Welcome to the seventh (!) edition of my annual Alumni Awards -- choosing the season's best NFL player from each of the Power Five college programs. It's a great way to gauge the health of the collegiate teams, an indicator of the volatility of the pro game, and, most of all, a fun argument starter.
Here are the 2018 Alumni Award winners! In honor of the new national champions, we begin with the ACC…
ATLANTIC COAST CONFERENCE
BOSTON COLLEGE (14 total pros on rosters in 2018 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
2017: Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta
2018: Matt Ryan, QB, Atlanta
One of the defining rules of this thought exercise, not to mention real football, is that quarterback is so clearly the most dominant position that if it's at all close, the passer gets the hardware. Kuechly had his usual superb season on defense but Ryan's three-year run of excellent play (fourth in passing DYAR in 2018) means he gets another Eagle.
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
2017: DeAndre Hopkins, WR, Houston
2018: Deshaun Watson, QB, Houston
The Dabo Effect is not just felt on the collegiate green but in pro stadia across the NFL, as there are plenty of former Tigers who have clawed their way onto rosters. Once again, position wins out here -- Deshaun tops DeAndre by dint of playing the crucial position well, besting playing the regular position exceptionally.
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
2017: Ross Cockrell, CB, New York Giants
2018: Matt Skura, C, Baltimore
Skura did a solid job replacing Ryan Jensen in the middle of Baltimore's line, and helping the Ravens rushing attack blast its way to the playoffs.
FLORIDA STATE (41)
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
2017: Jalen Ramsey, CB, Jacksonville
2018: Derwin James, S, Los Angeles Chargers
Seven seasons, seven different winners of the Tomahawk Trophy.
GEORGIA TECH (11)
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
2017: Shaq Mason, G, New England
2018: Shaq Mason, G, New England
Nothing against Shaq-Fu, but a Power Five school in the heart of such a fertile recruiting area really should have a better three-peat winner of the Yellow Jacket award than a relatively anonymous guard. Now that Paul Johnson and the triple option have been retired in Atlanta, perhaps the Institute can once again provide some top-tier talent to the NFL.
2012: Elvis Dumervil, DE, Denver
2013: Elvis Dumervil, DE, Baltimore
2014: Elvis Dumervil, DE, Baltimore
2015: Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Minnesota
2016: William Gay, CB, Pittsburgh
2017: Sheldon Rankins, DT, New Orleans
2018: Lamar Jackson, QB, Baltimore
The deep red Cardinal trophy should mean more to Lamar than the Heisman he won. Jackson is now the sixth Heisman winner to take an alumni award (joining Mark Ingram, Marcus Mariota, James Winston, Cam Newton, and RG3).
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
2017: Calais Campbell, DE, Jacksonville
2018: Calais Campbell, DE, Jacksonville
The Sunshine State schools continue to provide an inordinate amount of pro players -- The U, FSU and UF combine for 126 dudes on rosters, and that doesn't even factor in the smaller Florida schools. It makes the now-perennial underachieving of the Big Three even more confusing. Campbell once again dominates a weak crop of pro Canes.
NORTH CAROLINA (21)
2012: Julius Peppers, DE, Chicago
2013: Robert Quinn, DE, St. Louis
2014: Julius Peppers, DE, Green Bay
2015: Giovani Bernard, RB, Cincinnati
2016: Zach Brown, LB, Buffalo
2017: Julius Peppers, DE, Carolina
2018: Mitchell Trubisky, QB, Chicago
Eric Ebron resurrected his career in Indy, but even a mediocre quarterback like Trubisky is more valuable than Double-E.
NORTH CAROLINA STATE (18)
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
2017: Philip Rivers, QB, Los Angeles Chargers
2018: Philip Rivers, QB, Los Angeles Chargers
The Philipino gets his second L.A.-based Wolfpack Trophy, to go with the three from down south (at least in the time I've been tracking these awards -- he surely won more in the years before 2012).
NOTRE DAME (32)
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
2017: Harrison Smith, S, Minnesota
2018: Quenton Nelson, G, Indianapolis
You could form the league's best offensive line entirely from Notre Dame alums -- Nelson and fellow guard Zack Martin of Dallas, plus tackles Ronnie Stanley and Mike McGlinchey and center John Sullivan. The last two winners of the leprechaun-shaped trophy were worthy again, but the pure violence Nelson brought to the Colts' offensive line brings him the award. Hopefully he won't break it.
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 Rams
2017: Aaron Donald, DT, Los Angeles Rams
2018: Aaron Donald, DT, Los Angeles Rams
Panthers alumni sported some strength on the offensive side of the ball this season, with the emergence of Cincy wideout Tyler Boyd and Steelers runner James Conner, plus standbys Dion Lewis and Larry Fitzgerald (who hasn't won a Purple Panther since I started tracking them, amazingly). But so long as Donald is an MVP candidate, the trophy stays with him.
2012: Chandler Jones, DE, New England
2013: TIE -- Chandler Jones, DE, New England and Arthur Jones, DT, Baltimore
2014: Chandler Jones, DE, New England
2015: Chandler Jones, DE, New England
2016: Chandler Jones, DE, Arizona
2017: Chandler Jones, DE, Arizona
2018: Chandler Jones, DE, Arizona
Another walkover for Jones, who at least continues to earn it. With my Orange apparently back in the mix at long last under coach Dino Babers, hopefully there will be some competition for the Cardinals pass-rusher one of these years.
2012: Chris Long, DE, St. Louis
2013: Chris Long, DE, St. Louis
2014: D'Brickashaw Ferguson, T, New York Jets
2015: Branden Albert, T, Miami
2016: Chris Long, DE, New England
2017: Morgan Moses, T, Washington
2018: Brent Urban, DE, Baltimore
Urban, the pride of Canada and Charlottesville, gets a Wahoo Trophy for his season-long solid play in unglamorous run defense, besting Long (who notched 6.5 sacks in spot duty) and Moses (a rare Washington player who managed to play all 16 games).
VIRGINIA TECH (15)
2012: Brandon Flowers, CB, Kansas City
2013: Jason Worilds, LB, Pittsburgh
2014: Kam Chancellor, S, Seattle
2015: Duane Brown, T, Houston
2016: Kam Chancellor, S, Seattle
2017: Tyrod Taylor, QB, Buffalo
2018: Kyle Fuller, CB, Chicago
Between Kyle, Corey, Kendall, and Vincent, the Fuller Bros. have been quite successful, but they have a new challenge from the Edmunds Bros., Terrell and Tremaine, who arrived with a first-round splash in Pittsburgh and Buffalo, respectively. But Kyle's shutdown season with the Bears allows him to notch the Hokie.
WAKE FOREST (7)
2012: Tyson Clabo, T, 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
2017: Kevin Johnson, CB, Houston
2018: Jessie Bates, S, Cincinnati
When the Bengals surprisingly cut starter George Iloka in order to play Bates, there was some eyebrow-raising across the league, but the former Demon Deacon proved he was worthy of both the starting job and the Wake award straight away.