How many ACC prospects will go in the first round?
Fallout from 2022 NFL Draft is still fresh and college football season is just a few months away. However, it’s time to turn the chapter to the Class of 2023. In 2022, four ACC prospects were selected in the first round (third of all conferences), but how many could we see in 2023?
2023 NFL Draft: How many ACC prospects will make it to the first round?
We must recapitulate the past to put the future in perspective. Last year, the ACC had four representatives drafted in the first round: NC State OT Ikem Ikwonu (No. 6 – Carolina Panthers), Boston College G Zion Johnson (No. 17 – Los Angeles Chargers), Pittsburgh QB Kenny Pickett ( No. 20 – Pittsburgh Steelers) and Florida State EDGE Jermaine Johnson II (No. 26 – New York Jets).
From 1936 to 2009, the ACC had 229 players selected in the first round, the third of all conferences. Since 2010 (last 13 drafts), the conference has averaged 4.69 players drafted in the first round. So, with the history lesson aside, how many ACC prospects might hear their names called in the 2023 NFL Draft?
ACC hopefuls who could make it to the first round
It’s a futile task to predict how many players from a given conference will go that far in Round 1. We do not know. Even if we had all the information in the world, the NFL Draft likes to throw a wrench in the predictions. But this exercise allows us to explore top ACC draft-eligible talent who could rise above the rest.
Near the locks
I pay attention to verbiage here, as there are few real “locks” when it comes to the NFL Draft. Wide receiver Jordan Addison exploded onto the scene for Pitt last year, helping Kenny Pickett’s rise. Still, he may not be a Panther for a long time because he entered his name into the transfer portal. There’s a chance Addison will return next season, but all signs point to the ultra-talented player playing elsewhere.
A Pitt Perspective do not in the transfer gate, DT Calijah Kancey has been a constant force in the Panthers defense. The 6’0″, 275-pounder isn’t the biggest man, but he makes up for it with technique and easy-to-see athleticism.
Clemson has a trio of first-round caliber prospects in LB Trenton Simpson, DT Bryan Bresee and EDGE Myles Murphey. Simpson is one of the best athletes in this position, and DC Brent Venables has deployed him as such. 1 recruit in 2020, Bresee saw his 2021 campaign cut short due to a torn ACL. If he is 100% healthy, he should enjoy a breakout campaign indoors. Finally, Murphy has been a constant troublemaker on the edge. Although he can rush the setter, he is an even stronger run defender.
On paper, five ACC quarterbacks could propel themselves into the first-round conversation. And in all likelihood, at least one or two will be the first-round callers. But which ones?
Boston College’s Phil Jurkovec was considered a Day 1 Capital contender in the Class of 2022 before an injury robbed him of the opportunity to prove his case. The offensive line will be revamped, but Christian Mahogany remains up front and WR Zay Flowers is still catching passes on the outside.
Clemson’s DJ Uiagalelei is in a QB battle with real freshman Cade Klubnik. If the “veteran” loses, he can embrace his first-round aspirations. Still, he has the physical tools to right the ship in his second season as a starter in “Death Valley.”
Former USC QB Kedon Slovis will take the reins from Pickett in Pittsburgh, and I would feel much better about his prospects if Addison returned. Nonetheless, Akron Konata Mumpfield’s transfer hopes to be a key piece of the reception puzzle.
NC State head coach Dave Doeren has publicly declared Devin Leary to be the nation’s best passer. The flashes of arm talent are here, and a stellar campaign could propel him into day one. Last but not least is Miami’s Tyler Van Dyke. In a similar boat to Leary, Van Dyke showed his ability last year, but a full year of consistent play under center will be crucial for his draft stock.
Other ACC names to know in the 2023 NFL Draft
UNC WR Josh Downs was Sam Howell’s only reliable wide receiver last season. He’s an explosive playmaker who simply creates separation. Stockings been the Tar Heel offense and is expected to retain that role in 2022. Yet a change under center muddies the waters, especially coming from a player of Howell’s caliber throwing the football at him.
Virginia has an elite receiving duo in Dontayvion Wicks and Keytaon Thompson. Thomspon is a converted QB at 6’4″ and 210 pounds and outplays his opponents. He can break up tackles and win contested situations while being a versatile all-court weapon. Wicks was the Cavaliers’ downfield threat, averaging 21.1 yards per reception en route to 1,203 yards and 9 touchdowns. He has a legitimate speed of 4.4 and can get the better of defenses.
Another Pitt prospect to know about is Habakkuk Baldonado. Originally from Rome, Italy, Baldonado started performing in the United States in 2017. But you couldn’t tell by looking at his tape because he was an out-and-out terror. He was honored with the All-ACC Second Team last year after generating 12 tackles for loss and 9 sacks. Alongside Kancey, expect Baldonado to continue to grow.
Miami CB Tyrique Stevenson spent his first two years as a slots defenseman for Georgia. But after being transferred to South Beach, Stevenson proved to be a reliable outside corner. He allowed just 51% of his targets to be caught last year, allowing no more than 49 yards in a single game. He has the size, length and skill to maintain his dominance in 2022.
- Sean TuckerRB, Syracuse
- Jordan McFaddenOL, Clemson
- Robert Scott Jr.OT, State of Florida
- Zion NelsonOT, Miami (FL)
- Carter WarrenOT, Pittsburgh
- Tyler DavisDT, Clemson
- Yasser AbdullahLB, Louisville
- Tony GrimesBC, North Carolina
- Akeem’s ToothS, State of Florida