Part Two: Ranking Former ACC Players In The NFL This Season, Counting Down From 60 to 41

In this edition of “Drafting The ACC”, D.B.U. makes their first appearance, we see players with championship pedigree, and special teamers dot the field. Brace yourselves for Part 2 as we count down from 60 to 41!

#60. Sebastian Janikowski-K-FSU.

The Oakland Raiders have been arguably the worst franchise in the NFL for the past decade. The lone bright spot for Raiders fans has been the play of the “Polish Cannon” Sebastian Janikowski. He is the Raiders’ all-time leading scorer and has been the only consistent performer (consistently good at least) in Oakland since the countdown to Y2K. This season Janikowski is 15-17 on Field Goal attempts and perfect through his 24 PAT’s.

#59. Derrick Morgan-OLB-GT.

Derrick Morgan is having another solid season for the Tennessee Titans. Morgan has tallied 52 tackles this year along with 4.5 sacks and one forced fumble. Beyond rushing the passer, Morgan has frustrated opposing QB’s with 7 pass breakups.

#58. Olivier Vernon-DE-Miami.

With 6.5 sacks, Olivier Vernon has been bringing the heat in South Beach this season. (6.5 Sacks isn’t that impressive, but anytime one can use a Will Smith reference in a sports article, its a good day.) Along with his sack total, Vernon has 44 tackles and 2 forced fumbles.

 

#57. Antonio Cromartie-CB-FSU.

Antonio Cromartie has been crucial to the success of the Arizona Cardinals this year. The Cardinals can clinch home-field for the playoffs this weekend, despite playing 3 different QB’s. That’s a credit to the strength of the defense. Cromartie has carried his fair share of the load with 39 tackles, a fumble recovery, 10 pass breakups, and 3 interceptions.

#56. Telvin Smith-LB-FSU.

Fellow Florida State alum, Telvin Smith has been a pleasant surprise for the Jacksonville Jaguars this year. Drafted in the 5th round, not only did Telvin Smith make the team and manage to see the field this year, but Smith has found himself in the starting lineup for 7 games. He has 73 tackles thus far, along with 2 sacks, 4 pass breakups, an interception, a forced fumble, 2 fumble recoveries, and was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week in October.

#55. Matt Bosher-P-Miami.

Wait. You won’t put offensive linemen on the list, but you’ll make room for punters!?… Yep. And when you take into account the fact that Matt Bosher has netted 2,272 yards of field position for the Falcons this season, you’ll agree that Bosher has made a noteworthy contribution. Bosher has also pinned opponents inside the 20 yard-line 19 times.

#54. Andy Lee-P-Pitt.

Yes, I just went back to back Punters. This isn’t fantasy football, and Andy Lee isn’t your typical punter. Lee has punted the ball over 3,000 yards this year, with a net gain of over 2,600. When a franchise is built around a strong defense and a power running game, field position equals points. Lee has had 25 punts downed inside the 20 yard-line, in addition to having a 71 yard punt this season. Forget airlines, Jim Harbaugh can save himself some time and money on airfare by having Andy Lee boot him to Michigan.

 

#53. Bruce Carter-LB-UNC.

When it comes to names for a linebacker, few sound better than Bruce Carter. Bruce has had trouble staying on the field throughout his career, but when on the field, Carter is an impact player. In 11 games this year, he has 53 tackles, 1 sack, broken up 6 passes, 3 INT’s, and 1 TD. Bruce came up big for the Dallas Cowboys late in their game against the Philadelphia Eagles a couple weeks ago, when he had a game-clinching interception. Let’s hope Carter can stay healthy, because he’s an exciting player to watch.

#52. Teddy Bridgewater-QB-Louisville.

Teddy is our first QB on the list, beating out guys like E.J. Manuel and Mike Glennon. There was a lot of speculation leading up to the draft whether Teddy was truly an NFL caliber QB, or whether he was a system QB, benefiting from poor competition (pre-ACC Louisville). Bridgewater hasn’t set the world on fire, but he has shown that he belongs in the NFL. Losing Adrian Peterson certainly has made Teddy’s job more difficult, but helping your team overcome adversity goes with the position of QB.  In 10 starts, Bridgewater’s numbers are as follows: 223-351 for 2,451 yards, 11 TD’s-10 INT’s, good enough for a modest 82.7 QBR, as well as 178 yards rushing and 1 rushing TD.

#51. Frank Gore-HB-Miami.

Frank Gore is in the twilight of his career. Other than Steven Jackson, there hasn’t been a running back in the last decade, who has run harder, more physical, and given up his body for the team, more than Frank Gore. I hope he has one more season beyond this one, where he can ride off into the sunset on top, rather than in the midst of the circus that San Francisco is becoming. Gore has plowed and fought his way for 800 yards this season with only 3 TD’s to show for his work. He also has 9 catches for 106 yards and 1 TD.

#50. Steven Hauschka-K-NCST.

Ok. I promise this is the last kicker/punter on the list, but you have to give credit where credit is due. Hauschka’s importance to the Seattle Seahawks is undeniable. His FG percentage is over 90% as he has went 29-32 with a long of 58. He’s also been perfect through 34 PAT’s. That means Hauschka is responsible for 36% of the Seahawks points this season.

#49. Brandon Flowers-CB-VT.

