Tonight’s NFL Draft in New York should be full of surprises, but no one will be shocked at the amount of former Tar Heels that will get drafted this year. Every football expert and draft guru seems to have an idea where the top Tar Heel will go this season, but where will some of the less-hyped ‘Heels end up in 2014?
We’ll start with the consensus top tight end in the draft: Greensboro, NC’s Eric Ebron.
Eric Ebron, TE
2013 Stats: 62 Receptions, 973 Yards, 3 TDs
Eric Ebron set reception and yardage records for UNC tight ends as a sophomore, and continued to shred defenses as a junior to the tune of almost 1000 yards. His game against arguably the most pro-caliber defense on UNC’s schedule this year (Nine catches for 205yds and a touchdown) was enough to fuel 1st-Round expectations. Many have expected him to go to Buffalo at #9, but I expect him to be taken earlier by Atlanta at #6 to fill the hole left by retiring Tony Gonzalez. Don’t be surprised to see him taken early and packaged for a team like Baltimore at #17 or New England at #29, where he will demand multiple picks and/or a veteran with a juicy contract. New England will take him if still available, but I don’t see a situation where he lasts beyond Miami at #19.
(ETA: Eric Ebron was selected by the Detroit Lions at #10)
Kareem Martin, DE
2013 Stats: 78 tackles, 20 tackles for loss, 11 sacks.
The 1st-Team All-ACC defensive end stands every bit of 6’6” and 265 pounds, and was the most consistent performer on Carolina’s defensive line in 2013. Martin gave consistent pressure and showed excellent pursuit while facing a wide range of offenses last year, and some games was clearly the target of offensive double-teams. Look for a team like Dallas at #78 or NY Jets at #80 to add line depth with Martin, as both teams have a history of selecting UNC defensive players. Martin may go higher depending on individual team grades, but don’t expect to see his name called until the weekend.
Russell Bodine, Center
Played in all 12 games in 2013-2014.
Bodine was the centerpiece of UNC’s offensive line that set many records last year. He appeared in every game and played a large percentage of snaps, which speaks to his consistency and durability. Look for the Carolina Panthers at #204 to give Russell a chance to fill the shoes of three-time Pro Bowler Jordan Gross, who retired last year. At 6’4”, 310lbs, that doesn’t seem like too big of a stretch.
James Hurst, Offensive Tackle
2013 All-America candidate and All-ACC First Team tackle James Hurst was often seen paving the way for Marquise Williams and Bryn Renner on read-option plays, and will likely continue that in the pros. Some have Hurst going in the later rounds, but a team that employs the read-option or power running game might take a look at his performance against Jadeveon Clowney (the likely #1 overall pick) and give him a nod in the 4th or 5th round. Again, the Carolina Panthers at #168 make sense, but a team like Washington at #142 might pick up some extra insurance for a mobile QB like Robert Griffin III.
Bryn Renner, Quarterback
Before undergoing season-ending shoulder surgery this year, Bryn Renner had one of the most prolific careers in UNC history. He is at or near the top of all relevant UNC records, and at times showed a willingness to tuck the ball and run effectively. His most desirable talent is in the play-action game, and a team like Houston at #177 will give him a shot due to his size and consistency while at Carolina.
Tim Jackson, Defensive Lineman
Jackson, a 6’5”, 285lb lineman from Florida, was a 12-game starter and played with tenacity on UNC’s defensive front line last year. His lower production numbers don’t really tell the whole story, as his positioning on the line was often on the weak side of the play. His occasional game-breaking plays and NFL size will warrant a look from a team trying to build young depth. Teams the 49ers and Rams have stockpiled late-round picks, so expect to see Jackson picked between #241 and #250, if not earlier.
Tre Boston, Defensive Back
Tre Boston, a 2nd-Team All-ACC performer, completed his senior season with 85 tackles and four interceptions. He is a sure tackler and has a nose for the ball, which will likely serve him well in training camp this offseason. Look for him to go somewhere in the late rounds to a team like Washington at #217 or Atlanta at #220 to fill a backup role and challenge for a starting position.
The 2014 NFL Draft will be televised nationally on ESPN and the NFL Network, starting Thursday at 8pm and continuing through Saturday.