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: North Carolina Prospects

Jonathan Cooper is One of Several Former Tar Heels Climbing Draft Boards

Jonathan Cooper is One of Several Former Tar Heels Climbing Draft Boards Right Now

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.

North Carolina‘s recent resurgence obviously means they have quality players, so it should come as no surprise the Heels are able to churn out yet another collection of pro-level talent this year. This could change as coach Larry Fedora starts to bring in players more suited for his aggressive spread offense and non-traditional defensive schemes. But for the time being, UNC is improving both on the field and in NFL Draft war rooms across the league.

Jonathan Cooper, OG, Senior (Projected: Early First Round)

Cooper was the anchor of the Carolina offensive line last year, and one of the primary reasons for Giovani Bernard’s breakout season in the backfield (see more below), so it’s no wonder he’s now receiving early first round hype. The 6’2″ and 311-pound guard is an impressive athlete, with quick feet, an equally impressive 40-time (5.06 seconds) for his position and the type of durability (47 career starts) that scouts dream of. Yes, in an ideal world he could be a bit taller or put on a few extra pounds, but the latter can be fixed at the gym and the former is evened out by the advantage provided by his low center of gravity. Over the course of his career, Cooper’s proven he can open holes for running backs, and at the end of the day, that’s what he’ll be judged on. Lots of teams need offensive line help in the early parts of the draft too, which should give him ample opportunities to be chosen within the first 10 or 12 picks.

Giovani Bernard, RB, Sophomore (Projected: Second Round)

Teams that pass on Bernard could be very sorry later on; something he’ll make sure to deliver on. The quick back may lack that breakaway speed you’re looking for out of a featured rusher, but his ability to see the field and hit the hole quickly instead are equally important attributes. At 5’9″ and 205 pounds, there is some concern that he’ll be an injury risk, though if you look at his game tape, you’re much less concerned. As a running back, receiver and return man, Bernard has field vision and body strength that make him a monster in the open field or between the tackles. He’s the type of player who can put an entire team on his back, and very many times did during his Tar Heels career. While it’s certainly a best-case scenario, Bernard has the physical and mental makeup to be an elite target out of the backfield in the same molds as former pros Marshall Faulk or LaDainian Tomlinson.

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ACC 2013 Spring Football Preview: North Carolina Tar Heels

UNC Running Back A.J. Blue Appears Ready to Pick Up Where Giovani Bernard Left Off

UNC Running Back A.J. Blue Appears Ready to Pick Up Where Giovani Bernard Left Off

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: North Carolina Tar Heels

Spring Practice Start Date: March 6

Spring Game Date: April 13

Year two of the Larry Fedora regime brings with it plenty of hope and optimism. If not for postseason ineligibility, the Heels would’ve won the Coastal division in 2012. Now, despite some key losses to the NFL Draft, it’s arguable that things haven’t seemed brighter (on the field) in Chapel Hill in over a decade. So what can we expect from UNC this spring?

For one, playmakers are already established, meaning spring practice brings a much larger focus on the offensive line, which largely has to be replaced. Quarterback Bryn Renner progressed very well in Fedora’s spread offense last season, and while it’s certainly no easy feat to replace Giovani Bernard at halfback, A.J. Blue is no newcomer, either. On limited carries last year, he still managed 433 rushing yards and nine scores, so he’ll be more than capable of carrying the load from that spot. At receiver, Quinshad Davis put in an impressive freshman showing this past fall, which can only mean good things for this year. Given the veteran presence all across the offense, there’s likely to be some new folds added to the Heels already dynamic attack. Fedora’s largely worked with his personnel, rather than forced square pegs into round holes, but that’s changing now as he’s recruiting more of his type of players.

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2012 ACC Football Season Recap: North Carolina Tar Heels

In Its First Year Under Larry Fedora, North Carolina's Offense Exploded to New Heights

In Its First Year Under Larry Fedora, North Carolina’s Offense Exploded to New Heights

Team: North Carolina Tar Heels

W-L: 8-4 (5-3)

Postseason: N/A

Top Offensive Performer: Giovani Bernard, RB

Top Defensive Performer: Kevin Reddick, LB

After a very encouraging 2011 season, 2012 was supposed to be the year that UNC put it all together and finally won the Coastal division. And technically, they did. But due to a postseason ban, the school was not allowed to play for the ACC title, nor win the Coastal division. When looking at head coach Larry Fedora’s first year on the job though, it’s tough to argue that the Heels’ season was anything but a success — and another step toward the team’s goal of playing for a league championship.

When Fedora showed up at Chapel Hill, there appeared to be trepidation surrounding his spread offense. Quarterback Bryn Renner had always played in a pro-style attack, while running back Giovani Bernard was unsure how he’d continue to play a key role for an offense that appeared to be moving away from the running game. As evidenced by the team’s 14th-ranked offense this year, everything actually turned out just fine. Renner was a natural for the spread, and grew my leaps and bounds in comparison to his sophomore campaign. While attempting 72 more passes than 2011 (in one less game), the now-junior only saw a slight dip in accuracy, while throwing for more TDs (28 versus 26) with less sacks and interceptions. And Bernard actually thrived as both part of the passing game, and as a result of its importance in the offense. As a receiving option out of the backfield, Bernard caught 47 passes for 490 yards and five scores (in just 10 games). Plus, because of the spread’s emphasis on the passing game, the slashing sophomore back also saw more holes between the tackles as defenses feared Renner throwing the ball. The result? A campaign that should’ve gotten more Heisman buzz, as Bernard racked up another 1,228 yards on the ground with 12 TDs — again, in 10 games and on 55 less carries compared to last season. Not to be completely outdone, backup (and 2013 starter) A.J. Blue even got in on the act, rushing his way to 433 yards and nine scores on top of that. Overall, the UNC offense averaged 92 yards per game more than they did last year; a phenomenal jump in just one season.

