Another solid year for the boys means one thing: we're going to have another successful draft. Clemson sent a slew of players to the NFL this season, cementing the program as one of the top NFL producers. Several of the guys that went this year went exactly where we thought they would. Shaq Lawson kept the record of consecutive years having a first round draftee going, while Kevin Dodd, Mackensie Alexander, and TJ Green helped round out the first two rounds. So let's take a look at a few of the guys headed for the League:
Shaq Lawson: Buffalo Bills
40-Yard Dash: 4.7
20 Yard Shuffle: 4.21
3 Cone Drill: 7.16
Vertical Jump: 33 in
Broad Jump: 120.0 in
Lawson was drafted as the 19th overall pick in the draft to the defensively struggling Buffalo Bills. Rex Ryan is all too familiar with Clemson and the talented potential that comes from our program. There was no surprise that Shaq would be the first Tiger off the draft board, continuing our streak of having a player drafted in the first round. He has all of the qualities that would make an NFL scout go crazy for.
Shaq, simply put, is going to make an instant impact in Buffalo. His size, skill set, and football IQ are spot on for NFL caliber play. Despite having some minor injuries in the final few games of the season, Lawson didn't disappoint the Tiger faithful this past season. Taking a look at some of his highlight moments, big games seemed to be an adrenaline boost for Lawson. Take a look at a forced fumble from the ACC Championship game against UNC:
Shaq finished his 2015 season with: 12.5 sacks and 58 tackles.
TJ Green: Indianapolis Colts
40-Yard Dash: 4.34
Bench Press: 13 reps
Vertical Jump: 35.5 in
Broad Jump: 129.0 in
Green was taken in the 2nd round (57th overall pick) and has the potential to fill a solid role during his rookie year. The overall consensus from our friends at Stampede Blue is, that Green has the talent to become a solid draft pick, however some concerns have been voiced about drafting a "project player" so early in the draft.
Overall in his collegiate career as a Tiger, Green made a strong impact on the exceptional defensive unit under Brent Venables. He finished the 2015 season with 95 total tackles and two forced fumbles. Considering he was a solid defensive back for arguably one of the best defensive units in the country, Green looks to have a high ceiling coming into the NFL.
TJ’s role seems to be one of a similar road for career safety’s in the league. He fits into the Colts game plan as a special teams player, who will come alongside some veteran defensive backs and develop. Green is believed to become a starting defensive back within the next few years; after he has had time to develop.
His ability to be explosive off the snap and make quick plays is what can really set Green apart. His quickness mixed with his textbook tackling techniques seem to be everything an NFL franchise would want from a new draftee.
Green also has the ability to go after, and get just about any ball thrown his way.
He has the mechanics such as; timing his turns, jumping passes, and reading the quarterback, all things needed for greatness at the next level. However, the real challenge will be getting him mentally and physically ready for the league. Green being a project player is based on him leaving, what seemed to be a year too early. Another year of development could have helped him develop into a much earlier pick, but after his combine and pro-day numbers, he seems to be physically all there. The real question for Green and the Colts will be how his play at Clemson will translate onto the NFL field. Will he jump right in and make a huge impact, or will he take a few years to put it all together? Only time will tell but for now he was the 4th overall Clemson player taken, and we hope to see him excel in that Colts blue uniform.
Jayron Kearse- Minnesota Vikings
40-Yard Dash: 4.62
Bench Press: 16 reps
Vertical Jump: 31.5
Broad Jump: 124.0 in
3-Cone Drill: 7.06
Another Clemson defensive back to go this year was Jayron Kearse, but it wasn't surprising at all to see him go so late. Drafted in the 7th round by the Vikings, Jayron will have quite a bit to prove to his new team. Kearse finished his three year career at Clemson with 163 total tackles, 2 forced fumbles, and 7 interceptions; so with decent statistics like that why did he go so late? Simple, NFL scouts aren't stupid. Of course he was a great player, he was on one of the nation's top defensive units for three years and played in some huge games over his career. However, Jayron Kearse has a rather stout reputation for having a low work effort. I'm sure he was able to do decently well in interviews with teams, and had average numbers during his combine and pro-day, but scouts aren't fooled by a lack of work ethic. (Except for when Jadeveon Clowney was drafted..)
It is a shame that his final season at Clemson tainted the work he did before hand, as a freshman and sophomore, Kearse was reaping havoc on teams throughout the regular and post season. Take one of the sweeter moments in recent Clemson history for example:
Coming into an organization that could use some defensive help to jump the gap from average NFL team to playoff contender, Kearse has a great opportunity along side his Clemson teammate Mackensie Alexander. The Vikings organization got a steal with Kearse who easily should have gone in an early-mid round. Watching his play throughout the season was like one big slide. Remember the Notre Dame game? Kearse played the Irish like he was a first round pick, and if the draft was the day after that game, he probably would have gone that early. However, he declined after that game, seemingly coasting through the rest of the season. The lack of effort or taking plays off was obvious in what should have been "easier games" such as Wake Forest, Boston College, and South Carolina where Kearse's lack of focus costed us large gains and a few unwarranted scores.
Overall it is all in Jaryon's hands as to how his NFL career will blossom. Knowing he was such a late pick, he most likely won't receive near as much respect as his teammate Alexander. So this is an opportunity for him to take the criticisms and hatred and use it as positive energy. Kearse has a very high ceiling but it will be his work ethic that could potentially hold him back from succeeding at the next level.
DJ Reader: Houston Texans
40-Yard Dash: 5.33
Bench Press: 30 reps
Vertical Jump: 29.5 in
Broad Jump: 99.0 in
3-Cone Drill: 7.90
20-Yard Shuffle: 4.71
Reader is one of the quieter draft picks for Clemson, but it is no surprise that he was taken in a later (5th) to a team that always needs help on both sides of the ball. The Texans are potentially going to need a nose-tackle replacement once the great Vince Wilfork retires here in the next year or so. He will be a great addition to a defensive unit that seems to be a piece or two away from greatness. Having a strong work ethic, he will work well along side defensive end JJ Watt who is known for his intense training and furious on field performance.
Reader excelled at Clemson, but seemed to always be hiding in the shadows of the "stars" of an exceptional defensive unit under Brent Venables. Playing beside greats such as Shaq Lawson, Vic Beasley, Stephone Anthony, and Ben Boulware have caused his name to become a second-tier discussion topic when referring to Clemson's great defenders. But make no mistake, he is extremely capable of becoming a great NFL player. His best quality other than work ethic is his ability to use his size to fill potential running lanes:
Joe Gore: Washington Redskins
Joe didn't participate in the NFL Draft Combine but he did show up at the Clemson Pro Day:
40-Yard Dash: 5.05
Bench Press: 28 Reps
Vertical Jump: 27.5 in
Broad Jump: 109.2 in
20-Yard Shuttle: 4.65
3-Cone Drill: 7.71
Gore recently signed a free-agent contract with the Washington Redskins adding yet another Tiger name to the NFL 2016 class. Gore will look to impress and make an impact early and off during camp. Often times we don't see undrafted free-agents make squads, and especially excel. However, it does play into favor that Gore had a decent career as a Clemson offensive lineman, not to mention he was a 3rd team all-ACC selection.
The biggest factor for offensive line is size and quickness. He has the size weighing in right over 300 pounds as well as playing in a fast paced, spread offense. When it comes to making that final roster it all about your work ethic; Gore has to outwork his competition, and the "ALL IN" motto should be drilled into his head as he goes into camp.