Pack mentality at NFL Draft

NC State players could make up half or more of picks from North Carolina at this week’s draft

Tar Heels cornerback M.J. Stewart, who earned All-ACC honors in his last three seasons in Chapel Hill, is expected to be a middle-round pick at this week’s NFL Draft. (Bob Donnan / USA TODAY Sports)

After months of ranking, critiquing, measuring and evaluating, the NFL Draft is finally here. Thursday’s first round should see NC State defensive end Bradley Chubb off the board early — likely surrounded by several quarterbacks and Penn State running back Saquon Barkley.

Throughout the three-day event — Rounds 2 and 3 will be Friday, and the remaining four rounds on Saturday — several Wolfpack players should be picked, perhaps as many or more than the total from all other N.C. schools. Here’s a look at eight Wolfpack players who could be selected, along with eight more from five other N.C. schools who could hear their names called.

NC State

Bradley Chubb, defensive end

Chubb surpassed Mario Williams’ career school records of 26 sacks and 60 tackles for loss on his way to becoming the first Wolfpack player ever to be named ACC Defensive Player of the Year. He also won the Bronko Nagurski Trophy as the top defender in college football. Although Chubb won’t follow in Williams’ footsteps as the No. 1 overall pick, he’s almost a sure bet to be the first defensive player to come off the board.

Projection: Early Round 1

NC State running back Nyheim Hines passed up on his senior season to enter the NFL Draft. He’s projected to be selected in the third round. (Rob Kinnan / USA TODAY Sports)

Nyheim Hines, running back

As impressive as Hines was during a junior season at State in which he rushed for 1,112 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns while catching 26 passes for 152 yards, the 5-foot-8, 198-pound speedster opened even more eyes by running a 4.38 40-yard dash at the NFL’s Scouting Combine — fastest among all running backs. Because of his size, Hines will likely be slotted — at least early in his career — as a third-down back and return specialist.

Projection: Round 3

Will Richardson, offensive tackle

At 6-6, 306 pounds, Richardson has the size and strength to become a fixture on someone’s NFL offensive line. He was a second-team All-ACC performer as a junior last season while helping State’s offense become one of the most productive in the conference. He did have two team suspensions during his college career, including the first two games of 2017 for driving while intoxicated.

Projection: Round 3

B.J. Hill, defensive tackle

Like Hines, Hill also made a positive impression at the Combine. He put on an impressive display of strength and speed by running a 4.99 40 that was best among defensive tackles and bench pressing 35 reps — 11 more than Chubb. Hill used his athleticism to make 57 tackles, including 5.5 for losses, with three sacks and three pass breakups for the Wolfpack in 2017.

Projection: Round 4

Jaylen Samuels, tight end

Samuels is a productive playmaker so versatile that the ACC created a new position on its All-ACC team for him. As an “all-purpose” player, however, he’s not as big as most traditional fullbacks or tight ends, and he’s much bigger than most wide receivers. It’s hard to argue with his results, though, especially around the end zone where he scored 31 touchdowns (16 rushing, 15 receiving) during his Wolfpack career.

Projection: Round 4

Kentavius Street, defensive end

Street was catapulting up everybody’s draft board after standout showings at the East-West Shrine Game and the Combine in February. But his momentum came to a screeching halt earlier this month when he tore an ACL while doing a private workout for the New York Giants and underwent surgery. The injury will almost certainly cost Street on draft day, but with elite pass rushing skills, he shouldn’t drop too far.

Projection: Round 5

Tony Adams, offensive guard

A three-year starter who earned second-team All-ACC recognition as both a junior and senior, Adams is a steady, powerful, compact blocker whose footwork and body control should outweigh concerns about his lack of length.

Projection: Round 5

Justin Jones, defensive tackle

Another member of State’s talented defensive line, Jones is a fundamentally sound tackle who was overshadowed by those with more star power playing beside him. Solidly built, with good strength and footwork, Jones will make his living as a run stopper who is best at breaking through double teams.

Projection: Round 6


Colby Gossett, guard

Started 46 straight games on the Mountaineers’ offensive line. Started at right guard as a senior but also had time at right tackle. A first-team All-Sun-Belt pick as a junior and senior, he is quick and versatile, but teams may be concerned about his technique against top-level talent. Could spend some time developing on a practice squad.

Projection: Round 5 or 6


Davon Grayson, wide receiver

A jumper and relay sprinter in high school, Grayson was honorable mention all-conference as a senior. He struggled with injuries throughout his career, missing the entire 2016 season with back problems, and he battled hip and back woes last season. He impressed at the combine with his ability to juke and add yards after catch.

Projection: Round 7 or undrafted free agent


Brandon Parker, tackle

A three-time first-team All-MEAC selection, Parker was selected the league’s Offensive Lineman of the Year as a senior, when he was named a first-team All-American at left tackle. Parker has the size and ability to be a factor in the NFL. He will need to add weight and fine-tune his technique.

Projection: Round 4 or 5


M.J. Stewart, cornerback

UNC’s career leader in pass breakups, Stewart won All-ACC honors his last three seasons. He is versatile and physical enough that he could end up playing a variety of spots in the secondary at the NFL level. Has good instincts and solid speed. Many teams appear to be considering him as a safety at the next level.

Projection: Round 2 or 3

Andre Smith, linebacker

An early entry to the draft who is coming off a season-ending knee injury suffered in the second game of his junior year, Smith is intelligent and tough. He impressed teams with his willingness to hit and tackling ability. Speed and mobility are a question mark, especially considering his injury history.

Projection: Round 6 or 7


Jessie Bates, safety

An early entry following his redshirt sophomore year, Bates was a Freshman All-American and runner-up in the ACC’s Defensive Rookie of the Year voting in 2016. He had six interceptions, including two pick-sixes, in his career. Very physical, but size and speed in the open field are the two biggest concerns.

Projection: Round 2 or 3

Duke Ejiofor, defensive end

Can pass rush on the inside or outside. His power impressed scouts, and he seems very knowledgeable and experienced for a college player. Speed and agility may be a concern at the next level. Also missed time in three of his four college seasons due to injury, raising a red flag for some teams.

Projection: Round 3 or 4

Cam Serigne, tight end

A first-team All-ACC player as a senior, Serigne broke school receiving records for a tight end. Good hands and tough enough to catch the ball over the middle and take a hit. Speed is a concern, and his size makes him more of an H-back than a classic tight end. Struggles in blocking as well.

Projection: Undrafted free agent