This past year, the ACC had seven players selected in the first round of the NFL Draft. Some picks were considered safe bets, but others have been scrutinized and overanalyzed to the point of exhaustion. This is a list of some ACC alumni to keep an eye on in the 2019 NFL season.
Christian Wilkins-Miami Dolphins
It shouldn’t be surprising that the first name on this list is one of the three athletic specimens from the Clemson defensive line taken in the first round. Wilkins, taken second of the three, had a tremendous senior season and played a big role in the development of his line mates as well.
The newest Miami Dolphin improved his sack numbers in each of his four years at Clemson, culminating in a 5.5 sack season in 2019. Additionally, Wilkins brings a championship mentality to a locker room poisoned by mediocrity, having won two national titles in his collegiate career.
Off of the field, Wilkins is reputed to be a fun-loving, high energy player whose smile is infectious among his teammates. Nicknamed the “White Ranger” after the Clemson D-line’s Halloween costume last season, Wilkin’s impact will certainly be felt on and off of the field in his rookie season.
Clelin Ferrell-Oakland Raiders
John Gruden and the Raiders surprised football fans everywhere by taking Clelin Ferrell, another Clemson defensive lineman, with the fourth overall pick in the 2019 Draft. Despite the fact that Ferrell took home the Ted Hendricks Award for the nation’s best defensive end, Ferell’s upside was considered lower than that of many of the other defensive prospects.
While Ferrell’s ceiling may not be very high, his floor is certainly not very low. Ferrell totaled 11.5 sacks last season, good enough for sixth in the nation, and complemented Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence, the two nose tackles, very well.
After losing Khalil Mack, the Raiders sack numbers dwindled to the bottom of the league with only 13 sacks the whole season, showing that it is usually better to have stars than cap room. Ferrell, who may not replace Mack’s production, is a more NFL-ready player than other defensive studs in the draft, making him an automatic important piece of the Raider’s defense.
Daniel Jones-New York Giants
Poor, poor Daniel Jones. He never asked for any of the ridicule that has come his way. The guy can’t even go to a Yankees game without being booed, and he hasn’t taken a single snap yet. Ferrell and Wilkins are interesting to watch for their production, but Jones’ season looks over before it has even started.
The wrath of Giants fans does not come from the fact that Daniel Jones was merely drafted, it comes from the fact that he was drafted sixth overall. Most Giants fans would probably agree that Eli’s best days are behind him and that the team should start planning for their quarterback of the future. However, drafting a guy whose touchdown-to-interception ratio was +3 only two seasons ago is not the best way to do that.
The fact is that Jones will probably not even play this season, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The rest of the Giants roster is a bit of a dumpster fire as well, making it nearly impossible for Jones to succeed, even if he plays well individually.