With the NFL draft going on this week there is a lot of chatter going on for all 32 teams and their future prospects. UNC sent seven players to the NFL scouting combine in February, so there will be a vested interest for Tar Heel football fans to see how it plays out. This article takes a look at top five UNC alumni currently playing in the NFL.
#5 Bruce Carter (Dallas Cowboys LB – UNC: 2007-2010)
Carter was a projected first round pick for the 2011 draft before an ACL injury his senior season in Chapel Hill saw him fall to the second round. He sat out much of his rookie year recovering from the injury only recording five total tackles. 2012 and 2013 saw him re-emerge as a potential star in this league with 70 tackles and 96 tackles respectively. Profootballtalk.com released an article in February quoting Cowboys owner Jerry Jones as very high on Carter and believes he has all the tools to be a great player in Dallas.
#4 Giovani Bernard (Cincinnati Bengals RB – UNC: 2009-2012)
Bernard came on the scene quickly for the Bengals as another threat to their offense and a good complement to BenJarvus Green-Ellis. As a rookie he rushed for 695 yards and five touchdowns. He’s also a threat in the passing game as he caught 56 passes for 514 yards and three touchdowns. In today’s NFL running backs need to be able to get it done in the running game as well as the passing game. He will be a big part of the Bengals offense going forward and someone who fantasy football players will love on their roster. He is already one of the most dynamic threats in the league after just one season.
#3 Hakeem Nicks (Indianapolis Colts WR – UNC: 2006-2008)
Look for Nicks to have a bounce back year in 2014 for his new team, the Indianapolis Colts. The last two seasons haven’t been as productive for the wide-out after a successful start to his career. In 2010 and 2011 he had 1,000+ yards and 18 receiving touchdowns (including a career high 11 in 2010). He was also on the Super Bowl XVLI champion New York Giants where he had 10 receptions for 109 yards in the game. He’s got a new team, the best young quarterback in football in Andrew Luck, and a reason to prove himself. The career leader in receptions and TD receptions in UNC history should return to form in 2014.
#2 Robert Quinn (St. Louis Rams DE – UNC: 2008-2009)
The young defensive end for St. Louis definitely made a splash this year with an absurd 19 sacks in just his third season. He has shown definite improvement each year he’s been in the NFL and has become a premier pass-rusher. The 2013 NFL Pro Bowler and first-team All-Pro selection by the associated press is already the Rams record holder for most sacks in a single season after this past year with 19. His quick ascent to stardom allows the Rams to address other needs in the NFL draft and not get caught up in the Jadeveon Clowney trade talk. He is very comparable to the #1 player on this list.
(Editor’s Note on Robert Quinn- Please take note of this link. Still included for this post because he played in a Carolina uniform.)
#1 Julius Peppers (Green Bay Packers DE – UNC: 1998-2001)
There was a stretch where the only North Carolina football player the average fan could name would be Julius Peppers. In recent years, however, in part due to the four other men on this list, that thought process is going out the window. One thing that is not going out the window, however: Julius Peppers is a dude! He’s won every award a guy at his position can win multiple times, been a force on defense his entire career, and at the age of 34, signed a 3-year deal with Green Bay worth up to $26 million. He’s got 557 tackles, 118.5 sacks, 39 forced fumbles, and nine interceptions in his 12 year career. The young bucks on this list are definitely making a splash in the NFL, but as far as North Carolina football players go, Julius Peppers is still the man in my opinion.
Is there anyone I missed? What do the Heels reading this think? Leave your opinions in the comment section below.