Part Four: Ranking Former ACC Players In The NFL This Season, Counting Down From 20 to 11

We are inching closer to the top 10 ACC alums in the NFL this season. Today, we focus on spots 20-11. At the close of yesterday’s article, I mentioned that a player had managed to slip into the top 20, when in reality they should have been listed somewhere in the 50’s or 60’s. Let’s get started with that player.

*#20. Darrelle Revis-CB-Pitt.

Revis’s numbers suggest he belongs much further down the list. With only 43 tackles, one forced fumble, and 2 INT’s, placing Revis in the top 20 is questionable at best. As soon as I saw his name in this group, I knew I had made a mistake. To give Revis credit, QB’s ignore his side of the field, so his opportunities are limited. Revis Island didn’t just sink into the ocean. It still exists, so Revis definitely deserves a place on this list, but not #20.

#19. Morgan Burnette-S-GT.

Through 13 starts this year for the Green Bay Packers, Burnette has 112 tackles. That is an impressive total for a safety, considering he still has 2 games left. On the flip side, that doesn’t speak highly of Green Bay’s Defense, when a safety has the opportunity to put up a number that high. Nevertheless, Morgan Burnette has made his share of plays this year, adding one sack, 3 pass breakups, one interception, and one forced fumble to his respectable tackle count.

#18. Mario Williams-DE-NCST.

Most people questioned whether drafting Mario Williams first overall in 2006 was a smart move or not. To this point in his career, Williams is far from a bust, showing that he certainly deserved to be a first round pick, but first overall is a bit of a stretch, considering he no longer plays for the team that drafted him, the Houston Texans. The fact that Reggie Bush struggled during the first few years of his career, made Williams look like a much better pick in hindsight and silenced a lot of critics. With all that being said, Williams has been a very productive player, and this year is no exception. He has 37 tackles and 2 forced fumbles, but most importantly, Williams has 13 sacks this season for the Buffalo Bills. That’s a great total, knowing opposing offensive coordinators game-plan to neutralize Williams.

#17. Daryl Smith-LB-GT.

This season Daryl Smith has shown to be one of the most complete linebackers in the game. Not only can he stuff the running game to the tune of 108 tackles, but he has also put his stamp on the passing game by breaking up 8 passes. He rounds out the rest of his stat sheet with one sack, one interception, 2 forced fumbles, and one fumble recovery. By being such a dependable player, always in the right place at the right time, Smith allows that awesome Ravens defense to use all sorts of aggressive exotic blitz packages, with little to no fear of giving up the big play.

#16. Anquan Boldin-WR-FSU.

Anquan Boldin is closing in on the 7th 1,000 yard receiving season in his career. With 74 catches on the season, for 920 yards, Boldin needs just 80 more yards for an incredible accomplishment. Some receivers only dream of having a 1,000 yard season, let alone having 7. Pay special attention to Boldin these last couple of weeks. Players like Boldin are few and far between. He is a receiver who plays the game with the toughness of an offensive lineman and the aggressiveness of a linebacker. Had he found a way to get in the end zone a few more times, he would have been higher on the list, but 4 TD’s is an ok number considering just how erratic his QB has been at times this season.

#15. Sammy Watkins-WR-Clemson.

Are you getting on board with the idea of Clemson becoming W.R.U.? Watkins is the third Clemson receiver on the list, and its not like these guys are 10 year veterans. These guys are young, up-and-coming studs. I don’t know that Watkins will win Offensive Rookie of the Year, but his name should at least come up in conversation. Buffalo’s first round draft pick, 4th overall, has done nothing to disappoint the Buffalo faithful this year. Some athletes make it rain, Watkins made it snow. He caught 850 yards worth of passes this season, a few less than Boldin, but with 5 TD’s and a much better yard per catch average, Watkins finds a home here at #15.

#14. Jimmy Graham-TE-Miami.

Fantasy football faithful, put down your pitchforks. Yes, Graham is amazing, but he doesn’t have the numbers to be in the top 10 this year… Maybe next year. I fully understand emotional responses to Jimmy Graham. I stood 50 feet from Jimmy Graham and booooo’d quite loudly as he rocked the rims of Cassell Coliseum at Virginia Tech, long before he was thought of as a football player. Years later, I sat on my couch teary-eyed listening to Jimmy Graham tell the story of his life. After seeing that, I will always pull for Jimmy Graham. The Saints are having a rough year and yet still may make the playoffs. If so, all bets are off when you have a weapon the caliber of Jimmy Graham. Even in a somewhat down year, Graham has 73 catches for 782 yards and 9TD’s. Now. Take a few minutes and watch this.

“As a child, I wondered what I was worth…”

#13. Robert Quinn-DE-UNC.

Robert Quinn is a play-maker. Sidenote: Look out for the Rams if they ever get a dependable QB. With Quinn, Chris Long, Aaron Donald, Michael Brockers, James Laurinaitis, Alec Ogletree, Janoris Jenkins, and Rodney McLeod who you may have first heard of here on our countdown, the Rams are absolutely loaded on defense. Quinn has 40 tackles, not overly impressive, but that’s only a small part of the story. The rest of his stat line is where his money is made. He has 10.5 sacks, and when he wasn’t punishing the Quarterback, he was batting passes down, credited with 6 pass breakups. Then, just for good measure, Quinn separated the ball from the ball carrier 5 times this year. As I said earlier, Robert Quinn makes plays.

#12. LeSean McCoy-HB-Pitt.

Nope. LeSean is not in the top 10. You’re angry aren’t you? So is LeSean McCoy! Shady McCoy is currently 4th in the NFL in rushing yards with 1,132. He is exactly 1 yard behind Marshawn Lynch for 3rd place. So what’s the problem? He has 4 touchdowns this year. That’s unacceptable for a Chip Kelly offense. LeSean McCoy’s goalline carries have been taken away and that is an issue. 1,000 yard rushing seasons are still impressive feats, especially at a time when the league is going insanely pass-heavy, but with only 4 scores Shady is stuck at #12.

#11. Calvin Johnson-WR-GT.

I’ll wait for you to pick your computer/tablet/ipad/mobile device up off the floor… Is Calvin Johnson the best wide receiver in the NFL? Absolutely. Is he having the best season in 2014? Nope, and that is why Calvin Johnson is 11th. In 11 games, Johnson has 61 catches for 935 yards and 6 TD’s. That is a great season for 95% of wide receivers in the league, but not for Calvin Johnson. Injuries have slowed him down and kept him out of a few games this year, but I can almost guarantee Calvin Johnson will be back with a vengeance next season. He might even be the first guy ever to reach 2,000 yards receiving in a single season. He was only 36 yards shy in 2012.

By now you are probably thinking that this list is the most jacked up countdown you’ve ever seen. Other than one player, I’d say this list is spot on, but you’ll have to trust me on this one or check back tomorrow to see who in the world could be in the top 10 when Shady McCoy and “Megatron” Calvin Johnson are on the outside looking in. Make a few guesses, write em’ down, and see if you’re right. Next up: The Top 10 are revealed.

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