For the start of our conference by conference preview of the 2015 NFL Draft, we’ll start with the ACC, the conference that boasts the incumbent BCS National Championship, the Florida State Seminoles. In our previews, we’ll detail the top 10 seniors in each conference along with a brief scouting report about them, with a more elaborate prospect list in a later-in-the-week article.
As all of our scouting is, we’ve only included seniors in this list. The ACC boasts one of the top seniors in the country in pass-rusher Victor Beasley, who was one of the sack leaders in the country, along with a host of Seminoles returning to retain their title. And get to know Lorenzo Mauldin, one of our favorite senior prospects for the 2015 draft.
1. Victor Beasley, DE, Clemson – 1st Round
The clear top senior returning in the ACC, Victor Beasley would have been in the first round mix had he declared a year ago. Instead, one of the country’s top sack artists returns for his senior season. With plus quicks in pursuit and laterally as a rusher and an active upper half in his shoulders and hand quickness, Beasley can only further develop in his final college season. He could showcase a better bend inside and not play as high in his pad level, but as of now, he’s firmly in the first-round discussion for the 2015 draft.
2. Karlos Williams, RB, Florida State- 1st-2nd Round
Entering the season as the clear top senior running back in the country for Optimum Scouting, the well-built, Adrian Peterson-esque frame has remarkable lateral control and jump cut capability for his size. Along with his body control and explosion upfield and through contact, his skill set makes him look the part of not only a starter, but a potentially first-round worthy running back.
3. DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville – 1st-2nd Round
Teddy Bridgewater’s favorite target from a year ago opted to stay in school for his senior season, which likely was the right decision based on the number of receivers taken early in the 2014 NFL Draft. Now, Parker enters a receiver class that he can quietly emerge as a one of the few to be in the first-round discussion. With a clear focus and premium put on his route development along with consistently finishing as a hands catcher, Parker plays with a consistent, composed style across the field, including in the middle of the field.
4. Rashad Greene, WR, Florida State – 1st-2nd Round
Kelvin Benjamin may have been the big name last year, but Rashad Greene was the far more efficient and NFL-ready receiver on the Florida State offense. He’s an efficient, smart route runner and a developed open-field runner. As a pass-catcher, he shows composed feet on the edge, natural vertical ability and the ability to finish with his hands at a high and NFL-ready level. He lacks top-end upside and may never be more than a solid number two in the NFL, but he’s worthy of a top-50 pick.
5. Lorenzo Mauldin, DE, Louisville – 2nd Round
He may be under-appreciated at this point, similar to eventual first-rounder Marcus Smith last year, but Lorenzo Mauldin has top-two round asperations and potential. With very strong hands, versatility in his initial positioning, tight lines as he attacks in penetration and adjusting low very well as he attacks upfield. He needs to finish out his body strength, especially in his lower half, but he has all the athleticism, body control and hand quickness tools to develop into a prime starter in the NFL.
6. Cameron Erving, OT, Florida State – 2nd Round
Cameron Erving has the size, length and flashes of NFL starter upside to be considered for a first-round grade, and by draft day (and/or if he improves this year) he could get to that draft status. He does reposition as a blocker well in his upper half and has natural upper body strength, along with showing a focus on his hand positioning last season. However, he’s still a bit of a hip bender and reaches on delayed or exchanged blocks too often, and that will limit his upside as a top-level pass blocker at the NFL level.
7. Sean Hickey, OT, Syracuse – 2nd-3rd Round
Playing left tackle as a junior after being Justin Pugh’s right tackle as a sophomore, Hickey is a clear technician who shows ample focus and development in his base establishment and hand positioning. He holds his ground well initially, especially against power rushers or interior threats. While his lateral ability is a bit limiting and he may not measure up (both similar to Justin Pugh), he looks to have the required athleticism to play on the edge in the NFL.
8. Denzel Perryman, ILB, Miami (FL) – 3rd-4th Round
One of the defensive leaders of the Miami (FL) defense, Perryman will be asked to lead a more veteran-laden unit then the team has seen in recent years, and he’ll have a chance to guide the Hurricanes to a top-25 season, if not much more. As an undersized linebacker, Perryman can’t afford to make mistakes on the interior, but holds the point of attack initially well for a sub-6’0 linebacker. With plus-scrape patience and clear coverage athleticism, his best fit is to continue playing in a 3-4 defense in the NFL as he has before with Miami. His size limits him as a top-two round pick, but the third round seems like a strong value.
9. Jamison Crowder, WR, Duke – 3rd-4th Round
In today’s NFL, undersized receivers are becoming more commonplace and less of an issue for offenses. The last two drafts have seen a sub-5’10 receiver drafted in the first round, and while Jamison Crowder isn’t in the first-round mix, he won’t be pushed down boards as much as shorter receivers have been in the past. Playing both the Z and slot receiver, Crowder keeps his balance and maintains speed through and after his route and uses his hands to finish catches well. He’ll have trouble with press coverage and, like Cooks, will have teams that don’t value his vertical ability as much, but he’s worth the top-100 discussion.
10. Josue Matias, OG, Florida State – 3rd-4th Round
While fellow offensive guard Tre Jackson seems to get more attention nationally, Josue Matias has more versatility in the schemes he can fit in the NFL as well as his ability to finish as a blocker at the second level and lateral control. He keeps his balance fairly well as he engages, and he repositions his body very well after first contact. He has some bad reaching habits and his base can get a bit wide at times, but he has the upside to be a strong starter in the NFL.