Brandon Flowers is the first member of D.B.U. on the list.

After a change of scenery from Kansas City to San Diego, Flowers is settling down and getting back to the business of destroying passing games. In 12 starts, Flowers has 46 tackles, broken up 10 passes, and has 3 Interceptions. A concussion has slowed Flowers this season, but San Diego will need him at his absolute best over the next 2 weeks as they fight for a playoff spot.

#48. Reggie Wayne-WR-Miami.

Reggie Wayne has had the privilege of catching balls from arguably the best QB to ever play the game, and a QB who many think will be the best QB of the next generation. Wayne has lost a step, but he is still a fantastic receiver who can get the job done.  He has 59 catches for 665 yards, and 2 TD’s.

#47. Heath Miller-TE-UVA.

Heath Miller continues to be the most underrated TE in the NFL. As the “complete” tight end has started to give way to super athlete, basketball on grass types, Heath Miller continues to impact the game with both his toughness and willingness to block in the run game, as well as his ability to come up with the big catch in the passing game. I’ve always seen Heath Miller as Jason Witten-lite. Witten has benefited from a much more pass heavy offense for most of his career, but he and Miller have very similar games. There is one major difference between the two, Miller knows what it’s like to wear a Super Bowl ring… two actually. As for this season, Heath has caught 56 passes for 652 yards and 3 TD’s.

#46. Larry Fitzgerald-WR-Pitt.

Unlike Reggie Wayne and Heath Miller, Larry Fitzgerald might be the greatest wide receiver to never have won a Super Bowl. When the Cardinals had a QB, the defense couldn’t hold their weight, and now that the defense is phenomenal, Larry has lost his top 2 QB’s. 2014 has been yet another productive season for Fitzgerald with over 700 yards receiving and 2 TD’s. If Carson Palmer can come back healthy next season, he and Fitzgerald might have one last run at the title, before both men head off into the sunset.

#45. Andre Johnson-WR-Miami.

Maybe I should have mixed some young guys in with these all-pro veterans, but we’ll get to them shortly. There was a time when Andre Johnson was the best wide-out in the league bar-none. A lingering hamstring issue robbed Johnson of the last couple years of his prime, but like Fitzgerald, what Johnson has lost in athleticism, he’s been able to overcome with experience. His numbers are also very similar to Fitzgerald’s as Johnson has caught 69 passes for 737 yards and 2 TD’s.

#44. Andre Williams-HB-BC.

Williams was a terrific runner for Boston College, carrying the program throughout the time he was there. The NFL has proved to be a bit tougher sledding, as it should, but Williams will figure it out. He’s made 5 starts this season en route to 568 yards on 176 carries, as well as 100 plus yards receiving. Frank Gore had a higher yard total, but Williams’ 6 TD’s give him the edge.

#43. Jason Worilds-LB-VT.

Jason Worilds was a productive defensive end at Virginia Tech, who opted to leave early for the NFL. I didn’t like the decision at the time, as I thought he would gain much more in coming back for his Senior year. Coincidentally, Virginia Tech may be faced with the same scenario this year, as Dadi Nicolas is gauging potential NFL interest. Pittsburgh drafted Worilds and moved him to OLB. The transition has taken some time for Worilds, but playing linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers comes with high expectations. Worilds is slowly starting to show he belongs, and he has started every game this season. He has impacted the game in a variety of ways and is proving to be a bit of a stat sheet stuffer. His line reads: 51 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 2 pass defended, one INT, one forced fumble, and 2 fumble recoveries.

#42. Kam Chancellor-S-VT.

Fellow Hokie, Kam Chancellor, checks in at #42. Chancellor is the 2nd member of D.B.U. on our list. Had this piece been put together last year, Kam would have been top 20 easily, but this year his numbers have dipped just slightly. In all honesty, if I was building a franchise, Kam Chancellor would be the guy I want playing safety. He is one of a very small number of guys in the league, who can still deliver huge hits and do it legally. Manning his post in the Legion of Boom defense, Chancellor makes eceivers think twice when running through his territory. I would have no problem with Chancellor being 20 spots higher on the list, even this year, but there are some other players having terrific years, so we’ll let Kam and his Super Bowl ring relax here and give other players a chance to shine. So far Kam has 69 tackles, 4 pass breakups, one INT, and one forced fumble.

#41. Rodney McLeod-S-UVA.

In the opening piece of this series, I gave the UVA folks a bit of a hard time with Ahmad Brooks, but here is where I put UVA over. Rodney McLeod is an exciting player that I have not paid enough attention to until recent weeks. In most categories, McLeod has already matched last season’s totals with 2 games remaining. I also think McLeod is set to have an even more impressive season next year. He has 62 tackles, 6 pass breakups, 2 INT’s, 2 forced fumbles, and 2 fumble recoveries. I can’t stress enough, how close I think McLeod is to turning the corner into a tremendous defensive play-maker.

That’s all for today’s edition of “Drafting The ACC”. Looking ahead to tomorrow’s group, Clemson and Miami are heavily represented. Also, can you guess which Defensive Rookie of the Year candidate makes tomorrow’s list? What about a former Defensive Rookie of the Year and member of the All-Decade Team of the 2000’s? Check back tomorrow and see if you guessed right.

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