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Stay or Go?

Joshua S. Kelly-US PRESSWIRE

We know the juniors who submitted NFL paperwork have received their grades back from the advisory board this weekend, and though we do not know what the grades are, I'm willing to bet that they aren't very far off what I expect them to be for each player.

It is the staff's opinion that no player should leave early unless they receive a first round grade, and I don't disagree with that line of thinking unless you are really close to it or in a special situation. The NFL cannot waste time with you if you are not ready to play ball from day 1. They don't have 85 spots to give, and they don't redshirt people. They won't waste time on a 7th round pick who shows promise if they think they can get a better guy in free agency. They will waste a few years on a high round pick simply because of the money committed. So if you are not ready, you are better off staying in college and getting more game reps that you won't get riding the bench in the NFL.

I would go so far as to push every starting junior on the roster to submit the paperwork so he will see what the NFL thinks of him, and hopefully it would make each player work harder to improve himself in the offseason. Everyone should know where they stand.

I think we all know who among our junior class is really ready for NFL play. He's the best Clemson WR ever with the best hands I think I have ever seen. He snatches the football out of the air like no other ever has and rarely drops one. He has learned how to block, he runs good routes, and his speed is on the elite level. In my opinion, Sammy Watkins would be dumb to even come back.

There were several other juniors who are entertaining the thought of jumping early, such as Stephone Anthony, Vic Beasley, and Martavis Bryant.

Stephone has basically said that he would not be leaving and he shouldn't, because he is definitely not ready. Stephone has improved, but in the pass defense area he still has problems. He is not awful, but far too often I see him fail to collision a WR coming into the Hook/Curl or deep middle zones, and it costs us, especially with two weak defenders at Safety behind him. His tackling is now good, but he must improve in coverage to play in the NFL.

Vic Beasley is a difficult projection to make for the NFL because of an issue with his weight and what he is asked to do here. At 235-240, he will not be able to play every down in the NFL as a 4-3 WDE. Its not going to happen. He projects as a JACK LB, the weak OLB in a 3-4 defense, similar to a Demarcus Ware. For that spot, however, he would have to end up with the right team, since not all run a pressure 3-4. Also, he would still have to take on an OT very often, which is not going to work out well for him on any run down due to weight. His rush technique is actually pretty good most of the time, but he isn't going to succeed at anchoring and I don't see him beating an NFL double-team any better than he does right now (which is not great).

What you haven't seen from Beasley that I believe the NFL scouts will harp on is ability to pick up RBs and TEs. He simply is not asked to do that here, so why would you draft a guy who has very little experience dropping into coverage and picking guys up? Recall that Beasley started out at TE here and the offense did not want him, then Steele didn't really want him at LB either. They just decided to throw him in as a speed rusher and it worked, but he never got on the field as a true 4-3 LB. Would you spend a 1st round pick on him when you can only play him on 1 down? I wouldn't. If Beasley wants to be a good NFL player, and I think he does have 1st round talent, then he needs to come back and ask Venables to give him more experience dropping into coverages on early downs and showing that he can play more in space against backs. He also will need to continue putting on good weight, and the more the better for him.

Martavis Bryant has extenuating circumstances to think of for himself that would make any of us consider jumping early despite the NFL grade. He has children by multiple mothers, and being in school cannot earn money to support them due to NCAA constraints. My perspective is that whatever is best for him professionally will also end up being better for his kids in the long run, but I understand not being able to pay for things to take care of them and the pull to make a real paycheck. Bryant certainly has 1st round measurables that the scouts will drool over. His speed is truly elite with superior height to go with it. If I was making a pick based on that, there would be little doubt whether to take him in the 1st Round. With proper coaching this kid could be a fantastic NFL player, but he is not ready for the NFL today.

Bryant had every opportunity in the last two years to become a dependable WR. He's not going to take snaps from Nuk, but he didn't catch anything that didn't involve him just running past a guy for a 30 yard bomb during that season. This year he was expected to step up and be a serious weapon opposite Sammy, and he didn't take advantage of the opportunity. His hands are not on the level of Nuk Hopkins' or even Rod Gardner's when he played here. He does not work himself open like Watkins does, and he's just as fast, if not faster. This is because he does not run great routes and he takes plays off when he's not the primary read on the play. I think we all know that if he runs full speed, there really is no CB in the ACC who could stay with him very long, and yet he is not making big plays every week.

Until the halfway point of this season, I rarely saw him give any effort whatsoever in blocking, and WR blocking is tremendously important when you throw as many screens as we do. This year those went to Humphries/Watkins side because one would block, and the coaches completely stopped running them to Bryant's side.

For Bryant, there is just too much he does not do well that can be fixed for him to jump early and take less money with less chance of a future if he screws up. I have not seen the work ethic to make me believe that he would fix all these things at or before an NFL Training Camp. They may not give him 3-4 years as a 2-3rd rounder that they would as a 1st rounder, and as a 1st round guy he'd be set financially from one contract. I just believe that he would be taking an unnecessary risk for his own future. I felt just as strongly about D. Hamilton staying in school, but he went pro and fizzled out quickly. I worry that the same thing will happen to Bryant and he would be throwing more talent away.

Next year I hope we're talking about where most of our players are getting drafted, but I believe only one is ready for the NFL today.