NFL Draft 2013: Conner Vernon, Kevin Reddick, Ray Graham Top List of ACC Snubs This Year

Kevin Reddick is One of Several Standout ACC Prospects Who Did Not Hear His Name Called on Draft Day

Kevin Reddick is One of Several Standout ACC Prospects Who Went Undrafted This Weekend

While 31 (34) of their ACC cohorts were selected during this weekend’s NFL Draft, the festivities still left plenty of ACC players without an NFL team to call home yet. Of course, many have since signed as free agents with squads, however, it still doesn’t eliminate the questions about why they weren’t considered among the top 254 players available.

We’ve listed out our top 10 biggest draft snubs out of the list of undrafted ACC players for 2013 below. Also included are notes on their respective skill sets, and if they’ve landed on an NFL team at this time.

Top 10 ACC Draft Snubs

1. Kevin Reddick, LB/North Carolina (signed with New Orleans Saints)

Reddick was viewed as slightly undersized before the draft, but was still slated to be selected sometime on day three. The fact that he was passed up obviously ends up being a blessing for New Orleans here, who now have one of the best undrafted players this year, with a huge chip on his shoulder.

2. Conner Vernon, WR/Duke (signed with Oakland Raiders)

In another shock, the ACC’s all-time leading receiver also went unselected; the issue being his less-than-stellar speed and primary use as a possession receiver on short routes. The Raiders may not be the perfect fit for Vernon, but perhaps he shows enough to head elsewhere before the fall.

3. Adrian Bushell, CB/Louisville (signed with Oakland Raiders)

Bushell was seen as a fringe corner, and there weren’t necessarily any guarantees he’d come off the board. Plus, for a team that already went about drafting defensive backs in Oakland, he’ll have a hard time making the roster.

4. Matt Furstenburg, TE/Maryland (signed with Baltimore Ravens)

Furstenburg gets to stay close to home, with the nearby Ravens snagging him shortly after the draft. As a late riser on most boards, there were thoughts he could’ve gone in the fifth round. But given his perfect fit for the Ravens’ offense, being passed up may have actually been a gift for both parties.

5. Ray Graham, RB/Pittsburgh (signed with Houston Texans)

Injuries obviously scared off observers, who saw Graham more as a health liability than the stellar halfback he was while with the Panthers. And even though the Texans fail to give hm any real shot to start (all-pro Arian Foster has that position locked up for the foreseeable future), Graham may get an opportunity to contribute in garbage time this year should Houston’s offense be as prolific as projected.

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NFL Draft 2013 Preview: Syracuse Prospects

With Former SU Coach Doug Marrone in Buffalo, Does That Make Nassib a First-Rounder?

With Former SU Coach Doug Marrone in Buffalo, Does That Make Nassib a First-Rounder?

Leading up to this month’s NFL Draft, we’ll be taking a look at each ACC‘s school’s prospects and where they’re slated to be chosen. While 50 ACC players were invited to the NFL Draft Combine, those not in attendance also have ample opportunity to hear their name called between April 25 through 27.

For as much credit as former Syracuse head coach Doug Marrone is rightfully due, the program’s resurgence doesn’t happen without the boatload of talented players, either. And that’s never been more readily apparent than at this year’s draft, as the Orange could have as many as six players selected, many in the first two days. Between stellar showings at the combine and pro day, and a league-wide feeling that now-Bills coach Marrone will draft as many former SU guys as possible, the value of every former Orange player has been steadily climbing.

Ryan Nassib, QB, Senior (Projected: Second Round)

In a realistic assessment of Nassib’s talent, he’s a smart passer with leadership traits, a strong arm and enough potential to work his way into a starting role within the next couple seasons. But operating under the assumption that Marrone is both drafting a quarterback and drafting all Syracuse players, suddenly Nassib could very well be a top-10 pick. Over the course of his career, Nassib was exactly the type of program-builder you need at the collegiate level; a three-year starter who improved himself each season. With a strong build and an even stronger arm, scouts see him as the type of passer who can stay calm in the pocket, while also threading the needle on medium routes. Where teams are concerned — and SU fans can agree here — are his ability to accurately complete long balls and his ability to put some touch on the ball. He never truly mastered either at Syracuse, and if there’s anything in particular that pushes him further than the first 40 or so selections, it’ll be that. Though again, with Marrone and former SU offensive coordinator (now Bills OC) Nathaniel Hackett calling the shots, it seems a foregone conclusion he’ll be a Bill in either the first or second round.

Justin Pugh, OT, Senior (Projected: Second Round)

The biggest issues with Pugh going into the combine were how his shoulder injury from last season was holding up, and if he really had the size to hack it at the tackle spot in the NFL. So while he’s put some durability fears to rest by showing off the shoulder’s doing fine, there’s now a prevailing thought that he’d be better off at the offensive guard position. At 6’5″ and 307 pounds, he’s got the right height and weight, but fails to have the arm length and brute force needed to hold down the offensive line’s most important position. Still, regardless of what position he ends up at, his speed (5.12 40-yard dash) and work ethic are appealing to teams, and he’s viewed as having a lot of upside (more than most O-linemen in the draft, actually).

