College Football’s regular season has come to a close, and with the bowl season not starting until Saturday, there’s time to take a look at how some of the ACC’s former best are performing this season in the NFL. For the sake of this series, we’ll include the alums of ACC newcomers Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and Louisville, while leaving out players from Maryland. So while Shady McCoy wasn’t a member of the ACC, we’ll adopt him. Sorry Vernon Davis, thanks for the memories.
You also won’t find any Offensive Linemen in these rankings. Not that Offensive Linemen aren’t important, but talking about pancake blocks and grading out at 88% just isn’t as much fun to talk about as touchdowns and Interceptions. As most lists of this nature have 100 players, we are going to say that 81-100 are reserved for the best NFL offensive linemen that the ACC has produced. You can fill in your own list of 20 guys with the likes of D’Brickashaw Ferguson from UVA, Eric Wood from Louisville, Russel Bodine the impressive rookie from North Carolina, and arguably the best offensive tackle in football Duane Brown from Virginia Tech.
And with that…we’re off:
#80. Eric Ebron-TE-UNC.
To be honest, I expected a lot more out of Eric Ebron in his rookie season. However, when you look at all the weapons Matthew Stafford has to choose from, it’s easy to see how Ebron could get lost in the mix. Playing in 11 games, Ebron has 23 catches for 210 yards and one Touchdown. He’s developing a knack for moving the chains as over half of his catches have been good for first downs. Here’s the first of what’s sure to be many more TD’s for Eric Ebron:
#79. Timmy Jernigan-DT-FSU.
Fresh off a National Championship, Timmy Jernigan entered the league with a lot of promise. As a rookie, Jernigan has already found a way to make an impact for a Baltimore Ravens franchise known almost exclusively for its defensive prowess. While seeing action in 10 games this season, Jernigan has been given credit for 17 tackles while also finding his way to the QB four times, an impressive number given his limited playing time.
#78. Michael Johnson-DE-GT.
The first veteran on the list, Michael Johnson is playing in his 6th season. His production hasn’t matched his ability, but that seems to be an epidemic in the Bucs locker room this year. Johnson is playing on a bad team, but has still tallied 23 tackles, three sacks and one forced fumble.
#77. Quinton Coples-DE-UNC.
Continuing the string of D-lineman, Coples is another defender having a solid season on a sub-par team. Coples has started 13 games for the Jets. To date, he has 27 tackles, four sacks and one forced fumble. For now Coples is holding his own, but he will probably have a new coach and new scheme to learn next season. Don’t worry though, Coples is from UNC, where they are all about scheming.
#76. David Amerson-CB-NCST.
Amerson is yet another ACC player playing for a franchise in disarray, the Washington Redskins. The good news is that the potential is there for Amerson to become a breakout star. While roaming the field on defense for the Wolfpack, Amerson caught everything but the flu. In 13 games this season, Amerson has made 52 tackles while breaking up five passes. Even though the interceptions aren’t there, he’s at least doing a good job of taking ball carriers down.
#75. Jaron Brown-WR-Clemson.
Jaron Brown is the first of multiple wide receivers from Clemson, a school that is quickly becoming WR-U. Brown checks in with 21 catches good for 223 yards and two touchdowns. After one catch in the first five games, Brown’s production spiked in the middle of the season. He’ll be looking to close out the year strong and maybe do some damage in the playoffs with the Arizona Cardinals.
#74. Ahmad Brooks-LB-UVA.
Brooks has made his share of plays this season for San Francisco. He has 30 tackles on the year with six sacks, three passes defended, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. Solid.
#73. Allen Bailey-DE-Miami.
In 12 starts for the Kansas City Chiefs, Bailey has 37 tackles and four Sacks, while breaking up one pass. Bailey’s tackle numbers are why I have him slotted ahead of Brooks. Of course you could make the argument that six sacks from the linebacker position for Brooks is more impressive. In all honesty, it’s a tie for me, but Brooks gets penalized for being from UVA. #HokiesRespect.
#72. Bjoern Werner-OLB-FSU.
