I am writing this on August 29th, so if this doesn’t drop quickly, the ACC may add or lose four teams. I am having trouble keeping up with this conference realignment!!
Clemson has been in the driver’s seat for the Atlantic Coast Conference for a while, but Florida State is surging and should challenge for the title. North Carolina, Pitt, and Duke fought for the top of the Coastal last season, but this year, there is only one division. Several teams are facing massive turnover, and the path for them is up in the air. Let’s quit beating around the bush – let’s talk ACC!
Drake Maye, North Carolina
The class of the division, as far as quarterbacks, is Tarheel junior Maye. At 6’5″ and 220 pounds, he’s got the size, and he’s got the arm to be an NFL quarterback. He threw for 4,321 yards with 38 TDs and seven INTs. He also added 698 yards and seven more scores on the ground. And Maye even slowed down over the last four games as NC sputtered, losing those last four matchups.
Drake Maye dime 👀👀👀pic.twitter.com/hsgLQnNNQh— Full-Time Dame 💰 (@DP_NFL) August 16, 2023
This is a critical year for Maye; he’s the consensus QB2 in the 2024 class and a surefire top-ten pick. We also thought the same going into Sam Howell’s junior season. They are different but do face some of the same questions. Maye lost a bunch of weapons and may have a largely unproven group unless Devontez Walker’s waiver is granted. I predict some regression, but I love Maye as a prospect. He needs to work on his reads and cleaning up some turnovers.
Cade Klubnik, Clemson
The sophomore Tiger quarterback now has Garrett Riley calling plays, and I hope he can open the offense up. Klubnik was going to be hindered by the system they were running. As a prospect, he’s got a nice arm and velocity to the short-to-middle areas of the field. Klubnik is also mobile and can create on the move.
The Tigers have good receivers, a new system that should be more proficient, and give the young quarterback time to work. He’s got a good arm but also isn’t going to really push the offense downfield in massive chunks. Klubnik is more of a game manager, and it will be interesting to watch what Riley can do after what he did with a much less talented Max Duggan.
Jordan Travis, Florida State
A Heisman candidate, Travis currently has little NFL upside, but I think we could see a jump in draft stock with a strong 2023. He’s entering his sixth season and threw for 3,214 yards with 24 TDs and 5 INTs while adding another 417 yards rushing. Travis has improved every season, and I love his ability to make plays at the right time.
He will need to improve ball placement, and Travis has a strong group of receivers that will make him look good – if they don’t drop the ball. Travis can make plays with his legs but is most comfortable in the pocket and playing in structure.
Riley Leonard, Duke
- Leonard is phenomenal as plays breaks down and manipulates the pocket. He throws with a nice touch but doesn’t have a big arm. I don’t see him driving the ball downfield enough. An important year for him; Leonard could be a riser!
Tyler Van Dyke, Miami
- TVD has the mechanics, the arm, and the ability to create on the move. He could rise in the process with a strong 2023, but he’s a career backup at best.
Trey Benson, Florida State
A former highly recruited back who spent his first two seasons injured at Oregon, Benson hit the field running at Tallahassee. He took over for good in Week 8 against Georgia Tech and finished the season with 990 yards at a 6.4 YPC clip, with nine touchdowns and 13 receptions.
If Trey Benson goes off against LSU this weekend he is going to get 2024 RB1 hype and I’m here for it.pic.twitter.com/3z3ffphEsT— Travis May (@FF_TravisM) September 1, 2023
At 6’1″ and 210 pounds, he’s close to ideal size, and he is patient, with good vision and burst to take advantage of small slivers of daylight. He’s tough to bring down and is elusive in the open field. Benson doesn’t have elite breakaway speed, and if he can string together a full, healthy season, he’s an early second-day draft pick in 2024.
Will Shipley, Clemson
Watching Shipley is kind of maddening; you can see that he is oozing athleticism and ability, but sometimes he doesn’t use it to his advantage. As far as a pass-catching back, Shipley is the best one potentially coming out in 2024. He’s dangerous with the ball in his hands and has some wheels in the open field.