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ACC 2013 Spring Football Preview: Syracuse Orange

Can Charley Loeb Succeed Ryan Nassib As the Orange QB This Spring, Or is it Someone Else's Job to Lose?

Can Charley Loeb Succeed Ryan Nassib As the Orange QB This Spring, Or is it Someone Else’s Job to Lose?

As the ACC‘s spring practices get under way, we’ll be previewing the big storylines for each of the league’s 14 (15, in this case) teams. Check back on weekdays for what to look out for during your school’s spring practices and spring game.

Team: Syracuse Orange

Spring Practice Start Date: March 19

Spring Game Date: April 20

Syracuse wrapped up a wild 2012 season by winning six of seven games… and then watching their head coach, Doug Marrone, and seven other staff members walk out the door for the Buffalo Bills. Since then, panic has subsidized for the Orange faithful, but there are still plenty of questions for this group. New head coach Scott Shafer’s committed to keeping the transition as simple as possible (he was the team’s defensive coordinator last year after all), but the success of that strategy relies largely on the personnel. SU must replace several key contributors on both sides of the ball, and it’s unclear whether they’ll be able to alleviate those issues by the end of spring ball.

First and foremost, the team is faced with as tough a challenge as any in the nation, replacing departed senior quarterback (and program poster boy) Ryan Nassib. After a record-setting career that brought the program back from the depths, Nassib’s off to the NFL (and likely the Bills), and in his place is a massive hole to fill. As of right now, there are four candidates for the job — Charley Loeb, John Kinder, Terrell Hunt and Ashton Broyld — and without much experience (Nassib was a three-year starter), it’s virtually anyone’s game. Plus, whoever this new passer may be will also have to figure out who he’s throwing to. Top targets Alec Lemon and Marcus Sales are both gone as well, leaving the team to wonder if Jarrod West, Jeremiah Kobena and Arkansas transfer Quinta Funderburk can step up as the main receiving options. There’s also the issue of the offensive line, which must try to replace star lineman Justin Pugh as well. In the early goings this spring, the squad’s biggest saving grace may be the backfield, which returns all three top rushers from last year and looks to build upon a strong finish.

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2012 ACC Football Season Recap: Syracuse Orange

Syracuse Capped Off an Eight-Win 2012 With a Dominating Effort Over West Virginia

Syracuse Capped Off an Eight-Win 2012 With a Dominating Effort Over West Virginia

Team: Syracuse Orange

W-L: 8-5

Postseason: 38-14 New Era Pinstripe Bowl win over West Virginia

Top Offensive Performer: Ryan Nassib, QB

Top Defensive Performer: Brandon Sharpe, DE

Syracuse was looking to leave the conference they founded (the Big East) on a high-note, but things didn’t appear to be going as planned when they started off the year a disappointing 2-4. But then something clicked. The Orange, at one time haunted by the ghosts of a five-game losing streak to close 2011, wrapped up 2012 by winning six of seven, including their second Pinstripe Bowl victory in two years. It was a fitting end to send their senior quarterback (and soon after, head coach, too) out in style.

At the focal point of early August’s practices was a complete revamp of the SU offense. Over the past few seasons, the team appeared to get bogged down by their inability to move the ball (24 points per game in 2011; 22 points per game in 2010), and then-offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett was tasked with fixing the issue. After quickly installing a no-huddle system with spread elements, it appeared the Orange were in business early in September. While the first two games both resulted in losses, the offense appeared to be firing on all cylinders, mostly by the strength of senior QB Ryan Nassib’s arm. In those two early contests alone, Nassib would complete 75 of 132 passes for 804 yards and six scores. But then the wheels began to come off, and thus entered then-coach Doug Marrone’s “tank” package; implementing goal-line elements on various downs and distances, specifically designed for running back Adonis Ameen-Moore. Once the set took hold, it immediately balanced the Syracuse attack, and a group that was floundering by mid-September finished the year scoring 30 points per game, with the  17th-ranked offense in the country. Nassib and wideout Alec Lemon were still the stars of the show, mind you, but what they really needed to be successful was a well-planned rushing attack — something they saw from October onward, as the SU backfield would end the season ranked 40th in the FBS, racking up 187 yards per game.

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ACC Football Top 25 Players of 2012: #15, Alec Lemon

Alec Lemon Ended His Career at Syracuse as the Orange's All-Time Leading Receiver

Alec Lemon Ended His Career at Syracuse as the Orange’s All-Time Leading Receiver

As part of our 2012 season review, we’re counting down the top 25 players in the ACC this season, from no. 25 to no. 1. Obviously these lists are always completely subjective — and thus completely bulletproof, obviously — so feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments, too.

