ACC Prospects Shine at NFL Combine

A number of ACC alumni were out in Indianapolis this weekend for the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine. A number of players distinguished themselves while looking to make an impression on NFL GMs and scouts.

RB Shad Thornton, N.C. State

Thornton was dismissed from the football team for incidents involving his scooter and has had issues with marijuana in the past, so he certainly has some questions to answer for pro teams, but his physical talents were never in questions and they were on display this weekend. Thornton posted the second-fastest time in the three cone drill (6.85 seconds) among running backs and tied for third in the 20 yard shuttle (4.21 seconds). His 4.75 40 time isn’t blazing and he’s a touch undersized at 6′ even, but his agility and athleticism are impressive. It remains to be seen if some team might gamble on him in the late rounds.

WR Charone Peake, Clemson

The 40 yard dash proved to be the perfect event to highlight Peake’s impressive speed. He clocked a 4.45 which proved to be fifth fastest among the receivers. At 6’2″, 209 pounds Peake also has good size for the position. He’s a promising talent though he does have two knee surgeries in his past which could give some teams pause. I’d take a shot in the first couple of rounds if I was a GM.

TE Ryan Malleck, Virginia Tech

He’s a project at tight end but has good size (6’4″, 247 pounds) and has proven to be a reliable pass-catcher when healthy for the Hokies. He had just one drop during his final two seasons in Blacksburg and could be a versatile option as a tight end split out in the slot as he often did for Tech. His 10’1″ broad jump was tied for second among the tight ends and his 34.5″ vertical leap was good for fourth. He put up 18 reps in the bench press which was good for sixth at his position. He needs to prove he can be a better blocker, but he has some good potential.

TE David Grinnage, N.C. State

Another sizable prospect (6’5″, 248) he became a reliable part of the passing offense and posted 25 catches for 290 yards and three touchdowns. He did a bit to address concerns regarding his speed with a 4.9 40 yard dash that ranked seventh among tight ends. Like Malleck, he’s more of a receiver than a traditional tight end but that seems to be the way the game is trending. The NFL likes projects at this spot with good size. Everyone wants to find the next Jimmy Graham so players with these measurables have considerable upside for many teams.

DE Shaq Lawson, Clemson

Lawson was an enormous contributor to Clemson’s dominant defense this season. He has good size 6’3″, 269 and he still moves quickly. He ran a 4.7 40 yard dash which put him fourth among defensive lineman and his 4.21 20 yard shuttle tied him for second with highly touted Ohio State lineman Joey Bosa. Lawson could play in a 3-4 or a 4-3 depending on the team.

DE Dadi Nicolas, Virginia Tech

This is one guy who’s talent has never been in doubt. Nicolas is very fast and clearly as the video shows, an athletic freak. His numbers took a nosedive last year from 71 total tackles, 8.5 sacks, and 17 tackles for loss as a junior to just 45 tackles, 2.5 sacks, and seven tackles for loss in his senior campaign though he did force and recover two fumbles. He was hampered by a hand injury that clearly affected his ability to wrap up on some near sacks and tackles.

CB Juston Burris, N.C. State

He showed strength with 19 reps in the bench press. That’s tied for second best among corners. His 4.53 was slow in the 40 yard dash however but he has good size at 6′, 212 pounds. He started three seasons for the Wolfpack and set a record for consecutive games started by a corner. He has a chance to sneak up into the mid to late rounds if he has a good all-star game or two.

CB Jalen Ramsey, Florida State

Jalen Ramsey may be one of the most supremely talented players in the entire draft class. He demonstrated that ability with eye-popping performances in the vertical leap and a solid 4.41 40 yard dash which put him seventh best in the pack of corners. He was a standout on a strong Florida State defense and will be a good match up outside at 6’1″, 206 pounds.

CB Artie Burns, Miami

The speedy corner posted a reasonable 40 yard dash with 4.46 seconds. That tied him for ninth with a group of other corners. He’s pretty raw as far as corners go, but he has good speed and solid ball skills. He’s a track guy who has room to grow as a football player. His ceiling is very high which could lead a team to take a chance on him. NFL GMs love to find diamonds in the rough and Burns could fit the bill in the later rounds.

OL Landon Turner, North Carolina

Turner tied for fifth among lineman with 30 reps on the bench press. He’s 6’4″, 330 pounds and has a great reputation as a reliable blocker, particularly in the running game. He isn’t quite quick enough to be a phenomenal pass blocker, but his brute strength and toughness should serve to attract many teams to select him.


There were two inactive corners from ACC schools who were unable to participate as they recover from injuries. Clemson’s MacKense Alexander recently declared himself to be the best corner in the entire draft, but a hamstring issue kept him from working out this week in Indianapolis.

Virginia Tech’s Kendall Fuller missed most of his junior season for the Hokies after suffering a torn meniscus in his right knee. He continues to recover from the injury so he decided to skip on-field workouts this week as well, though he did put up 15 reps in the bench press which was tied for 13th best. Clemson’s pro day is March 10 while Virginia Tech hosts NFL scouts March 16.

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