ACC spotlight: Teams that have produced most active NFL players
Mark Pszonak contributed to this report…
The NCAA recently released an interesting list of players on NFL opening weekend rosters by college. This week we’ll take a look at which teams in the Power Five conferences produce the most pros and we continue with the ACC.
1. MIAMI - 44
The skinny: The flood of ex-Canes making their way into the NFL has definitely slowed down from a decade ago, but the numbers are still there. Greg Olsen is still one of the top tight ends in the game and Olivier Vernon is quickly gaining more and more respect with the New York Giants. While there are less young difference-makers in the league than the Canes would probably like, veterans like Jimmy Graham, Frank Gore and Calais Campbell continue to produce. Will younger players like Allen Hurns, Anthony Chickillo, Artie Burns and David Njoku develop into stars down the road?
Farrell’s take: How about this, The U still leads the way in the ACC despite the program's lack of recent success. That surprises me. Despite struggling on the field, Miami keeps churning out first-rounders and successful NFL players. It may not be at the same level as it was, but it’s still impressive. And the way Mark Richt is recruiting, it should continue and perhaps improve.
2. FLORIDA STATE - 40
The skinny: Jameis Winston may be the young star in the NFL for Florida State, but the Seminoles have ex-players all over the league. Devonta Freeman has quickly turned into one of the top backs in the NFL, Kelvin Benjamin is dynamic when healthy, Xavier Rhodes has become an elite cornerback in Minnesota and Jalen Ramsey is one of the most exciting players in the NFL with the Jags. The Seminoles also have rookies such as Dalvin Cook and DeMarcus Walker ready to make an early impact, while veterans like Lawrence Timmons and Nigel Bradham continue to produce.
Farrell’s take: Florida State isn’t far behind Miami, and have some key difference-makers in the NFL. The Seminoles' current roster is loaded with future NFL talent and they could overtake the Hurricanes as early as next year or the year after that. Jimbo Fisher’s recruiting has been even better than that of Bobby Bowden.
3. CLEMSON - 38
The skinny: As Clemson’s productivity has improved in recent years, it should come as no surprise that the number of difference-makers the program is sending to the NFL has also increased. DeAndre Hopkins, Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant are game-breaking wide receivers, Vic Beasley and Byron Maxwell have already proven themselves on the defensive side of the ball, while expectations are very high for rookies Deshaun Watson and Mike Williams.
Farrell’s take: If there is one team to keep an eye on when it comes to this list, its Clemson. The recruiting is off the charts and the current roster has superstars all over the field. No team has increased its ability to lure top four- and five-star talent more than Clemson has in recent years under Dabo Swinney. This number will rise quickly with guys like Christian Wilkins, Dexter Lawrence and others heading to the NFL over the next couple of seasons.
4. NORTH CAROLINA - 26
The skinny: Julius Peppers remains the most known ex-Tar Heel, even after quarterback Mitch Trubisky was drafted with the No. 2 overall pick during the spring. Peppers may be nearing the end of his playing career, but along the way he established himself as an elite defensive end. Robert Quinn has done the same when healthy, while on the offensive side of the ball, players like Eric Ebron and Giovanni Bernard have impressed in flashes but have yet to maintain that for the long haul.
Farrell’s take: There is a huge drop off from Clemson to the rest of the league as the numbers clearly show and North Carolina, despite the Trubisky selection, hasn’t been filling the NFL with top talent of late. The Tar Heels have some guys who are solid contributors but the elite players are lacking and that could be part of the problem when it comes to the program's inconsistency on the field. The state of North Carolina is loaded with talent, but gets poached as much as any state.
5. LOUISVILLE - 24
The skinny: The Cardinals have developed an impressive amount of NFL talent, but with a mixed bag of results. Players like Elvis Dumervil and William Gay are respected veterans of the game, Teddy Bridgewater and Sheldon Rankins have both shown potential, but have been slowed by serious injuries, and receivers Eli Rogers, DeVante Parker and Harry Douglas have all experienced varied levels of success, but have lacked consistency.
Farrell’s take: Louisville is right there with North Carolina in many respects, a good football program that often gets overshadowed by basketball and puts NFL players out here and there. The Tar Heels have a better recruiting base, but the Cardinals do a better job in Florida and have more NFL talent on their current roster, so these two teams could swap spots over the next few years.
NC State 15 - Most successful… Philip Rivers
Farrell’s take: Pitt puts out some elite talent, just not enough to crack the top five. It’s a bit stunning to see Virginia well ahead of Virginia Tech on this list while Boston College, Georgia Tech and NC State all boast multiple elite NFL players but don’t put a lot into the pros as far as pure numbers.