No. 15, Alec Lemon, WR/Syracuse (Preseason Rank: NR)

From the standpoint of a Syracuse fan, it’s been great to see Alec Lemon’s progress over the past four years. The Orange senior started off as a quiet possession receiver, and then, by the time he played his last down, was the school’s career leader in most major receiving categories. Prior to the 2012 season, his accomplishments were always made with little fanfare and attention. He’d quietly catch five-plus passes per game while big-play targets like Marcus Sales grabbed all the attention. But this year, Lemon officially came into his own. Despite missing the first game, and failing to score until the seventh, Lemon still tallied 72 catches and over 1,000 yards. Along with seven receiving touchdowns, he rushed for another. But two of his catches this year were truly indicative of how much he’d improved as a player and a leader for SU. With just a few seconds left on the clock against USF, he caught the game-winning touchdown pass on fourth down. And with 20 seconds to go against Missouri, he sped by defenders for a 17-yard game-winner. That last catch would be his 12th of the game; a contest in which he scored twice and had 244 receiving yards, along with handing SU bowl eligibility for the second time in three seasons. The Orange will miss him next year, but wherever he goes in the NFL Draft (the Buffalo Bills, if I’m wagering on that one), chances are he’ll continue applying his work ethic and leadership to his play, and imparting it to future ‘Cuse receivers as well.

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Way-Too-Early 2013 ACC Football Power Rankings

An Early Look at 2013 Shows Clemson to Be at the Head of the Class in the ACC

An Early Look at 2013 Shows Clemson to Be at the Head of the Class in the ACC

When we last left our teams, there appeared to be hope on the horizon. Though the 2012 season was a difficult one, the bowls showed some real glimmers of great things to come, as the ACC racked up its first winning postseason record in seven years. Beyond some long-awaited hope for greater success, 2013 also brings some change to these rankings. Syracuse and Pittsburgh will now actually be participating in the conference, after two seasons appearing in the power rankings despite not doing so. And Louisville, our newest pals set to join in 2014, will also be joining the party — meaning 15 teams will be listed for the remainder of this calendar year (and slightly beyond into bowl season 2014). Cheer up! It’s less than 230 days ’till kickoff.

1. Clemson Tigers (Last Year: 2): Tajh Boyd‘s back, and the defense is improving steadily. So even without DeAndre Hopkins and Andre Ellington, this team will still be fine in 2013. In year two under defensive coordinator Brent Venables, expect an even more aggressive front-seven as the coach works on improving linebacker play in particular. That secondary will still get burned, but be certain they’ve also learned some lessons from last year, too.

2. Louisville Cardinals (LY: NR): After the show Teddy Bridgewater put on during the Sugar Bowl this year, the Cardinals are an extremely hot commodity, and are likely to start strong in their final season of Big East football. It’ll be interesting to see how coach Charlie Strong and his team respond to having a target on their backs from week one, when they’ll likely be handed a top-10 ranking to start the year.

3. Florida State Seminoles (LY: 1): They’re losing a lot on the defensive side of the football, along with QB and senior leader, EJ Manuel. But like those old, Bobby Bowden-coached teams of teams of the 90s, this ‘Noles squad has already reloaded. The offense may take a few to warm up, but the defense will still be very much their strength heading into next season.

4. Miami (FL) Hurricanes (LY: 5): After sitting out two straight years of postseason berths, the ‘Canes are really hoping they’re given a break from the NCAA in terms of leniency. With a ton of young talent eager to get a shot at a conference title, and arguably the best QB/RB tandem in the ACC in Stephen Morris and Duke Johnson, Miami could very well be out for blood come opening kickoff this fall.

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Top 10 ACC Football Games of 2012

Could Jamison Crowder and the Blue Devils Claim the Top Spot For Duke's Impressive Win Over UNC?

Could Jamison Crowder and the Blue Devils Claim the Top Spot For Duke’s Impressive Win Over UNC?

In a season full of parity, it’s understandable that the ACC had so many memorable contests to choose from when compiling this list. So many last-second scores, one-possession ball games and overtime battles, it was truly difficult to decipher which really were the “best” the league had to offer. Nonetheless, we make an attempt below, nodding to the 10 contests that — more than any others the ACC gave us this season — really gave us a reason to remember them. Agree or disagree with our picks? Share away in the comments.

Top 10 Games of 2012

10. Syracuse 37, USF 36: Down 20 points at the half, this was supposed to be the tombstone in another disappointing Syracuse season. And yet, as they did all year, this Orange squad refused to quit, and battled all the way back in the second half. Down five with just seconds on the clock, Ryan Nassib delivered a gutsy touchdown pass to Alec Lemon on fourth-and-goal, sealing the win and adding to his reputation as a master of the comeback.

9. Syracuse 31, Missouri 27: We promise this is the last you hear about Syracuse on this list. Once again facing a late deficit — this time 27-24 — Nassib and Lemon would complete their furious comeback with a wide-open 17-yard touchdown pass. The strike, with just 20 seconds remaining, would end up being the game-winner, sending ‘Cuse bowling for the second time in three seasons.

8. Florida State 28, Virginia Tech 22: From sloppy, to boring, to inexplicable and then miraculous, this game truly ran the gambit of emotions for players and fans. What should have been a quick win over a lackluster Hokies squad would turn into a struggle for FSU; one they were certainly lucky to come away with. Even now, the final few minutes rush by like a blur: Devonta Freeman‘s idiotic safety, EJ Manuel‘s easy 39-yard TD pass, and then Logan Thomas‘s ultimate hero-turned-goat act. Just another Thursday night ACC showdown.

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