfully producing NFL talent, and for the Panthers, it just hasn’t been there lately. Though things could certainly change in the future, for right now, 2013 could even be another season of Pitt seeing zero players selected — a startling development when you consider the level of talent they currently have at the professional level (Darrelle Revis, Larry Fitzgerald, LeSean McCoy, to name a few).
Ray Graham, RB, Senior (Projected: Sixth Round)
At one point during his junior season, Graham could have very well been considered among the best running back prospects available — a smart, powerful runner who had tons of NFL potential. Now, unfortunately, his luck has turned a bit south. Though he certainly made a nice comeback from injury in 2012 (ran for over 1,000 yards), scouts see the 5’9″ 200-pound back as undersized and a risk with extended carries. Despite last year’s jump up to 258 touches (rushing and receiving), the prevailing thought on Graham is that his size prevents him from being durable over a long career, and his burst at the line just isn’t what it used to be. This is also reinforced by an unimpressive 40-yard dash time of just 4.68, which has knocked him down on many boards league-wide. For those who’ve watched his career closely, there’s certainly a prospect worth drafting in Graham. But if there aren’t enough running backs picked in the early rounds, he may be sweating it out late on day three.
Mike Shanahan, TE, Senior (Projected: Undrafted)
As a wide receiver in college, Shanahan made great strides each and every season, developing into a smarter, stronger one-on-one receiver over time. But with his long, heavier frame (6’5″ and 225 pounds) and slower speed (4.82 40-yard dash), he’ll need to transition to the tight end spot if he hopes to make a roster for this fall. Instincts-wise, Shanahan is a proven commodity, using a basketball background to his advantage when it comes to positioning and upper-body strength. But it’s that same reason he’s also seen as a bit of a liability. He’ll be graded as a prospect, rather than a difference-making player right now, so it’s unlikely he’ll be drafted. Just the same, if a team’s willing to take a risk and help him develop into a professional tight end, it’s not as if it’s unheard of for basketball skills to translate quite well (hello, Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates).