NFL Draft 2013: Jonathan Cooper, EJ Manuel, Bjoern Werner Among 34 ACC Players Selected

EJ Manuel Was One of 34 ACC Players Selected During Last Week's NFL Draft

Former FSU QB EJ Manuel Was One of 34 ACC Players Selected During Last Week’s NFL Draft

The 2013 NFL Draft is officially in the books after 254 selections from the NFL’s 32 franchises. In total, the ACC saw 31 players chosen in this year’s draft — 34, if you include the three draftees from Syracuse (and for argument’s sake, we will here). That number — regardless of which you decide to use — puts the conference behind just behind the more highly-regarded SEC in terms of NFL-bound talent this season. While not the only thing that counts by any means, moving players on to the NFL resonates with potential recruits, and does help all 14 (15) schools in one way or another.

We’ve included various breakdowns below — from school-by-school, to conference comparisons, an NFL team-by-team list, as well as the full list of ACC players chosen between Thursday and Saturday. Also, stop by later on, to see our compilation of the most confusing non-selections from the ACC, and where those players also ended up.

First 10 ACC Players Selected

No. 7 overall (Round 1): Jonathan Cooper, OG/North Carolina, selected by the Arizona Cardinals

No. 16 overall (Round 1): EJ Manuel, QB/Florida State, selected by the Buffalo Bills

No. 19 overall (Round 1): Justin Pugh, OT/Syracuse, selected by the New York Giants

No. 24 overall (Round 1): Bjoern Werner, DE/Florida State, selected by the Indianapolis Colts

No. 25 overall (Round 1): Xavier Rhodes, CB/Florida State, selected by the Minnesota Vikings

No. 27 overall (Round 1): DeAndre Hopkins, WR/Clemson, selected by the Houston Texans

No. 28 overall (Round 1): Sylvester Williams, DT/North Carolina, selected by the Denver Broncos

No. 37 overall (Round 2): Giovani Bernard, RB/North Carolina, selected by the Cincinnati Bengals

No. 40 overall (Round 2): Cornellius “Tank” Carradine, DE/Florida State, selected by the San Francisco 49ers

No. 42 overall (Round 2): Menelik Watson, OT/Florida State, selected by the Oakland Raiders

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NFL Draft 2013: Jonathan Cooper, EJ Manuel Among Seven ACC First-Round Picks

Now-Cardinal Jonathan Cooper Was One of Seven ACC Players Selected in Round One

Now-Cardinal Jonathan Cooper Was One of Seven ACC Players Selected in the NFL Draft’s First Round

For those who’ve been hanging with us here on the blog tonight, we’ve been keeping up with every ACC player selected in the 2013 NFL Draft — seven in all — providing some quick thoughts on each pick. All-in-all, there were certainly a few surprises, and needless to say our mock draft (and everyone else’s) was mostly wrong.

We’ll have a full breakdown post-draft next week, but for now, here’s a quick look at all seven ACC players chosen in the first round this evening, with links to our individual stories on each selection. And for those looking for thoughts on the entire NFL Draft, I was conducting a live thread over at Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician tonight, going pick-by-pick in the comments. But back to ACC matters…

#7 Arizona Cardinals: Jonathan Cooper, OG/North Carolina (Mock Draft: 8th overall)

By the time we got to draft day, Cooper was suddenly being considered a once-in-a-generation guard. And given his speed and size combination up front, and the running game he’s facilitated at UNC, why not? Arizona had one of the NFL’s worst rushing attacks in 2012, and this goes a long way toward fixing that.

#16 Buffalo Bills: EJ Manuel, QB/Florida State (Mock Draft: 43rd overall)

Once Buffalo swapped picks with the Rams, I thought we were perfectly set up for a regular old Syracuse family reunion between Doug Marrone, Nathaniel Hackett and QB Ryan Nassib. Instead, the Bills made one of the more surprising moves of the first round, picking Manuel, who’s seen as a proven commodity by many scouts. He’ll have some ramp to adjust to the pros — the team has Kevin Kolb on the roster as well — but there’s suddenly a lot of weight on Manuel’s shoulders.

