Potential First Round Picks From The ACC In 2016

8. Jeremy Cash – Duke

Safety Jeremy Cash has evolved into one of the best players on the Duke defense, and will be taking his talents to the NFL following his senior season as a Blue Devil in 2015. Last season Cash recorded 111 tackles, a pair of interceptions and lead Duke in sacks with 5.5. With the storied basketball program at Duke, the Blue Devils football team has often been an after thought in Cameron. However, under head coach David Cutcliffe the Duke football team has reached respectability and beyond, due largely to their defense. Cash has been one of the rudders of the defensive unit, and should be a viable talent at the next level in 2016.

7. Bucky Hodges – Virginia Tech

The truth is that the Hokies tight end Bucky Hodges likely won’t declare for the NFL draft following his redshirt-sophomore season in 2015. It will be only his second season as a full time tight end after moving from quarterback, and he will likely remain in Blacksburg for more seasoning. , If he were the declare for the draft however, his stock could rise to first round potential in an NFL landscape that loves big, athletic tight ends. With fellow ACC tight ends such as Nick O’Leary and Clive Walford departing following the 2014 season, Hodges should elevate his game to an All-ACC level this year. Last season he caught 45 passes for 526 yards and a team high seven scores, while drawing comparisons to New Orleans Saints stand out tight end Jimmy Graham. The sky is the limit for the young Hodges, if or when he declares for the draft.

6. Marquise Williams – North Carolina

Marquise Williams will head to the NFL in 2016, as the coming season will be his senior year as the North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback. Where he ends up in next years draft is anyones guess. Williams could be fringe first-round material, similar to a Teddy Bridgewater, who went to the Vikings in the closing moments of the opening round last year. Williams isn’t a household name in college football, but does a serviceable job behind center and is a true dual-threat quarterback. In 2014 Williams threw for 3,073 yards, completing 63.1% of his passes with 21 touchdowns versus only nine interceptions. He also led the Tar Heels in rushing with 783 yards on 193 attempts, and had 13 rushing touchdowns. He could be a perfect fit late in the 2016 first round with a team like the Chip Kelly and the Eagles.

5. Nate Andrews – Florida State

Even in a loaded secondary for a Florida State team that has lost only one game in the last two season, the play of safety Nate Andrews has stood out. Andrews will enter his junior season as a Seminole in 2015, and is hoping to lead his team in interceptions for a third consecutive season. As a freshman he had a team high four picks, and followed it up with three last season. He also recorded a pick-six in both of those campaigns.

Andrews is on the short side for a defensive back at 5’8″, but uses all of his 210 pounds to batter and bruise the opposition as a physical defender. His tackle total more than doubled in 2014, increasing from 35 to 93 as a sophomore. Even though some NFL teams could question his size, his ability to hit and his stamina could easily make him a first round target, should he forgo his senior season in 2016.

4. Jalen Ramsey – Florida State

Andrews secondary teammate Jalen Ramsey could also be positioning himself for a first round selection should he declare for the 2016 NFL draft. Ramsey has the size (6’1″, 205 pounds), speed and athleticism to play either corner or safety, but has settled into the former. He has displayed all the tools of a top-tier defensive back during his first two seasons in Tallahassee. He uses his quickness to stay with receivers stride for stride, and is big enough to be physical with them as well.

In his first two seasons at Florida State Ramsey has compiled an impressive stat line: 129 total tackles (11.5 for a loss), and four sacks. Ramsey also has a nose for the ball, recording three interceptions for 58 yards as a Seminole. He has been another vital cog in the freshman class that won a National Title in 2013, and should continue to make a huge impact at the next level.

3. Tyler Boyd- Pittsburgh

No fan of the Pittsburgh Panthers football program will ever forget the name Larry Fitzgerald, but Tyler Boyd is doing things that even Fitzgerald never did. Boyd now stands as the only receiver in ACC history to have more than 1,000 receiving yards in both of his first two seasons. Fitzgerald also had two 1,000 receiving yard seasons, but not as a freshman and sophomore.

To say Boyd dominated the Panthers receiving corps in 2014 is an understatement. He finished with 78 receptions for 1,261 yards and eight touchdowns. After Boyd, the top Pitt receiving totals were as follows: 21 (receptions), 201 (yards) and 4 (touchdowns). Only Florida State’s Rashad Greene had more receiving yards than Boyd, making the Panthers decision to return to school in 2015 at least mildly surprising. Should be choose to declare following this season he should be a slam dunk first round pick, and probably the most complete receiver of the 2016 class.

2. James Conner – Pittsburgh

Along with Boyd, running back James Conner was the second half of the duo that made up almost the entire Pitt offense in 2014. Conner had 298 rushing attempts for 1,765 yards and 26 touchdowns, all tops in the ACC. His 135.7 yards per game on the ground also lead the conference. Many expected him to jump the the NFL following his stellar sophomore season, but he decided to return to Pitt in 2015, making the probability he declares for the draft at the end of this season all but a certainty.

Should Conner find himself in the crosshairs of NFL GMs in next years draft he shouldn’t have to wait long before getting selected. He brings an NFL level body and physicality to the table already, and he is only entering his junior season. Conner is 6’2″, 250 pounds, and is a powerful, workhorse type runner, who frequently requires more than one defender to bring him down. He could be the first running back off the board, should he declare.

1. Kendall Fuller – Virginia Tech

The report on Fuller features a lot of “best of”. The best of the Fuller brothers to come through Blacksburg. The best defensive back in an ACC that features some of the elite secondary players in the nation. And if he were to enter the 2016 NFL draft he would probably be the best defensive back in that class, too. Fuller was named to the first-team All-ACC list, and All-American honors from several outlets as well.

In two seasons as a Hokie Fuller has recorded 112 tackles, 2.5 sacks and eight interceptions. Beyond the box score are the intangibles he brings to his team. Fuller is involved on nearly every play, often breaking up passes or blanketing his receiver. He combines his physical and mental tools better than any secondary player in the conference, and his mere presence on the field has proved invaluable. Much like a Richard Sherman or Darrelle Revis at the pro level, Fuller often proves to be a foil for opposing quarterbacks, cutting the field in half for all but the most daring of quarterbacks. He will be an immediate asset for almost any NFL teams, whether it is in 2016 or 2017.

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