According to profootballreference.com Clemson has thirty-five players currently in the NFL, 13th among all colleges. Luckily for us, those thirty-five players represent such a variety of positions than an actual starting 22 can be cobbled together (even a kicker).
Well, hey, at least there’s a kicker. Deshaun Watson will probably be an option next year! Things are looking u- ok fine, this team's sole option is Charlie Whitehurst. Clipboard Jesus will be under center, and that is all we got. I’m aware he’s not currently signed to an NFL team. I’m also more certain of few things in this world than NFL backups sticking around solely due to inertia. He started five games two years ago! If he’s not in the NFL, he’s close enough, and this is what we got.
We have CJ Spiller for the moments in which he is healthy, and Andre Ellington is an existent backup option. Zac Brooks was pretty good occasionally last year. The ball has to wind up in someone’s hands.
Dwayne Allen, that’s all, that’s it. He’s not bad. The best trait of a lot of the best skill players so far is the lack of actively being had. He carried the ball four times over the course of his career so maybe he can take some of the load off of the running backs.
WRU is, and will remain, our happy place for the rest of this article. There are so many exciting players here who might even be able to generate enough on punt and kick returns to make up for the rest of the offense (love you forever Devin Hester). With six to choose from Jaron Brown, Adam Humphries and Charone Peake won’t make the cut. Nuk, Watkins and Martavis Bryant would be a pretty exciting young receiving core. Watkins and Bryant have both carried the football in the NFL! On this team, that’s enough to warrant a few carries a game. Watkins and Spiller sound like a pretty good pair of returners. All three are large, athletic long ball threats. I never thought I would say this, but a Charlie Whitehurst led vertical passing game is this team's best hopes of scoring.
Welcome back fan favorite, Isaiah Battle! He’s the starting left tackle by default. The starting right tackle is going to wind up being a particularly athletic guard. Fortunately, Chris Hairston has served as a swing guard/tackle for the San Diego Chargers. At 330 pounds, he looks to provide push next to the 325 pound Antoine McClain. Texans center Dalton Freeman takes the starting job by default, with twenty-five year old Tyler Shatley getting his first start at left guard. Let’s look at his NFL.com profile. Nice.
Only two players (Hairston and Freeman) have recorded a single start. Neither are regular starters. This would probably really be a much more fun article to write in a few years.
Mackenzie Alexander was an NFL caliber corner last year. He is the sort of corner who eliminates sides of the field or induces Jay Cutler to throw so many stupid interceptions in his direction. Bashaud Breeland has been pretty good so far for the Washington Redacted’s. Three forced fumbles and two interceptions always come in useful. At 6’1", 203 it would seem like Bryon Maxwell could handle the tackling inherent in playing nickel back.
Marcus Gilchrist is an underrated safety, and Chris Clemons was pretty good all the way back in 2012-2013. TJ Green is versatile and the Colts took him in the second round for a reason; he may well be the second-best Clemson safety in the NFL right now. Relative to the nonexistent depth at some positions, there are options in the defensive backfield.. quality options even. This wouldn’t be the unit that would lose the game.
We’re only going to feature two linebackers here. Stephone Anthony and BJ Goodson sound like a fantastic linebacker core, right? Nickel is a base defense in 2016! I mean, sure, the next guy up is Kavell Conner. But there’s some pretty fantastic top end talent at linebacker coming out of Clemson lately.
This, this is our happy place away from our happy place. There’s some pretty good players all over the NFL from Clemson, but defensive line might be an underrated recent specialty. Last years starters, Dodd and Lawson, will likely be NFL starters this year. Good NFL starters. Andre Branch was a second round pick in 2012. Vic Beasley was the 8th overall pick two years ago. That makes four defensive ends taken in the first two rounds of the last four drafts. Clemson probably won’t repeat that this season, but Marion Hobby is worth every cent and he might prove me wrong yet. There’s less firepower, and less youth, at defensive tackle. Jarvis Jenkins and Grady Jarrett will probably be in the rotation for their respective defensive lines this year. Brandon Thompson has had his moments on the field. DJ Reader was drafted in the sixth round. With the talent at defensive end and linebacker you could probably cobble together a pretty decent front six out of former Tigers.
Kicker and Punter
Chandler Catanzaro and Bradley Pinion win by default, but both were not bad NFL starters last year. Pinion would probably get a lot more work than Catanzaro, which is fine; he gets a lot of work in San Francisco as is (tied for third in the league). This wouldn’t be that much of a downgrade.
So what did all of this show us? For one, Clemson has a pretty serious list of NFL players. There’s a lot of rotational types, but that’s the nature of professional sports. Most people aren’t that great at the highest level. Just getting there is an absurdly high bar. Having multiple good players at a variety of positions is an accomplishment. The defense has put some absolutely nasty talent into the NFL in the last few years. The offense has done the same to a lesser degree, but several of the members of this current offense could find themselves as NFL draft picks in a couple years. The number of Clemson players in the NFL seems to be climbing, so does the quality. It’s hard to argue that Clemson is not producing superior players as well as teams. The uptick in quality in Death Valley has been noticed by and desired by the NFL. That’s nothing but a good sign.