2013 NFL Draft: Breaking Down Top 5 Senior ACC Prospects

Stephen Sheehan@@StephenPSheehanCorrespondent IDecember 28, 2012

2013 NFL Draft: Breaking Down Top 5 Senior ACC Prospects

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    The ACC doesn't boast as good of a senior class as that of the SEC, but that doesn't mean the conference won't feature some draft picks come April. 

    North Carolina guard Jonathan Cooper headlines a solid class that's strength is along the lines of scrimmage. The athletic guard is one of the best at his position and certainly the best senior from the ACC.

    Elsewhere around the conference, Florida State boasts a number of quality prospects, including quarterback EJ Manuel and defensive ends Cornellius "Tank" Carradine and Brandon Jenkins. 

    While Seminole pass-rusher Bjoern Werner may be the highest-drafted prospect, the junior could also elect to return for his senior season. 

    Let's take a look at the best senior prospects the ACC has to offer for the 2013 NFL draft

5. EJ Manuel, QB, FSU

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    EJ Manuel never took Florida State to a national title, but the fifth-year quarterback still put together quite a successful career in Tallahassee. 

    Christian Ponder's replacement put together two fine seasons after taking over for the former 12th overall pick, finishing his career with 7,450 passing yards and 46 passing touchdowns. Throw in over 800 rushing yards and 10 more scores on the ground, and it's clear Manuel has the running skills to complement his strong right arm. 

    Unfortunately, Manuel was banged up quite a bit in college, and he and the Seminoles failed to live up to lofty preseason expectations in 2012. 

    Still, the Seminoles' signal-caller possesses the size (6'5", 240 pounds), athleticism and arm to be a starting quarterback at the next level. 

    Draft Projection: Second Round

4. Andre Ellington, RB, Clemson

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    Andre Ellington is the next Clemson running back to make the jump from college stardom to the NFL

    The speedy senior should follow in the footsteps of predecessors James Davis, C.J. Spiller and Jamie Harper and make a big impact at the next level. Blessed with top-notch speed and a solid frame, Ellington tore up ACC defenses in his last two years as a starter. 

    In 2011, the 5'9", 192-pounder rushed for 1,178 yards and 11 scores before racking up 1,031 yards and eight scores in 2012. 

    Although he probably won't be the first back taken—North Carolina redshirt sophomore Giovani Bernard looks like the favorite—Ellington will make a team very happy on the second day of the draft. 

    Projection: Early Third Round

3. Cornellius "Tank" Carradine, DE, FSU

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    Well on his way to earning a first- or second-round grade, Seminoles defensive end Cornellius "Tank" Carradine became the second Florida State star to suffer a season-ending injury in 2012. 

    Former starter Brandon Jenkins—who was considered perhaps the best senior defensive end in the nation—missed nearly all of this season with a Lisfranc injury. Carradine turned out to be an upgrade rather than an adequate replacement. 

    Carradine had established himself as one of the most complete defensive ends in the nation before tearing his ACL against Florida back in late November. It was a heartbreaking injury for the former JUCO transfer, who still finished the season as the Seminoles' second-leading tackler with 80 stops. The 6'5", 265-pounder also racked up 13 tackles for loss and 11 sacks. 

    Now facing a lengthy rehab process, Carradine will probably slip at least a few rounds. However, if he's able to regain his pre-injury form, whichever team selects him will get a steal. 

    His combination of size, athleticism and toughness make him one of the best defensive prospects in the country and the best senior defensive lineman in the ACC. 

    Draft Projection: Fourth Round

2. Oday Aboushi, OT, Virginia

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    The University of Virginia produces quality NFL offensive tackles on a yearly basis, and massive senior Oday Aboushi looks to be the next great left tackle to play on Sundays. 

    Measuring in at a rock-solid 6'6", 310 pounds, the 2012 First Team All-ACC selection put together an excellent final year for the Cavaliers, grading out over 90 percent in every game he started as a senior. 

    According to his draft profile on CBSSports.com, Aboushi's size and athleticism make him one of the best pass protectors around, but he needs to improve his run blocking. With better technique, he could become the complete package at left tackle. 

    If he improves his overall game and cuts down on penalties and mental lapses, the sky is the limit for the top tackle in the ACC. 

    Draft Projection: Second Round

1. Jonathan Cooper, G, North Carolina

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    Jonathan Cooper is one big, bad dude. 

    Checking in at 6'3", 295 pounds, the owner of 48 career starts moves like a 225-pounder, making him a deadly force as a pulling guard. 

    Cooper's terrific senior season earned him consensus All-American honors, and he was a finalist for the coveted Outland Trophy. Playing with great technique and good strength, Cooper is as consistent as they come along the interior, and his game will only get better as he packs on some more muscle. 

    While Chance Warmack brings superior size and a nastier demeanor, Cooper should be highly coveted by teams that value athleticism and movement skills on their offensive line. 

    He may be the No. 2 guard behind Warmack, but Cooper is the best senior prospect in the ACC. 

    Draft Projection: First Round