Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

27 Jan 2017

Rob Weintraub's ACC Alumni Trophies

by Rob Weintraub

College football: where the bands play, the fans sneak in flasks in their long underwear, and the players prepare for that day when they finally get paid to knock heads with the opposition. The NFL's minor leagues are of course intrinsic to its success, but the second the draft ends we seem to collectively forget about where the pros plied their trade on Saturdays (except for those couple of minutes during the intros on Sunday nights).

But I have always kept those alma maters in my frontal lobe while watching the NFL, mainly to gauge which players are best representing dear old Pigskin State. Since 2012, in fact, I have written down my opinion about each Power Five school's alumni MVP. This year, to fill the lull before the Super Bowl, I'm sharing it with you. We'll have a new post each day for FO readers to debate.

ACC

BOSTON COLLEGE (18 alums on NFL rosters in 2016, per ESPN.com)

2012: Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta
2013: Luke Kuechly, LB, Carolina
2014: Luke Kuechly, LB, Carolina
2015: Luke Kuechly, LB, Carolina
2016: Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta

A year ago Kuechly was in the Super Bowl; this year he left the field concussed and sobbing.

A year ago Ryan looked old and lost; this year he's the MVP. Treasure that alumni award, Iceman, for sic transit Gloria.

CLEMSON (33)

2012: C.J. Spiller, RB, Buffalo
2013: Andre Ellington, RB, Arizona
2014: DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Houston
2015: DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Houston
2016: Vic Beasley, LB, Atlanta

Offensive players have dominated the national champs' orange-hued award roughly since Michael Dean Perry turned pro, but injuries (Sammy Watkins), suspensions (Martavis Bryant), and poor quarterback play (Hopkins) took down the leading candidates. Meanwhile, Beasley tore free from the Bustoleum that encased him during his rookie season to lead the NFL in sacks. Stiff competition from Dabo Swinney's 'crootin' factory is coming soon, so don't make room on the shelf for multiple trophies just yet, Vic.

DUKE (7)

2012: Vincent Rey, LB, Cincinnati
2013: Vincent Rey, LB, Cincinnati
2014: Vincent Rey, LB, Cincinnati
2015: Vincent Rey, LB, Cincinnati
2016: Jamison Crowder, WR, Washington

A breakthrough season in multiple ways for Crowder, as he not only established himself as an extremely useful player in D.C. but broke Vinny Rey's stranglehold on the Blue Devils award.

FLORIDA STATE (42)

2012: Antonio Cromartie, CB, New York Jets
2013: Darnell Dockett, DT, Arizona
2014: Kelvin Benjamin, WR, Carolina
2015: Jameis Winston, QB, Tampa Bay
2016: Devonta Freeman, RB, Atlanta

The Noles are a classic example of a program with huge numbers of alumni getting paid to play without the hordes translating into many stars. Jameis edged Devonta last year mainly by dint of positional importance, but the Falcons runner returned the favor this season thanks to his large role in his team's historically great offense.

GEORGIA TECH (19)

2012: Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit
2013: Calvin Johnson, WR, Detroit
2014: Demaryius Thomas, WR, Denver
2015: Demaryius Thomas, WR, Denver
2016: Shaq Mason, G, New England

The cratering quarterback play in Denver means that for the first time in a decade the stinger-shaped Yellow Jackets award goes to a non-wideout, in this case the unheralded Mason. Pats line coach Dante Scarnecchia deserves a share of the award for transforming the sophomore guard's play.

LOUISVILLE (22)

2012: Elvis Dumervil, DE, Denver
2013: Elvis Dumervil, LB, Baltimore
2014: Elvis Dumervil, LB, Baltimore
2015: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Minnesota
2016: William Gay, CB, Pittsburgh

Teddy B's devastating injury left the Redbirds award to a pair of rank-and-file Steelers. Gay edged out wide receiver Eli Rogers mainly by dint of squeezing 16 games out of his 32-year-old frame, not a small thing for a cornerback.

MIAMI (39)

2012: Reggie Wayne, WR, Indianapolis
2013: Jimmy Graham, TE New Orleans
2014: Vince Wilfork, DT, New England
2015: Greg Olsen, TE Carolina
2016: Olivier Vernon, DE, New York Giants

Not so long ago, The U dominated the pro ranks in both quantity and quality. But the program has spiraled downhill in recent years; while former Canes still stuff NFL rosters, few superstars along the lines of Lewis, Reed, Taylor, Johnson, Wilfork, et al. have emerged. Vernon narrowly lost out to Olsen a year ago, a slight which he rectified by moving north in 2016.

