By Turner Walston
The wait is nearly over for some former Tar Heels looking to begin their professional careers. The 2014 NFL Draft begins on May 8, and Carolina is likely to be well-represented throughout the weekend. Nothing is certain until the names get called, but we thought it would be fun to take a look at 20 mock drafts from around the Internet. Carolina sent seven former Tar Heels to the NFL Scouting Combine in February. Now, the vast majority of mock drafts only cover the first round, and Carolina only has one player (Eric Ebron) that is a virtual lock to be picked next Thursday. So I searched high and low and came across three sites that mock the entire draft (or close to it) to find projections for some more Tar Heels.
If you’d like to check them out for yourself, here are the sources:
And now to the potential draftees . . .
Ebron is likely to be the top tight end selected in the draft and will almost certain to be the first Tar Heel to go. Ebron’s projections place him around 14th overall. Chicago has that selection, though they may not be looking for a tight end. The number that appears most often for Ebron is 12. The New York Giants would love a young playmaker like Ebron to help out Eli Manning. Farrar thinks an "overrated" comment from an AFC executive could have been trying to throw other teams off Ebron. Should he fall to 29, Ebron would have be another tremendous weapon in Bill Belichick's arsenal in New England.
CBS Sports: 12, 19, 12, 18, 28
SI: 12, 9, 29
NFL: 9, 12, 10
As Low As: 29 (Doug Farrar at SI.com)
Martin was first-team All-ACC as a senior. He was third on the team with 82 tackles and had 21.5 tackles for loss, including 11.5 sacks, and 14 quarterback hurries. Likely the second Tar Heel off the board, Martin is projected to go on Friday.
WalterFootball: 61, San Francisco
Draftek: 52, Arizona
Draftsite: 109, Buffalo
It’s unfortunate that a broken leg suffered in the Belk Bowl win over Cincinnati set Hurst back in his draft preparations. A four-time All-ACC tackle for the Tar Heels, Hurst is a hard worker and no matter what happens next weekend, some team will be glad he’s on their roster sooner than later. Hurst is projected to go sometime between the fourth and sixth rounds.
WalterFootball: 113, New York Giants
Draftek: 186, Tennessee
Draftsite: 126, New Orleans
Bodine opted to forgo his senior season and enter the NFL Draft after an All-ACC honorable mention campaign in 2013. He is seen as a fifth-round pick.
WalterFootball: 161, Green Bay Packers
Draftek: 166, Indianapolis
Draftsite: 179, Jacksonville
Tre Boston was forced into action early and was a mainstay in the defensive backfield for four years at both cornerback and safety. He earned All-ACC second team honors in 2013 (while leading the Tar Heels with 94 tackles and five interceptions) and was All-ACC honorable mention in 2012. Perhaps his versatility will impress a team enough to earn a late-round pick.
WalterFootball: 178, Washington
Draftek: 219, Oakland
Draftsite: 213, New York Jets
Speaking of versatility, Tim Jackson played both defensive tackle and end in his Carolina career. An All-ACC Academic selection in 2012, he promises to get into a playbook to try and help a team. Jackson did not attend the combine.
Draftek: 7th round, 220, Atlanta
Bryn Renner (NFL Scouting Combine Profile) and Jabari Price (NFL Scouting Combine Profile) do not appear in the most recent mock drafts, but even if they go undrafted, that setback is only temporary. After all, Kevin Reddick went undrafted a year ago and appeared in all 16 games for the Saints in 2013. Former Tar Heel Jeff Saturday wasn’t selected in 1998, was signed and then cut by the Ravens, and then went on to play for 14 years. For position-specific inspiration, Renner need only look to Kurt Warner, who cut his teeth in Arena Football and NFL Europe before going on to what should be a Hall of Fame career; or Warren Moon, whose path to Canton went through Canada. Price can find hope in the story of Dick ‘Night Train’ Lane, who didn’t play professional football until he was 27 but was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1974.
Last year, Jonathan Cooper and Sylvester Williams were first round picks by Arizona and Denver, respectively. Next week, a host of former Tar Heels appear ready to join their former teammates on NFL rosters. While they won’t be wearing Carolina blue on Saturdays anymore, they'll continue to make Tar Heel nation proud.