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ACC Football Top 25 Players of 2012: #17, Kevin Reddick

Kevin Reddick Thrived in the 4-2-5 This Year, and is Now Looking Forward to the NFL Draft

Kevin Reddick Thrived in the 4-2-5 This Year, and is Now Looking Forward to the NFL Draft

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. 17, Kevin Reddick, LB/North Carolina(Preseason Rank: 11)

Upon head coach Larry Fedora’s arrival, Reddick was unsure of what his role would look like in the North Carolina defense. With a new 4-2-5 set, there was uncertainty around how it would impact Reddick’s production and ultimately, what would happen to his draft status. As it ends up, the senior did just fine in the new scheme; and in some ways showed off some skills evaluators hadn’t previously accounted for. Operating with just two linebackers, the middle of the field belongs to Reddick almost exclusively, and it also gives ample opportunity to get involved in stopping both the run and pass. If it wasn’t impressive enough to rack up 85 tackles over a 12-game stretch, where Reddick really sets himself apart is an ability to get into the backfield. He led the conference with 18.5 tackles for loss, 6.5 of which were quarterback sacks. En route to rushing the passer, he also managed six pass deflections. While he’s got some speed (runs a 4.75-second 40-yard dash), there’s certainly room for improvement; which would be lethal when paired with his 6’3″, 240-pound frame. He’s currently projected to go in the third or fourth round of the NFL Draft this spring, though if there’s a run on defenders, there’s certainly a possibility he could move up.

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2012 All-ACC Football Team: Defense

Florida State's Tank Carradine Leads a Parade of Seminoles on the All-ACC Defensive Side

Florida State’s Tank Carradine Leads a Parade of Seminoles on the All-ACC Defensive Side

As most other publications have also done, we’ve put together an All-ACC team here at Atlantic Coast Convos, honoring the best players from the 2012 football season. We’ve also included players from Syracuse and Pittsburgh, as that has always been our policy, and once bowl season is over, all ACC football news will have to involve them anyway. In this post, you’ll find both the first- and second-team defense. Picks for the first- and second-team offense were posted earlier today.

See any selections you agree with? Disagree with? Feel free to voice your concerns in the comments below.

2012 Atlantic Coast Convos All-ACC Team: Defense

First Team

DE Cornellius “Tank” Carradine, Florida State

DE Bjoern Werner, Florida State

DT Joe Vellano, Maryland

DT Sylvester Williams, North Carolina

LB Jack Tyler, Virginia Tech

LB Nick Clancy, Boston College

LB Kevin Reddick, North Carolina

CB Ross Cockrell, Duke

CB Xavier Rhodes, Florida State

S Lamarcus Joyner, Florida State

S Earl Wolff, Florida State

PK Dustin Hopkins, Florida State

P Will Monday, Duke

SP Giovani Bernard, North Carolina

Second Team

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ACC Football Preview 2012: Preseason Defensive Unit Rankings

North Carolina Hopes a Transition to the 4-2-5 Defense Helps Kevin Reddick Become a True Star

We’re literally one day (and some hours) away from the start of the 2012 season, so obviously, we’re rolling out tons of arbitrarily ranked lists to peruse before kickoff. The focus of this particular list? Every ACC defense. Along with the ranked list, we’ll provide some background to legitimize said arbitrary ranking. Don’t agree with us? Voice your opinion in the comment section.

Want more lists? Be sure to check out our offensive unit rankings earlier today, and the coaching ranks later on.

ACC Defense Unit Rankings (Preseason)

1. Florida State Seminoles: FSU will possess one of the most frightening pass-rushes in all of college football. And return nine starters from the fourth-best scoring defense in the country last year. And be the guiding force behind a resurgent season back in the BCS spotlight for the Seminoles.

2. Virginia Tech Hokies: Aggressive and ball-hawking, the Hokies’ defense will be leaned on quite a bit this season, and I give them credit as a group capable of carrying that heavy burden. If they continue to force turnovers with pressure as they have in the past, they’ll be one of the country’s most impressive units yet again.

3. North Carolina Tar Heels: The new 4-2-5 scheme should have this group looking like an unconventional version of the two teams ahead of them on this list. Agile and focused on pressure and turnovers, senior leader Kevin Reddick should excel here, as will his defensive cohorts who’ve all waited a long time to be let loose in a set like this.

4. NC State Wolfpack: Some may murmur about linebacker concerns, but the focus for the Wolfpack will be on the talented secondary. David Amerson and Earl Wolff should run things as they have in the past, with Amerson gunning to add to his record-setting total of picks from last year.

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