Scouting the ACC: North Carolina

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Tony Pauline

Draft Analyst Writer

The Tar Heels had the second pick of the draft last April when the Chicago Bears shocked the world by trading up and selecting Mitch Trubisky. Their top prospects moving forward can be found on the defensive side of the ball, though none rate as a top-10 choice.

Present opinions on cornerback M.J. Stewart range from the first round through the third frame. I agree with the latter ranking.

Stewart is a tough defender with solid ball skills. He makes plays against the run and screen passes and holds his own in coverage. He’s a feisty prospect who could line up in nickel packages at the next level.

What concerns me are the lack of height and playing speed. He struggles matching up against taller receivers and does not show a closing burst or recovery speed.

Junior linebacker Andre Smith is another who falls short for the measuring tape but displays himself to be a consistent, three-down defender. He stacks well against the run, shows a great head for the ball and holds his own in coverage.

I presently grade him as a fourth or fifth-round prospect.

Defensive tackle Jeremiah Clarke, another junior, has tremendous upside and dominates the action -- when he wants to. Clarke offers size, athleticism and power. There are times when he destroys double-team blocks to make plays in the backfield or outside the box. Then there are instances when he disappears for streches.

I graded Clarke as a third-round prospect off the 2015 film but was disappointed he didn’t take his game to another level last season. The opportunity will be there for him this year, especially with Nazair Jones now playing on Sundays.

Finally, keep an eye on tight end Brandon Fritts who displays skill as both a pass catcher and blocker.