After having a terrific career as a defensive lineman for FSU, Werner has had to make the switch to outside linebacker for the Indianapolis Colts. He has continued to be a solid pass rusher, bringing the QB down four times in his 14 starts while also making 47 tackles. Werner has also broken up one pass, forced one fumble and recovered one fumble.
#71. Hakeem Nicks-WR-UNC.
Joining Werner, is Colts teammate Hakeem Nicks. After being a big part of the offense for the New York Giants, Nicks made the move to Indy when Eli Manning’s targets moved to Victor Cruz. If he only knew that his targets would be cut in half with the Colts. In 6 starts, Nicks has 26 catches for 287 yards and four touchdowns. Nicks may have a bounce-back year next season though if Reggie Wayne retires.
#70. Chandler Jones-DE-Syracuse.
Chandler Jones is having a productive season for the New England Patriots. 2014 has been much better to Chandler than to his more famous brother, UFC Light-Heavyweight Champion Jon “bones” Jones who has found himself injured and embarrassed this year. Thankfully, Chandler has brought honor to the family with his 33 tackles, six sacks, two forced fumbles, and one fumble recovery.
#69. Travis Benjamin-WR-Miami.
The lone Cleveland Browns representative, Travis Benjamin is having a solid season despite inconsistent and often horrible play by Cleveland QB’s. Travis has found the end zone three times on 17 catches for 305 yards. Benjamin could be a thousand yard receiver on another team.
#68. Jerricho Cotchery-WR-NCST.
Cotchery is having a respectable season for the Carolina Panthers. He and Cam Newton have hooked up 40 times for over 500 yards. Cotchery only has one TD, but thats to be expected when teammates Kelvin Benjamin and Greg Olsen are having such terrific years. You’ll see both guys later this week.
#67. Harry Douglas-WR-Louisville.
Another receiver having a good year, Douglas has found a nice role as Atlanta’s third receiver hauling in 42 catches. He adds 482 yards to Matt Ryan’s total, as well as a couple of touchdowns.
#66. Devin Hester-WR-Miami.
Hester is the last receiver in today’s group. Though known as one of the best return men in the history of the game, Hester has settled into a different role alongside Harry Douglas in Atlanta. With 32 catches for 447 yards and two TD’s, he shares similar numbers with Douglas but Hester’s 36 rushing yards and rushing touchdown pull him slightly ahead.
#65. Brandon Meriweather-S-Miami.
Coincidentally 65 happens to be the number of times Meriweather has been fined for helmet to helmet hits. He has 55 tackles on the year, with three sacks, three passes broken up, three forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, and one nasty reputation patrolling the Redskins’ secondary.
#64. Sam Shields-CB-Miami.
Sam Shields does a good job of locking down his portion of the frozen tundra in Green Bay. He’s picked off two passes this year while breaking up eight others and adding 36 tackles. Not bad for a cornerback.
#63. Marcus Gilchrist-S-Clemson.
Marcus Gilchrist is a solid safety who would provide value on any team. His numbers aren’t overly flashy, but you get an honest day’s effort out of Gilchrist each Sunday—or Monday, or Thursday, or Saturday…when did the NFL and the MAC switch places? Gilchrist is credited with 67 tackles on the season, five passes broken up, one interception, and one forced fumble.
#62. Byron Maxwell-CB-Clemson.
Defending Super Bowl Champ and member of the LOB (Legion of Boom) defense, Maxwell is often the only glimmer of hope for opposing QB’s. Playing opposite of Richard Sherman, Maxwell has more than held his own this season as offensive coordinators gameplan to attack him. He is responsible for 36 tackles, an impressive 10 pass breakups, two INT’s and one fumble recovery.
#61. Xavier Rhodes-CB-FSU.
The last guy on today’s list is Xavier Rhodes. If Maxwell’s 10 pass breakups are impressive, then Rhodes deserves his own key to the city of Minnesota. Rhodes has broken up 17 passes this season, while contributing 42 tackles and one interception. With better hands, Rhodes may have found himself in the top 20. Nevertheless, that’s 17 fewer catches against the Vikings, a season total for a couple of guys on our list.
So maybe he does have hands…?
Up Next: 60-41. The group is littered with Super Bowl Rings and Special Teams standouts.
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