NORTH CAROLINA (23)

2012: Julius Peppers, DE, Chicago
2013: Robert Quinn, DE, St. Louis
2014: Julius Peppers, LB, Green Bay
2015: Giovani Bernard, RB, Cincinnati
2016: Zach Brown, LB, Buffalo

Buffalo's defense underachieved relative to its talent once again, but Brown nonetheless cruised to the Tar Heels Trophy against mediocre competition.

NORTH CAROLINA STATE (15)

2012: Mario Williams, DE, Buffalo
2013: Philip Rivers, QB, San Diego
2014: Mario Williams, DE, Buffalo
2015: Philip Rivers, QB, San Diego
2016: Philip Rivers, QB, San Diego

David Amerson had a good season with 12-win Oakland. Philip Rivers tilted at windmills for the five-win Chargers as the Bolts played their way out of San Diego. Call it a sympathy vote for Rivers as he heads up the 405 to wind up his career in a soccer stadium.

NOTRE DAME (30)

2012: Golden Tate, WR, Seattle
2013: Michael Floyd, WR, Arizona
2014: Zack Martin, G, Dallas
2015: Harrison Smith, S, Minnesota
2016: Zack Martin, G, Dallas

The Irish are an honorary ACC team, but for the interests of this piece they are pure Tobacco Road. Last season Martin was involved in a bitter three-way affair with Smith and Tyler Eifert; this season the path was cleared for an easy win for the Cowboys big ugly.

PITTSBURGH (14)

2012: LeSean McCoy, RB, Philadelphia
2013: LeSean McCoy, RB, Philadelphia
2014: Darrelle Revis, CB, New England
2015: Aaron Donald, DT, St. Louis
2016: Aaron Donald, DT, Los Angeles

No-brainer for the second straight season.

SYRACUSE (11)

2012: Chandler Jones, DE, New England
2013: TIE, Chandler Jones, DE, New England and Arthur Jones, DE, Baltimore
2014: Chandler Jones, DE, New England
2015: Chandler Jones, DE, New England
2016: Chandler Jones, LB, Arizona

Jones notched 11 sacks in his first year in the desert, meaning his upcoming monster contract will be sweetened by the alumni award l'Orange.

VIRGINIA (19)

2012: Chris Long, DE, St. Louis
2013: Chris Long, DE, St. Louis
2014: D'Brickashaw Ferguson, OT, New York Jets
2015: Branden Albert, OT, Miami
2016: Chris Long, DE, New England

A case could be made for Albert, who battled through a painful wrist injury, and fellow tackle Morgan Moses of Washington, who made strides in his third season in D.C. But Long's resuscitation as a pass-rush specialist in Foxborough earns him the Wahoos Trophy.

VIRGINIA TECH (15)

2012: Brandon Flowers, CB, Kansas City
2013: Jason Worilds, LB, Pittsburgh
2014: Kam Chancellor, S, Seattle
2015: Duane Brown, OT, Houston
2016: Kam Chancellor, S, Seattle

Brown's injury forced him to miss the first month of the season, providing the difference between him and the Battering Kam, who regains the Hokies Award.

WAKE FOREST (4)

2012: Tyson Clabo, OT, Atlanta
2013: Calvin Pace, LB, New York Jets
2014: Calvin Pace, LB, New York Jets
2015: Kevin Johnson, CB, Houston
2016: Kevin Johnson, CB, Houston

Yes, a foot injury knocked the excellent Texans corner out of commission after just six games. But the other three Deacons in the NFL (Nikita Whitlock, Joe Looney, Kyle Wilber) didn't make enough noise to swipe the Demons award from K.J.

You can enjoy Rob Weintraub's Alumni Trophies for other conferences here:

Posted by: Robert Weintraub on 27 Jan 2017

1 comment, Last at 27 Jan 2017, 2:03pm by BlueStarDude

Comments

1
by BlueStarDude :: Fri, 01/27/2017 - 2:03pm

Now I can wow my friends (alright, co-workers) with amazing facts like “the Cowboys employ half the Wake Forest alums in the NFL!”