So what’s maddening? He’s got the power to run through the tackles, and his patience is solid. But his decision-making confounds me. Shipley could use his agility to make cutbacks and jump to an open lane, yet he seems to try to run through tacklers instead of making them miss. If we can see an improvement there, Shipley is going to see earlier draft capital as well.
The North Carolina Backfield
- Omarion Hampton, George Pettaway, and Jordan Louie are guys I like, but all need to get established before I invest much in the backfield. Hampton and Pettaway flashed as freshmen, but neither did much to stand out.
LeQuint Allen, Syracuse
- Taking over for Sean Tucker, Allen is a versatile back who gets upfield in a hurry and can gouge defenses quickly with patience and moves. He’s also looked great as a pass-catcher and could earn some hay this season.
Antonio Williams, Clemson
An exciting route runner with nice speed, Williams could make a massive jump up in the draft class if Klubnik and Riley can kickstart the Tigers’ offense. He’s a true technician who understands how to use his footwork and release to create instant separation. Williams runs with purpose and precision, and it’s tough to see him not succeeding on Sundays.
The biggest knock is that he’s not the biggest and most physical receiver, but Williams is not afraid to be aggressive and mix it up with defensive backs. He’s going to be an early draftee in 2024 and is primed for a massive 2023.
Keon Coleman, Florida State
Coleman lands in a great situation, although he is with another receiver who shares some of his “My Ball” mentality. He’s been improving since leaving basketball behind, but his basketball traits make him enticing as an NFL prospect. Coleman uses his body well to position, and his hands are strong and sure. He can track the deep ball, and route running has improved.
The NFL loves explosive ball-winners, which is the best way to sum up Florida State WR Keon Coleman (Mich. State transfer).— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) August 25, 2023
6-4, 215 lbs with track/basketball background (suited up for Izzo).
Starts at No. 30 overall on my preseason top-50 draft board: https://t.co/vF2RN26zx3 pic.twitter.com/AJP3JWRQoR
Coleman doesn’t have a wiggle in the open field and doesn’t have much suddenness in his game. I’d like to see that improve, or else he could be capped at the next level. Coleman is a player I love, but his path to being a steady-producing NFL receiver is murky.
Devontez Walker, North Carolina
Currently unable to play due to a declined eligibility to play after the transfer, Walker is still a massively talented receiver. If he doesn’t play this season, Walker may opt to return in 2024, which would be a tough hit for him as a prospect. He’s built like an X-receiver at 6’3″ and 192 pounds, and he’s got a long stride – which leads to deceptive speed. Walker has a strong release and a strong understanding of manipulating defenders.
Walker does need some work with physicality at the catch point and using his hands to rip the ball from defenders. He’s not been asked to show deception in routes, and his athleticism and speed have been his main ways of gaining separation. Walker will need to work on his technique.
Adam Randall, Clemson
- We haven’t seen much of Randall since high school, but he’s listed as a starter now, and he was an impressive player to scout. He’s got speed, quick feet, and plays physically, I am hoping he puts it on the field now.
Jahmal Banks, Wake Forest
- Banks could be in for a massive rise as the go-to receiver for Wake Forest. He plays hard and attacks the ball then can be a bear to bring down when he transitions to a runner. 2023 is a critical year for him.
Colbie Young, Miami
- A large boundary receiver, Young plays hard and possesses the “my ball” mentality I love in receivers. With some route refinement and technical work, Young could be an early third-day selection.
Oronde Gadsden II, Syracuse
- Gadsden has been a hot name this offseason and is playing TE now, but he’s not big enough to be an NFL tight end. He will have silly production this season. But his movement skill is limited, and he’s not a YAC guy.
Jaheim Bell, Florida State
I lose my journalistic license if I don’t at least mention a tight end, and Bell is an interesting prospect. I love his athleticism, and he runs like a wide receiver in his routes and after the catch. But he may end up in the same boat as Gadsden. He’s a bit too big and not athletic enough to be a receiver, but not big and strong enough to play tight end.
Ultimately, Bell could add some weight and be a solid move tight end, as I love his athletic ability and play-making skills. I don’t typically invest much in tight ends in devy, but Bell is worth a dart throw in deeper devy leagues.
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