Conference Preview: ACC

Conference Preview: ACC

This article is part of our Conference Preview series.

There can be a tendency to think of the ACC as "Clemson and Friends." While Dabo Swinney's squad down in South Carolina has indeed dominated the conference for a while now, there are some other talented, intriguing teams in the conference. Even a team like Duke might have a diamond in the rough. While the Tigers do indeed offer up a lot of fantasy options, it's time to take a look at the conference as a whole.

All-ACC Fantasy Team

FIRST TEAM

QB: Sam Howell, North Carolina (3)

RB: Jahmyr Gibbs, Georgia Tech (6)

RB: Zonovan Knight, North Carolina State (43)

WR: Zay Flowers, Boston College (7)

WR: Jaquarii Roberson, Wake Forest (8)

TE: Jelani Woods, Virginia (14)

SECOND TEAM

QB: Brennan Armstrong, Virginia (5)

RB: Christian Beal-Smith, Wake Forest (44)

RB: Mataeo Durant, Duke (46)

WR: Taj Harris, Syracuse (26)

WR: Josh Downs, North Carolina (35)

TE: James Mitchell, Virginia Tech (15)

THIRD TEAM

QB: D.J. Uiagalelei, Clemson (10)

RB: Jalen Mitchell, Louisville (51)

RB: Lyn-J Dixon, Clemson (66)

WR: Jordan Addison, Pittsburgh (42)

WR: Billy Kemp, Virginia (52)

TE: Marshon Ford, Louisville (19)

SLEEPERS

Malik Cunningham, QB, Louisville

Three ACC quarterbacks are in our top 10, which means other quarterbacks can fall under the radar. I wouldn't be surprised if Cunningham ends up in the top 10 himself when the season is over. He's had an up-and-down college career but he has a ton of talent and a very capable head coach in Scott Satterfield. While last season his interceptions jumped from five to 12, his completion percentage improved and he threw for almost 500 more yards in one fewer game. This could be a massive season for Cunningham. I'm super high on him.

Jeff Sims, QB, Georgia Tech

Geoff Collins' rebuild of Georgia Tech has been a difficult one, having to take a triple-option team and turn it into something more modern. Getting Sims, a four-star recruit, onboard was a big part of that process. Sims started 10 games as a true freshman in 2020 and there were ups and downs. He threw 13 touchdowns against 13 interceptions and rushed for 492 yards and six touchdowns. Given the complications of 2020 that can be forgiven. With a year under his belt and a more normal offseason, Sims could be in line for a big step forward in 2021.

Ty Chandler, RB, North Carolina

Last season, North Carolina's run game was powered by the duo of Javonte Williams and Michael Carter. Both of them are now in the NFL. That's over 300 carries and over 2,300 yards that need to be replaced. Enter Chandler, a Tennessee transfer. He never did a ton for the Volunteers, but he was a reliable secondary option, twice running for over 600 yards. Chandler is now on top of the Tar Heels depth chart, and with some extra carries in a conference with less-formidable defenses, he could have his best season yet.

Jashaun Corbin, RB, Florida State

Mike Norvell is trying to build his offense out of players he brought in from other programs while he tries to get his recruiting base built on. McKenzie Milton is at quarterback, of course, but Corbin is also the lead back. Coming over from Texas A&M, Corbin rushed 81 times for 401 yards and five touchdowns in nine games last season. Better quarterback play should get Corbin some easier running lanes, and this should be a better year for Norvell's offense overall.

Billy Kemp, WR, Virginia

Kemp had 67 catches for 644 yards in 10 games in 2020. However, he only had one touchdown. Now, could Kemp lack a nose for the end zone? Perhaps, but it's also possible he just had some bad luck. I'm expecting Kemp's reception-to-touchdown ratio to improve this year. Given that he's catching passes from a quarterback we ranked in our top five heading into the campaign, Kemp has more upside than his ranking indicates in my opinion.

Emeka Emezie, WR, North Carolina State

There have been some murmurs of NC State being a darkhorse this year, and I can kind of see that. I do feel like the offense could be notably better. Devin Leary is locked into the starting quarterback role it seems, and Emezie seems like the clear top target. Emezie has been steady in his college career, tallying between 47 and 56 receptions and between 576 and 738 yards in his three college campaigns. Now, that may mean his ceiling isn't that much higher than that, but if he got over 60 catches and over 800 yards this year I would by no means be surprised.

BUSTS

Phil Jurkovec, QB, Boston College

Jurkovec left Notre Dame for Boston College and won the starting job. He performed well, throwing 17 touchdowns against five interceptions in 10 games. He also rushed for three scores, but that may have been fluky given that he rushed 77 times for 150 yards. Jurkovec is not a true dual threat. I'm not sure if he'll replicate his 2020 performance again. Jurkovec couldn't beat out Ian Book in South Bend and Jeff Hafley has not proven he can sustain this level of success. I have skepticism about Jurkovec for 2021.

McKenzie Milton, QB, Florida State

I have never been so unenthused about a bust. It'd be great if Milton could have a strong campaign. He was so good at UCF and has overcome so much to get to where he is. However, it's been a long time since Milton has been a college quarterback and started a game. There are so many questions. Also, the weapons at Florida State are not up to the caliber of the program's glory days. If they were, Norvell probably wouldn't be rolling the dice on Milton. I will be very happy for Milton when he gets to take the field again. I do not expect him to look anything like he did in 2018.

Mataeo Durant, RB, Duke

Last season, Durant rushed 120 times for 817 yards and eight touchdowns. That's good, but in 2019 he only rushed for one touchdown even though he played in one more game. Sure, there was a difference in carries, but Durant still carried the ball 97 times in 2019. I'm not sure Durant will be scoring quite like he did last season. Plus, I don't have faith in Duke's passing game and think defenses will be able to focus on Durant. I don't think he replicates his 2020 numbers, at least not on a per-game basis.

Jalen Mitchell, RB, Louisville

There's a lot of projection in believing in Mitchell. As a freshman last year he only rushed 52 times for 347 yards and two touchdowns in five games. Buying in on him is about trusting his talent, not his production. Could that pay off? Absolutely? Do I want to be the one taking that risk? No, I do not.

Taj Harris, WR, Syracuse

Harris got a lot of targets in 2020, though that was with starting quarterback Tommy DeVito missing most of the season and receiver Sharod Johnson also missing a ton of time. Speaking of Johnson, there are indications that he, not Harris, will be on top of the depth chart for the 2021 campaign. Could that be some preseason hullaballoo that doesn't yield any fruit? Perhaps, but it's enough to give me pause. Also, it's just not feeling like a season to put much faith in Syracuse. It could be Dino Babers final year there if he doesn't turn things around, and the mood in Upstate New York could turn if the Orange get off to a slow start.

Mike Harley, WR, Miami (FL)

Harley's numbers blew up in 2020 as he caught 57 passes for 799 yards and seven touchdowns. There was a new quarterback and offensive coordinator in town, so that may not be a fluke. That being said, it was a massive jump up in his third college season. On top of that, D'Eriq King is coming off a serious knee injury. Perhaps the most concerning thing, though, is the addition of Charleston Rambo from Oklahoma. I definitely see him cutting into Harley's targets.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Chris Morgan
Chris Morgan is a writer of sports, pop culture, and humor articles, a book author, a podcaster, and a fan of all Detroit sports teams.
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