When you look at the NFL draft for the ACC it’s very telling. The ACC had the 2nd most NFL picks of any conference with 31. The SEC led the way with a whopping 63. For the ACC though that gives them the 2nd most NFL picks of any conference over the last 3 years, only the SEC had more. That’s pretty impressive for a conference that gets often gets criticized for it’s football product. That brings me to my point that I wanted to address.
How the 2013 NFL Draft illustrates what is right and wrong with the ACC.
We’ve already shown that the ACC is pretty successful putting players into the NFL. It’s a myth that the ACC doesn’t recruit and produce elite NFL talent. There were also 6 first round picks from the ACC this season. That is 2nd again only to the SEC. The SEC is just in a class of it’s own. I don’t think anyone will argue that, but to be the conference that produces the 2nd most NFL talent is not too shabby either.
Florida State had 11 players drafted. That was the most of any team in the country. That’s actually quite the feather in the cap for Jimbo Fisher to use on the recruiting trail. There are still some FSU fans that harp on losing recruits to the SEC. To that say I’d say the draft doesn’t lie, there’s a tremendous amount of talent at Florida State.
Despite some very bizarre losses to the likes of Wake Forest, NC State, and Virginia in recent years, there are also wins over Florida, South Carolina, Notre Dame and an ACC Title for FSU. The Noles have also averaged better than 10 wins over the last 3 years. Florida State is very close to regaining their elite status.
Clemson with a respectable 4 picks had the 3rd most NFL picks behind FSU and North Carolina in the ACC. They have recruited well under Dabo Swinney, and they are producing NFL players. The win over LSU in the Chick Fil A bowl was no fluke either. Those Tigers had 2nd most NFL players picked into the NFL draft at 9.
That’s the good news.
Florida State and Clemson are becoming the flagship football schools that the ACC has been lacking for nearly a decade. They are winning big games, producing NFL talent, beating high profile out of conference teams, and recruiting well. Sorry Virginia Tech you were the ACC’s best team for most of the last decade. You deserve that title, and you gave the ACC solid top 20 team, but you weren’t a flagship football school.
What’s the bad news? For the rest of the ACC, Florida State and Clemson are starting to separate themselves from everyone else in the conference. Good for them but it reveals a real lack of depth in ACC football. Ok it doesn’t really reveal it, we’ve known Florida State and Clemson have been the ACC’s two best teams for awhile. The gap though keeps getting bigger. North Carolina and NC State had 8 picks each between them, but that didn’t produce great teams on the field. The Tar Heels had 16 NFL picks the last 3 years, but never won more than 8 games. The Wolfpack had 10 draft picks since 2011 and just 1 9 win season. Both the Heels and Wolfpack have gotten new coaches in the last 2 years.
Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech your best Coastal Division teams in recent years didn’t have a player drafted in the first five rounds. That’s simply unacceptable. I have long criticized Paul Johnson the recruiter and the NFL draft results don’t help. The thing is I really like Paul Johnson the coach. Seriously though Georgia Tech, not a single player drafted this year? The Yellow Jackets have to get better on the recruiting front. That is why they’ve had to change their recruiting philosophy to recruit more nationally this year. Virginia Tech never recruited at an elite level and the bottom fell out this year in their worst season since 1992. We know Frank Beamer maximizes the talent he has. There just wasn’t much of it in Blacksburg last year.
With the talent in South Florida, Miami didn’t have a draft pick until half way through the 5th round. That shouldn’t happen ever at Miami.
Virginia’s talent drain is evident in just one 5th round pick.
Hers’s a special note about Syracuse an incoming ACC team. No the ACC can’t claim anything the Cuse did, but with 3 picks including a 1st rounder Justin Pugh it does prove there is some talent there.
So what does this all mean?
The good news is you can get NFL talent to the ACC. FSU, Clemson, UNC and NC State had 23 NFL picks between them. The problem is the rest of the ACC had just 8 NFL draft picks.
Florida State and Clemson are right on schedule. The ACC’s top football programs are recruiting well, producing on the field and in the draft room. No the conference still hasn’t had a national title game participant since 2000, but the Noles and Tigers are clearly moving in the right direction.
The bad news is that the rest of conference is lacking.
Either there was talent and poor coaching or a lack of talent and decent coaching, or in a few cases both, no talent and bad coaching.
The bottom line is behind FSU and Clemson, the other conference members need to improve. It’s great 2 programs are really stepping up in recent years, but you still need to show some depth in a couple of other top 25 level teams. We will see who those teams can be.