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ACC Favorable Fits Post NFL Draft

By Matthew Golden
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Matthew Golden ranks the the top five team fits for ACC players selected during the 2020 NFL Draft.

In large thanks to the Clemson Tigers, the ACC would finish with the fourth most selections in the 2020 NFL Draft, trailing only the SEC, Big Ten, and Pac-12.

There was an expected drop off in NFL talent transitioning from the ACC, just two years removed from producing 45 selections in the 2018 NFL Draft.

While just two programs (Miami and Clemson) produced four or more selections in 2020, the ACC still stands to be represented well with rare talent taking the leap to the next level.

With that being said, I take a look at which 5 ACC standouts selected in the 2020 NFL Draft are set to join the best immediate fit for the next step of their football career.

(1) Cam Akers – Florida State – Los Angeles Rams

After being selected in the second round by Sean McVay and the Los Angeles Rams, the former Seminoles running back has the chance to provide L.A. with consistency at the running back position. It’s no secret that the Rams offense struggled heavily a year after representing the NFC in the Super Bowl. A large part of that was due to the inability of establishing a running attack with former Georgia standout Todd Gurley. With Gurley headed to Atlanta, Akers is poised to show off his underrated abilities behind an actual offensive line. While he may not be considered the flashiest, Akers could very well be the most complete back in the 2020 class as he’s shown the ability to run between the tackles and make a difference in the passing game. To be able and look back at what Akers was able to do behind his offensive line at Florida State should give Rams fans a sense of hope as he joins the professional ranks.

(2) Tee Higgins – Clemson – Cincinnati Bengals

After securing their potential franchise quarterback in Joe Burrow with the first overall pick, the Bengals opted to use the first pick of the second round to draft a possible offensive corner stone for years to come. While I may be on a short list, I expected Higgins to be a first-round pick entering April’s 2020 NFL Draft. With some questions around his health and how he’d transition into the professional ranks, Higgins finds himself moving on from catching passes from Trevor Lawrence to now pairing up with the 2019 Heisman winner. Higgins is one of the more balanced receivers to come out of this year’s draft, possessing the ability to be a deep ball threat and become a formidable weapon in the red zone with good length and a large catching radius. While the Bengals are still a few years away from truly competing, the addition of Tee Higgins to the offense could pay huge dividends for the Bengals in terms of taking a step closer in 2020. From a long-term point of view, the Cincinnati Bengals could be landing their version of Peyton Manning to Marvin Harrison for a very long time.

(3) Isaiah Simmons – Clemson – Arizona Cardinals

When it comes to fitting in, former Clemson star Isaiah Simmons excels substantially. At the college level, the ultra-versatile Tiger dominated the defensive side of the ball from several different positions. Lined up at safety, Simmons is a great option defending the tight end and a consistent tackler with Malcolm Jenkins like ability. From the linebacker position, Simmons shows great speed and covering ability along with the toughness it takes to rush the passer. But that’s not all. Slide Simmons over to the slot corner position and he has the ability the give quarterbacks, and wideouts, absolute fits. With the Cardinals ranking last in total defense in 2019, they opted for the freakishly athletic Simmons, who could step in from day one and make a difference in multiple facets of the game.

(4) Mekhi Becton – Louisville – New York Jets

Several teams entered the draft with a severe need for offensive lineman. With their being a consensus belief around there being only four “elite” offensive line prospects, it was a bit of an unknown whether any would even make it out of the top ten. At pick number eleven, an offensive line needy team got just it’s wish in massive offensive tackle Mekhi Becton. With SEC maulers Andrew Thomas and Jedrick Wills off the board, the former Louisville Cardinal became the third offensive lineman drafted in 2020 and the first offensive lineman drafted by the Jets in the first round since 2006. Becton, listed at 6’7’’, 365 pounds, will bring a rare yet intriguing set of skills to the Jets offensive line. His size and length will give him the ability to grow into a dominant run blocker, while his athleticism and gives him extraordinary potential to grow as a pass protector. To keep it simple, Mekhi Becton has all the physical tools to become an overwhelming force from the tackle position.

(5) AJ Dillon – Boston College – Green Bay Packers 

Many expected the Packers to come away from the 2020 NFL Draft with an assortment of weapons for Aaron Rodgers. After trading up to draft Utah State quarterback Jordan Love in the first round, the expectations of the Packers draft were completely thrown out of the window. While the Packers didn’t opt for a receiver in round two , they came away with one of the most accomplished running backs in recent ACC history. Boston College’s AJ Dillon now joins Aaron Jones  in a backfield that will likely be called upon early and often. Dillon is larger than your everyday running back, but still possesses good speed and excels at picking up yards after initial contact. Much like last seasons’ 49ers, the Green Bay Packers could be setting themselves up for a three headed rushing attack to sustain them through the 2020 season.

*Honorable Mentions: Dalton Keane - Virginia Tech - New England Patriots, Tanner Muse - Clemson - Las Vegas Raiders, K'von Wallace - Clemson - Philadelphia Eagles