Home AMERICAN FOOTBALL ACC preseason superlatives for 2024 NFL Draft: Drake Maye top QB, Florida...

ACC preseason superlatives for 2024 NFL Draft: Drake Maye top QB, Florida State well-represented and more



The college football season is around the corner, and the ACC opens play with Wake Forest and NC State each making their 2023 debut on Aug. 31. With conference realignment being the buzz words around the country of late, one has to think the pool of teams will look drastically different in a few years, even in the ACC.

Rather than outright ranking the conference’s best preseason NFL Draft prospects this year, we’ve decided to try something different. Here are some draft-related superlatives for the conference entering the 2023 campaign:

Best quarterback: QB Drake Maye, North Carolina

Maye has a big frame similar to Will Levis. He possesses good arm strength and throws with touch to all three levels of the field. The North Carolina native has good mobility and is capable of accurately throwing on the run. Maye embraces contact, and coaches will want to limit that at the next level. 

There are moments when Maye grows a little over confident in his abilities and attempts to fit the ball into tight windows. The margin for error is even smaller in the NFL. There is a backyard football element to Maye’s game, so he needs to play more within the structure of the offense, making good decisions more consistently. 

Maye completed 66.2% of his pass attempts for 4,321 yards, 38 touchdowns and seven interceptions in 2022. He added seven touchdowns on the ground. Maye and USC’s Caleb Williams are the two players most see jockeying for the right to be the No. 1 overall selection next spring

Duke’s Riley Leonard is the ACC quarterback closest to dethroning Maye. Miami’s Tyler Van Dyke is another signal-caller who has immense potential but whose play left a lot to be desired a year ago.

Best non-quarterback prospect: LB Barrett Carter, Clemson

Carter narrowly edged out his teammate, linebacker Jeremiah Trotter Jr., for the honor. The Georgia native is a weak-side linebacker who operates well in space. He has great lateral agility to mirror leaks out of the backfield and trail in coverage. Carter builds speed quickly and has good eyes to sort through traffic. The linebacker was highly productive as a sophomore, recording 5.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and two interceptions. 

Carter has a strong case to be a first-round pick despite the position being de-valued in the eyes of the NFL. 

Best running back: RB Trey Benson, Florida State

The Mississippi native transferred in from Oregon following the 2021 season. Benson, who has the size of a traditional feature NFL running back, does a good job of slowing his feet and re-directing in space. When contact arrives, he covers the football and runs through arm tackles. Benson is still rounding out his game as a pass-catcher but sticks out as one of the better options in a draft class not expected to have a first-round pick like Bijan Robinson or Jahmyr Gibbs.

Best pass-catcher: WR Keon Coleman, Florida State

Coleman is a boundary receiver with an athletic build. He caught 58 passes for 798 yards and seven touchdowns last season at Michigan State. The Louisiana native had just a 3.4% drop rate in 2022, according to TruMedia. Although he has average top-end speed, Coleman does a good job of sinking his hips into his breaks and creating separation from the defender at the route stem. His 6-foot-4 frame, along with the movement skills, gave him an advantage in this category that others simply could not match … yet. Clemson’s Beaux Collins is one that could challenge Coleman for the title.

Florida State’s Johnny Wilson and Louisville’s Jamari Thrash are a few of the others who received consideration. 

Best offensive lineman: OT Matt Goncalves, Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh offensive tackle Matt Goncalves has flipped back and forth from right tackle to left dependent upon the situation. Goncalves is more developed as a run blocker but is patient running the arc. 

Duke offensive tackle Graham Barton is among the next group under consideration. He is an intelligent lineman with positional flexibility at the next level. Miami offensive tackle Zion Nelson has been on the radar for years and has upside at the position, but it has not completely come together to this point.

Best pass rusher: EDGE Jared Verse, Florida State

The one-time Albany transfer could have been a first-round pick had he entered last year’s draft. Verse has good quickness to get into gaps and create havoc in the backfield. The Pennsylvania native is well-built with power to displace at the point of attack. He does a good job of containing the edge and getting off blocks. In his first season with the Seminoles, Verse had nine sacks. His 19.4% pressure per rush rate ranked among the top 50 in college football, according to TruMedia.

Best in coverage: CB Nate Wiggins, Clemson

Wiggins ranked among the top 100 in most coverage categories last season. He has impressive size, speed and burst. A native of Atlanta, Wiggins is willing to fly downhill, provide support in the flat and is physical at the line of scrimmage. Although he is clingy in coverage, the third-year player needs to do a better job of getting his eyes back to the ball. He has just one interception through two collegiate seasons. Talent evaluators will want to see that he is capable of turning the ball over to cement himself as a top prospect at his position.

Best incoming transfer: WR Keon Coleman, Florida State

Florida State was busy in the transfer portal this offseason, adding Western Michigan defensive tackle Braden Fiske, Virginia cornerback Fentrell Cypress, Coleman and others. Georgia State wide receiver Jamari Thrash re-located to Louisville. Thrash is a competitive player who makes plays outside of his frame, possessing great contact balance to tight rope the sideline and evade defenders post-catch.

Best senior prospect: Jared Verse, Florida State

The East-West Shrine Bowl released their list of senior prospects to watch for the upcoming season. While none will challenge Verse as the top senior prospect, there are several who could and should hear their names called on Day 2 of the draft: Boston College interior offensive line Christian Mahogany, Clemson defensive tackle Ruke Orhorhoro, Clemson cornerback Sheridan Jones, Clemson edge rusher Xavier Thomas, Clemson defensive tackle Tyler Davis, North Carolina linebacker Cedric Gray, Wilson, Leonard, Barton, Thrash and Benson.

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