#19 New York Giants: Justin Pugh, OT/Syracuse (Mock Draft: 48th overall)

If not for some later moves in the first, THIS would’ve arguably been the biggest reach of the entire round. And that’s not to discredit fellow Syracuse alumnus Justin Pugh, either. But with a glut of elite defenders falling to the later selections, most Giants fans (this one included) seemed convinced they’d go with someone on that side of the ball. Still, Pugh addresses a major need on the line for New York, and will have an opportunity to make an immediate impact. He’s the second straight Syracuse player to go in the top 20 after the Patriots picked Chandler Jones last year.

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NFL Draft 2013: North Carolina’s Sylvester Williams Picked 28th Overall by Denver Broncos

Sylvester Williams is the Second Tar Heel Drafted in the First Round Tonight

North Carolina DT Sylvester Williams is the Second Tar Heel Drafted in the First Round

The seventh and final selection out of the ACC was not a surprise at all, as the Denver Broncos picked North Carolina defensive tackle Sylvester Williams. Williams was projected to go anywhere from the middle parts of round one, all the way through to the early parts of round two, so this is a pretty spot-on selection.

Williams possesses the same physical traits of so many other elite D-line prospects in this draft — size, speed and an aggressive first step — which is why there was such a variance on where “experts” thought he would be chosen. As most NFL fans know, Denver’s defense was among the league’s best last season, and adding a talent like Williams only serves to bolster that fact.

it was a big night for North Carolina (two first-rounders), Florida State (three) and the ACC as a whole. We’ll be recapping it in full between tonight and tomorrow morning. For those who’ve been tuning in, thanks for being here! And for some additional thoughts from me on the draft, head over to the comment thread at SB Nation’s Troy Nunes is An Absolute Magician where I go pick-by-pick (ACC and otherwise).

Want to read up on Williams a bit more? Check out our North Carolina draft preview from last week.

Congrats to Sylvester and his family. We’ll be updating the blog with every first round pick as they happen.



Jonathan Cooper Selected #7 Overall by Arizona Cardinals

EJ Manuel Selected #16 Overall by Buffalo Bills

Justin Pugh Selected #19 Overall by New York Giants

Bjoern Werner Selected #24 Overall by Indianapolis Colts

Xavier Rhodes Selected #25 Overall by Minnesota Vikings

DeAndre Hopkins Selected #27 Overall by Houston Texans

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NFL Draft 2013 Preview: Mock-Drafting Every ACC Prospect

Will Former UNC Guard Jonathan Cooper End Up Being a Top-10 Pick?

Could Former North Carolina Offensive Guard Jonathan Cooper End Up Being a Top-10 Pick?

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been evaluating every ACC prospect for the 2013 NFL Draft, giving some quick thoughts on players’ skill sets and what round they may be chosen in. With the draft officially starting tomorrow night, we’ll now be mocking up a quick draft, complete with the teams most likely to choose these players. For those who are not projected to be selected, we’ve avoided predictions, since it’s a pointless exercise in predicting undrafted free agency. Interested in full profiles of every ACC prospect? See the list of team previews at the bottom of the piece.

***First Round

8. Buffalo Bills: Jonathan Cooper, OG/North Carolina (Sr.)

19. New York Giants: Bjoern Werner, DE/Florida State (Jr.)

22. St. Louis Rams: Cornellius “Tank” Carradine, DE/Florida State (Sr.)

24. Indianapolis Colts: Xavier Rhodes, CB/Florida State (Jr.)

27. Houston Texans: DeAndre Hopkins, WR/Clemson (Jr.)

30. Atlanta Falcons: Menelik Watson, OT/Florida State (Jr.)

***Second Round

33. Jacksonville Jaguars: Sylvester Williams, DT/North Carolina (Sr.)

41. Buffalo Bills: Ryan Nassib, QB/Syracuse (Sr.)

43. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: EJ Manuel, QB/Florida State (Sr.)

48. Pittsburgh Steelers: Justin Pugh, OT/Syracuse (Sr.)

53. Cincinnati Bengals: Giovani Bernard, RB/North Carolina (So.)

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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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