95 DE Kareem Martin (6’5″ 260 pounds, SENIOR)
Martin is entering his third year as a starter for the Tar Heels, and he is right on the cusp of becoming a household name. As a sophomore in 2011, he had 40 tackles, seven for loss, and four sacks, looking like he might be the next big thing in Chapel Hill. As a junior in 2012, he again had 40 tackles but more than doubled his TFL totals, racking up 15.5 on the season along with another four sacks. He added eight QB hurries and has batted down nine passes over the last two seasons. Those numbers aren’t impressive to JJ Watt necessarily, but they are solid compared the rest of college football.
Martin has the ideal size for a traditional 4-3 defensive end, and also has the athletic ability and range to play in some 3-4 defenses. Around the league, some coaches prefer their OLBs to be a bit on the bigger side, such as Baltimore or Indianapolis, so Martin could have a future there potentially.
In all likelihood, he will be drafted to a team running a 4-3 defense looking for a strongside defensive end that can play all over the place, really. Martin lines up at both end positions as well as inside at tackle and has good quickness and strength. At this point, he’s better at defending the run than he is getting after the quarterback, but like I said in the open, he is really close.
Martin is a prospect that has day one talent but right now is probably settled into the day two, maybe early day three range. He hasn’t done enough in terms of getting to the quarterback but a big senior season could change all that. He has the size and length that NFL teams covet, and he is a really solid athlete.
7 CB Tim Scott (5’11” 190 pounds, JUNIOR)
Scott is an impressive underclassmen who already has 20 starts going into his junior season for the Tar Heels, and I think he has NFL talent. He has solid size for the position and even though he is still really young, he is a good, willing tackler who can also make plays behind the line of scrimmage, as evidenced by his 5.5 tackles for loss in 2012.
Scott led the Tar Heels with 12 passes defensed, and co-led with four interceptions, one returned for a touchdown.
He finished his sophomore season with 48 tackles, but I think what I was most impressed by was his ability to break on the ball and utilize that same speed in recovery. He flashes solid hip movement but even when he is beat downfield, he is able to recover and get his hands in there to break up the pass.
In the running game, Scott gets upfield in a hurry, and he has a good awareness of where ball carriers are going to be. He is still pretty raw as a prospect at this point, but there’s a lot to like about his game, enough to keep a close eye on him this season.
10 SS Tre Boston (6’1″ 205 pounds, SENIOR)
Tre Boston is one of the top senior safeties in the country, coming into the 2013 season with eight picks over the last three years and coming off of a fabulous junior campaign. He finished 2012 with 86 tackles, four interceptions (one for a TD), and 10 passes defended. He has a lean frame and is an excellent athlete with very good range on the back end.
Boston has room to grow into his frame, but his listed playing weight from last year to this year has increased by about 15 pounds, so he’s already hard at it.
His ability to play in space and react are probably his greatest traits outside of overall athleticism, but certainly we’re looking at a guy who could easily be one of the first safeties selected in the 2014 draft. Does a good job of playing downhill and helping in run support.
This is a player I really like and I feel like his overall ability make him an intriguing day two prospect with starter capabilities.
68 OT James Hurst (6’5″ 308 pounds, SENIOR)
James Hurst enters his senior season as one of the top offensive tackles in the country, starting off with a huge test against Jadeveon Clowney. The former five-star recruit has pretty much lived up to the hype as a member of the Tar Heels, starting ever since he was a freshman. This is a really balanced offensive tackle prospect with good instincts and work ethic. I think if he had come out in the 2013 NFL Draft, Hurst probably would have been able to start for a team this year at the next level.
He does a good job of anticipating angles and moves from opposing defensive linemen, and while he’s not elite in terms of technique, he definitely has the tools, quickness, and strength to be a starting left tackle in the NFL. He should be one of the first off the board at his position.
85 TE Eric Ebron (6’4″ 235 pounds, JUNIOR)
There might not be a player on North Carolina with more hype right now than Eric Ebron, the star tight end heading into his junior season. Ebron has a solid build for a TE prospect, but when you watch him, he plays a lot bigger than his listed weight. This is an aggressive player who obviously takes pride in his blocking, but where NFL teams are going to get excited is in his potential as a receiver. He’s not fully refined yet in that area, but certainly has some of the most upside at a position where there are a ton of big names across the country.
Ebron can line up in line as a tight end or split out and play receiver, and his athleticism and speed are obvious on every play. I think in college football right now, there might not be more than a couple of players who have a higher ceiling than Ebron.
As a sophomore, he caught 40 passes for 625 yards and four touchdowns, and he should be a focal point of the UNC offense once again.
2 QB Bryn Renner (6’3″ 215 pounds, SENIOR)
Renner is a part of a very good senior class of quarterbacks, and he’s been steadily and quietly improving every year he has been at Chapel Hill. He completed over 65 percent of his passes last year for 3,356 yards, 28 touchdowns, and just seven interceptions.
He isn’t a gunslinger by any means, but you can see that Renner has the ability to make any throw in the NFL, and he has the toughness to hang in the pocket and take a hit and get back up again. He shows nice touch on throws downfield, and looks like he’s capable of being an Andy Dalton type at the next level.
If he shows steady improvement in his senior season, I see no reason why Renner won’t be picked on the second day of the draft and be competing for a starting job in the NFL by 2015 or 2016.